The bench. Role players. Unsung heroes. [Pretend I wrote some more longwinded prose about the excellent, gritty, grinder-y, underappreciated baseball players who don't get to play as often as other baseball players. Usually because they aren't as good.]
Bench players are awesome, I’m a big fan. I even proposed becoming Melvin Mora’s biggest fan. That’s dedication to bench players. Are they that important to a team’s winning? Maybe?
In any case, I decided to look at the relative strengths of the NL benches. Essentially, I just went to each team’s baseball reference page, and looked at the position players not listed as starters. Was this a perfect evaluation? No. I think bb-ref just takes the highest number of games started at a single position to determine the starters, and everyone else just falls into the bench by nature. Not perfect, but it’s probably the only reasonable way to do it.
And the Reds bench ranks dead last in OPS. That’s probably means we’re not doing great, any way you cut it. We’re last in AVG/OBP/SLG individually as well. Our bench wins the sabrmetric triple butt award. It’s funny, Heisey/Rolen/Mesoraco, who are the top three in playing time on the bench all have OPS’s at least a little above the bench average. There’s just enough Cairo/Valdez/Harris to drag down the average.
Here’s the data:
Yeah, our bench is undefendably terrible offensively. Here’s why I don’t care that much:
1. We’re in first place. Obviously we have something else going for us. Could it be good starters? I think it could!
2. Offense isn’t the only important thing about a bench. I’m not sure how we stack up defensively, but I like to tell myself it’s not as bad.
3. We don’t have that many at-bats, comparatively, from our terrible bench. This is partially because we haven’t had so much in the way of injuries as other teams. There is Scott Rolen, of course, but he was out long enough to have Todd Frazier qualify as the starting third baseman. (I’d say that means Rolen is helping to pull down our bench rating, but he does technically have a higher OPS than the bench as a whole).
4. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE! Yay! IMPERFECT SAMPLING METHOD! Double yay!
Here’s one reason I might kind of care.
1. So, what if the team has more injuries/wears down in the second half? What do we have to take our starters’ places? Crap, that’s what.
So there you have it. Important news item: Our bench sucks. It doesn’t matter a lot. I just thought you should know.