2010 Season Preview: The Four Benchmen

Yanks tab Hughes as fifth starter
The Stats We Use: OPS+, wRC+, and ERA+
Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The days of the 11-man pitching staff seem behind us. Bullpen specialization, combined with managers employing a slightly quicker hook for starters, makes teams more comfortable with seven available bullpen arms rather than six. This becomes a big deal when creating a 25-man roster. In the AL it means a shallow bench. Eight position players plus a DH leaves just four sports for reserve players, one of which must be a backup catcher. Teams must be cautious, then, when choosing their bench players.

Thankfully, the Yankees have the personnel to make the bench work. While both Nick Swisher and Nick Johnson start at other positions, they can fill in for Mark Teixeira at first if needed. They also have a number of players in the system who can play the other three infield positions, making only one of them necessary for the 25-man roster. That leaves one spot for a reserve outfielder and one spot for a pinch hitter. The bench need not necessarily work that way when the team breaks camp, but it should end up that way soon enough.

Photo credit: Charlie Riedel/AP

Last season the Yankees started the year with a heavy bench, even with A-Rod sidelined with his hip injury. The only consequence was a downgrade from Cody Ransom to Ramiro Pena, not a huge one at all even considering Pena’s rookie status. In the outfield they had Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher, both starters the previous year. It’s tough, actually, to build a better bench than that. It was probably the Yankees’ best in five or more years. Xavier Nady‘s injury thinned it out in April, though, and the team had to react. They later traded for Eric Hinske for pinch hitting purposes. The bench, again, seemed strong.

Photo Credit: Steve Senne/AP

This season the Yankees’ bench doesn’t appear as strong as 2009, but it still provides the Yankees with what they need. Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo will serve as the all-purpose utility man, Brett Gardner or Randy Winn will serve as a reserve outfielder and possibly half of a platoon, Francisco Cervelli will back up Jorge Posada, and Marcus Thames will get at-bats late in games mixed with the occasional start against a lefty. That doesn’t seem too bad at all. Perhaps the Yankees will seek a better pinch hitter than Thames come mid-season, but he’s a serviceable option to start the season.

Even though solid, the bench doesn’t come into play a lot, especially the utility infielder. Robinson Cano played 161 games, Derek Jeter played 153, and Alex Rodriguez, a year removed from his surgery, likely won’t take as many days off. This should limit the utility infielder to 100 plate appearances or so through August (there’s no telling what happens in September when rosters expand). If the winner of Pena/Russo doesn’t hit, or has problems in the field, the Yanks can swap them. The actual difference it makes, though, will be marginal. There will be chances in the outfield, as the left field situation doesn’t seem quite settled. Also, since neither Brett Gardner nor Randy Winn carries a heavy bat, a pinch hitter could get late-game opportunities.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Just how do the projection systems view the Yanks’ four bench players? Mike already covered Winn in his left field preview, so here are the remaining three.

Cervelli:


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Pena:


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Thames:


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The average projections seem fairly reasonable. Thames, as we know, is all power and not much else. That could make for a good bench player, at least to start the season. If he doesn’t prove effective, the Yankees can go shopping in June. That yielded Eric Hinske last year and could easily net them a similar player this year should the need arise. Pena and Cervelli appear perfectly reasonable for their roles. Cervelli could see more playing time, depending on Jorge’s situation.

Again, the Yankees’ advantage is that they don’t need the bench for very much. Pena will give the infielders a day off, while Winn will spell the outfielders. Thames will come up when the team needs a long fly and Gardner or Winn is due up. Those all seem like very limited roles. Cervelli is the only one who figures to play regularly, though we hope not too regularly. He’s fine as a backup. Hopefully that’s the only role he fills this season.

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Yanks tab Hughes as fifth starter
The Stats We Use: OPS+, wRC+, and ERA+
  • Rose

    Perhaps the Yankees will seek a better pinch hitter than Thames come mid-season, but he’s a serviceable option to start the season.

    Perhaps they could give “Dad” a look if he becomes available again.

  • Rey22

    Rey22 likes: The new picture format going up in the posts.

    Rey22 dislikes: Marcus Thames getting anything close to playing time with us.

    • Rose

      If you have MLB2k10 and have a fantasy draft…they Marcus Thames nasty for whatever reason. He hits ropes. Just Sayin

      • Bo

        hes good on a video game he must be great in real life

        • andrew

          true, true

        • bexarama

          I hate that Bo made a point I wanted to :(

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Agreed. Rob Wilfong was a beast on RBI Baseball, despite a 77 career OPS+. They must have known something we don’t know.

      • Thomas

        Do you play the games or sim them.

        If you play them, I’d assume he is awesome, because of you. You being a good gamer are able to make contact with the ball often and thus with Thames natural power, you make Thames awesome. In comparison, Ichiro, who has better contact skill, but worse power skills than Thames, you will still be the gamer make contact a similar percentage of the time, but won’t hit for as much power because of Ichiro’s skill set.

        If he is awesome in sims, well then they screwed up the game.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Rey22 likes: Elaine

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

    I’m not terribly concerned at the bench, as much as I dislike Two-True-Outcomes Thames (K, HR). The bench will again probably look quite different by the end of the year. If nothing else, Pena can play all infield positions (and possibly CF — whatever happened to that anyway?) and all of our outfielders, spare Thames, have played CF and can all do so in a pinch.

    We have a fair amount of positional versatility.

  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    Thanks to Joe, I have a mix of The Clash and Metallica going through my head. None of these guys inspire nearly as much fear as any of the four horsemen though.

    • Christos

      i always have metallica in my head, and i happen to love the song “the four horsemen” thumbs up to Joe

    • Rose

      I’m surprised nobody has used “Seek & Destroy” as their entrance song to close out games.

      So badass…

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        How about, “Jump in the fire”?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          “Can’t touch this?”

          • Thomas

            If a pitcher had balls and I mean big, plentiful balls, he would come in to “Take Me Out” as a challenge to the hitter.

            • bexarama

              that’d be freaking badass

              I loved when A-Rod walked up to “This Is Why I’m Hot,” it was so… A-Rod

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              Thinking about it now, I think about 30 Metallica songs would be great to come out to.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

                If I were a pitcher I’d warm up to Holy Wars by Megadeth. If I were a hitter I’d come up to Fucking Hostile by Pantera.

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  No way. “Like a Boss” is way better than either. I’d probably do a Glee song.

                • Ojas

                  Scott Proctor should’ve come out to “Use Me” by Bill Withers back in 2006

                  “Oh, you just keep on using me…until you use me up”

  • Mister Delaware

    Sweet pic of Winn fouling one off, eh?

    • Rey22

      Cervelli’s is just…graceful.

    • Thomas

      Knowing Thames, he might swinging and missing at a horrible pitch.

  • A.D.

    Bench is good enough, with only a LF battle to try and draw in a vet, they could only have it soo strong.

    Also makes more sense right now with Pena over Russo, give Russo full playing time & he’s available if someone went down for an extended period & can get more development time.

  • Bo

    The bench will be dif by July.

    They are eventually going to need a real power stick. Probably a guy who can play LF.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      The bench will be dif by July.

      Maybe not July but likely by August. Hinske type deal.

  • bkight13

    Any word on Elijah Dukes? I still think the Yanks could use him over Thames. I know he was/is a head case, but the vets on the team won’t allow any shenanigans and he can easily be dumped.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Pretty sure they have already stated they won’t pursue. Damn shame too.

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

      The Dukes ship has sailed.

      Jack Curry said the other day, during a broadcast on YES, that he spoke to Yanks’ brass and they said they have “no intention” of going after him, and implied that the character issues are the reason.

  • Dalelama

    A pretty weak bench if you ask me. Not a single stick on the bench to fear.