Tuesday, August 12, 2014
not groundbreaking stuff, but i think it’s somewhat interesting.
In a perfect world, a bench wouldn’t need to contribute much at all, because in a perfect world, all nine (or eight) starters would be so productive and so consistent that a bench would barely be needed. But that’s not how it works. People get hurt, people go through slumps and people simply need a rest now and then, so the luxury of having not only depth, but productive depth, becomes a pretty important and easily forgotten part of a roster’s construction. The difference between the best and worst bench units this year is already around six wins, so the value of a good bench can really add up over time and have a pretty significant impact on a season.
What I’ve done is attempted to find the best and worst bench units of the 2014 season, so far. In the American League, I’ve added up the WAR of all players after the top nine plate appearance leaders. In the National League, all after the top eight, to reflect for the absence of a designated hitter.
Biggest offenders: Freddy Galvis (-0.9), Tony Gwynn (-0.7), Cesar Hernandez (-0.7).
For some reason this just doesn’t come as a huge surprise. I mean, it probably should. The Phillies are one of the oldest teams in the MLB, with an average age of 30, so conventional wisdom would be to assemble a strong bench to prepare for the frailty of having an old roster. But it just doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Seems like the Phillies have been finding themselves at the bottom of a lot of lists lately. Tony Gwynn Jr. lucked into some playing time due to Domonic Brown being literally the worst player in baseball this year, but wasn’t much better. If there’s a positive to take from all of this, it’s that none of these players play for the Phillies anymore! At the same time, it also means that Reid Brignac, Andres Blanco and Grady Sizemore do.
Biggest helpers: Stephen Vogt (+1.5), Craig Gentry (+1.1), Kyle Blanks (+0.6).
Of course the A’s are on this list. They’ve seemingly been the master of the platoon for a couple years now, and their depth and bench management has been vital to their recent resurgence as a franchise. Stephen Vogt is a weird catcher/right fielder hybrid who allows the A’s to DH John Jaso and still have a backup catcher without having to sacrifice a potential backup outfielder. The A’s traded for Gentry to serve as a fourth outfielder who provides both elite defense and speed, which is exactly what he’s done. And then there’s Kyle Blanks who I literally didn’t know was out of the Padres organization until I started doing this post, but it turns out he is and he’s been a monster so far in Oakland.
Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:37 AM | 22 comment(s)
Thursday, May 15, 2014
At the risk of relying on a buzzword, what managers are looking for is synergy; that is, ways to make one and one equal three, to make Moss and Carter—spare parts—equal an All-Star.
Oakland’s example illustrates that opportunities for a synergistic advantage can be found in unexpected places. Interaction doesn’t have to be on the field to boost a team: Oakland players reported their team chemistry to be worth a huge on-field advantage, and studies show touchy teams are bolstered by a “high-five effect.” Or, an advantage can come from the field itself.
To wit: The Athletics are the only remaining team to play in a dual-purpose stadium. They share the concrete Oakland Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders, and it shows; the field is shaped strangely, with far more foul ground than any other park. Moreover, it’s a homer-suppressing environment, with spacious dimensions and a marine climate that knocks the ball down. In other words, Oakland has the perfect environment for fly-ball pitchers to succeed: Their main worry, home runs, is mitigated, and they get extra outs because more popups are caught in play. The finishing touch? Management has surrounded these pitchers with excellent defenders in the outfield. The pitchers suit the stadium and the defenders match the pitchers.
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