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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FG: The Best and Worst Benches So Far

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.

30. Phillies

WAR: -2.5

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.

2. Athletics

WAR: +3.1

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.

 

steagles Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:37 AM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabrmetrics

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   1. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 12, 2014 at 07:12 AM (#4769174)
Fantastic article
   2. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 12, 2014 at 08:05 AM (#4769177)
I'm stunned that the Red Sox are not worse.

Bill James' article on the 1985 Tigers has always been in my head when it comes to bench discussions. I think depth is one of the least appreciated aspects of team building. You don't need stars, you just need guys that can play at a reasonable level.
   3. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 12, 2014 at 08:08 AM (#4769178)
There's probably a lot of stuff like this, but switching utility man Josh Harrison to a bench player would move the Pirates' bench near the No. 1 Dodgers. With Harrison considered a regular they're tenth by this measure.
   4. villageidiom Posted: August 12, 2014 at 08:59 AM (#4769187)
I'm stunned that the Red Sox are not worse.
Their bench has done nothing this year. But nothing, from bench players, is actually not that bad. Last year's bench had something like a 3-4 WAR, which would be high on the list this year.

The issue for Boston is that their top 9 in PA (the qualifier the article uses to determine who's not a bench player) have not been good enough. Only 2 starters are above a 2 WAR this year, vs. 8 starters last year (all but Middlebrooks, who was at 0). When that happens, the need for a good bench is greater. But the higher expectations have not been met. I think that's why they are not as bad as it feels.
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4769190)
Bill James' article on the 1985 Tigers has always been in my head when it comes to bench discussions.

it was the 84 Tigers. Within a span of 3 years in the 80's we had 2 teams with an enormous number of wins without ANY of the starters having a year above their norm-- the 84 Tigers and the 86 New York Grungeballs. In each case, the benches were almost perfect. EVERYONE Davey Johnson plugged in seemed to contribute.
   6. zonk Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:10 AM (#4769192)
I demand this become a regular feature and be called the F Troop Ranking.
   7. Lassus Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4769196)
Mets are doing pretty decently on that graph, so that's fun.
   8. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:32 AM (#4769200)
the brewers bench is neutral? i buy it. guys like herrera stink but while overbay cannot hit much he draws some walks and plays defense while weeks helps some. and maldonado is a fine backup catcher.
   9. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4769211)
it was the 84 Tigers. Within a span of 3 years in the 80's we had 2 teams with an enormous number of wins without ANY of the starters having a year above their norm-- the 84 Tigers and the 86 New York Grungeballs. In each case, the benches were almost perfect. EVERYONE Davey Johnson plugged in seemed to contribute.


The James article I'm thinking of was on the '85 Tigers though. His point was that despite none of the starters really regressing the bench really could make that sort of impact on a team's success or failure.
   10. Bunny Vincennes Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4769215)
Harveys,

Is Aramis Ramirez a Santo kind of HOFer? I've only gotten to see Santo on TV. I'm bring this up because Jonah Keri's podcast on Grantland.com with Tom Haudricourt. Tom, also I just learned lives three blocks away from Bud Selig in Bay Shore.
   11. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4769220)
jack

nah, santo was a tremendous defensive player while also hitting. aramis is fine offensive player and is ok at third base but nowhere near santo.

by the way, what's with the continued shots at brewer fans? every other post you are making the 'fans who celebrate a world series loss' crack.
   12. flournoy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:02 AM (#4769224)
I don't like the author's methodology. For example, he has Dan Uggla listed as the Braves' biggest offender. Uggla was a starter while he accrued his negative value. Then he got benched, but really didn't play at all after that, and was then released. The Braves' bench has sucked, but Uggla really hasn't been a part of that group.
   13. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4769259)
every other post you are making the 'fans who celebrate a world series loss' crack.

First time I saw that line, I thought it a real credit to the fans of the team. That was a heck of a team, regardless of how the postseason ended.
   14. Bunny Vincennes Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4769268)
by the way, what's with the continued shots at brewer fans? every other post you are making the 'fans who celebrate a world series loss' crack.


Um, its not really a crack as many of my closest friends are Brewer fans but going to Miller Park and watching baseball is difficult in the Mallpark as everyone is getting up to do kid things, doesn't understand not taking their seat until the inning break, etc. Whatever. I sit with old people at Wrigley/Fenway who never get up but again whatever. Milwaukee celebrates 1982 and losing the World Series. Its a fact. I have close friends who celebrate that series as if they won it. They had a PARADE in 2012 to celebrate losing the World Series. Its weird.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:16 AM (#4769328)
jack

d8mn boy are you getting cranky. and you are what? 30? you might surpass the harvey standard which means come age 70 you are going to be meaner than rattlesnake with a sore fang and a bad attitude
   16. Bruce Chen's Huge Panamanian Robot Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM (#4769374)
I'm surprised the Cardinals aren't closer to the bottom.
   17. Bunny Vincennes Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4769381)
Harveys,

I'm well into my fourth decade but grew up spending most of my time with your generation. My grandma dated Andy Pafko in Chicago after all!

I don't think the City of Chicago has held a parade for losing what the 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, or 1945 World Series (which my grandmother attended). I wish I had been around for that 1935 team. What a fascinating season.
   18. David Manel Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:18 PM (#4769437)
This is a really interesting article and something I was just thinking about, as someone who follows the Pirates closely. Although, I agree there may be some methodological issues. Recently, I wrote a study looking at the distribution of offensive productivity in major league offenses that somewhat dovetails with this one. There is some correlation between the two studies in terms of the team rankings, but not as much as I anticipated. Like #2 said above, I think depth is somewhat under appreciated. You need good players, but you can't live with a couple of good ones and no depth. Anyways, here's a link to my little article if interested: Inequality in Offensive Production (or, How the Pirates are like Luxembourg) http://www.bucsdugout.com/2014/8/11/5975305/pirates-mlb-team-offensive-distribution
   19. puck Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4769471)
Kyle Blanks is alive! He must not know what to do with himself in a hitters' park like Oakland's.
   20. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4769474)
Bill James' article on the 1985 Tigers has always been in my head when it comes to bench discussions. I think depth is one of the least appreciated aspects of team building. You don't need stars, you just need guys that can play at a reasonable level.

It's so ####### hard, though!

I noticed last year, in trying to understand the Indians success, that they gave extremely few plate appearances to useless players. Every single player on their team who got over 25 plate appearances put up an OPS over .650. (Now, I know, a .650 OPS isn't great--it was an OPS+ of 83 last year in Progressive Field--but it's not embarrassing. You can live with it.)

This year, returning largely the same crew, they've had:

Nick Swisher: 400 PAs, .608 OPS.
Mike Aviles: 250 PAs, .604 OPS.
Ryan Raburn: 200 PAs, .542 OPS.
Jose Ramirez: 100 PAs, .522 OPS.

And on and on, and before you know it, they've wasted over 1000 PAs on .570 OPS hitting.

So.... Well, I'm not sure what to do with this. It's very important to have a strong bench, but there's so much volatility in the production of guys who are not everyday players, it's very hard for a GM to plan for it.
   21. Moeball Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4769491)
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.


Kyle fing Blanks. Another typical Padre story. Career minor leaguer. Thought he would make it with the club after promising rookie year in 2009, played his way back to the minor leagues because he simply cannot hit major league pitching. Looks absolutely clueless at the plate much of the time. Takes the fastball right down the middle and then swings at the pitch that bounces three feet in front of home plate. Maybe he just needs his eyesight checked?

From 2010-2014 his OPS+ with Padres was about 90 in almost 700 PA. From a corner outfielder/occasional first baseman. Spent 2012 and a chunk of 2014 in the minors because he wasn't good enough to crack the starting lineup of a team that is historically one of the worst hitting teams of all time, even adjusting for the Petco Park factor. There's a reason his last name is BLANKS, because you see that in the box scores a lot of times. As in he "oh-ferred" again and there are blanks in the hits column.

So, OF COURSE he's putting up a 167 OPS+ in an A's uniform. I would expect nothing less. Never mind that the A's also play in a pitcher's park, it's not like he suddenly went to Coors Field. But now he can suddenly hit. Go figure.

Like Anthony Rizzo, who had a 51 OPS+ with the Padres and has had a 117 OPS+ since joining the Cubs (139 this year).

The Dodgers play in a pitcher's park. They have Yasiel Puig, he of the 159 OPS+ last year and 161 this year. See anyone putting up those kind of numbers for the Padres? Anyone even close?

The Angels play in a pitcher's park. They have Mike Trout, he of the career 168 OPS+.

These teams seem to be able to find guys that can hit even in ballparks not tailored to hitting. Why can't the Padres?

Yes, I'm just frustrated and this is a stupid rant. I realize that. I'll shut up now (arrgghh!).

   22. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4769558)
Harveys, in the comments they remark that Weeks and Herrera are positive (.5-.6) and that it's Overbay and Maldonado that drag them down (they didn't say by how much). I can't imagine how that works.

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