Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Miss Utilility

Thom Loverro writes about the problems with this team’s roster construction. It’s something I’ve thought about a little bit -- especially in the way that Frank does and doesn’t use it -- especially after the last two games.

With an 11-man pitching staff, which is working out well when the starters give us more than 4 innings, that leaves a 6-man bench. Ours is less than optimal. We’ve got too many outfielders and too few infielders.

And that has a direct bearing on the game, when Frank hesitates to pinch hit for Cristian Guzman because there’s only one middle infielder on the roster.

Coming into the season, I thought the bench would be a strength. In the early goings, at least, I was wrong.

Terrmel Sledge and JJ Davis looked like the power bats that a team needs to come off the bench to put the fear of God into opposing relief pitchers. Sledge has hit. Davis hasn’t. He hasn’t even looked decent out there, flailing at pitches high and low, and showing an amazing ability on defense to magically turn hard-hit singles into extra-base hits that roll all the way to the wall.

Gary Bennett’s been a back-up catcher. Nuff Said.

Carlos Baerga didn’t have any value before the season. He retains the same value to the team now.

Someone somewhere remarked how he sorta looks like Screech. I agree, sort of. He’s an upside-down version of the bird. He’s just really thick through the hips and thighs, contributing to his incredible lack of speed or mobility.

The guy can’t hit either. Just can’t. He had a decent season as primarily a pinch-hitter two years ago, for the Diamondbacks in their offensive-oriented ballpark. Last year, he was a non-entity.

If he can’t hit, he’s worse than nothing, especially because he’s a net negative defensively -- with a demonstrated inability to field competently at 8 of the 9 positions (and that’s only because he hasn’t pitched).

And then there’s Tony Blanco. We love ya Tony, but you should be mashing PCL pitching now. He’s an atrocious defensive player, no matter where you slide him, and his bat has a long, looping swing. It’s a lot like Darryl Strawberry’s was -- except without the bat speed, strength, or compactness!

Of those five, four are close to non-entities. Only Sledge has shown any real value, and he’s been promoted to the starting lineup.

That leaves Jamey Carroll and Ryan Church.

The much-beloved Ryan Church just hasn’t done anything -- yet. He’s played an excellent defensive centerfield, but hasn’t hit -- either while he was starting or pinch-hitting. He doesn’t really have anything to prove at New Orleans, so sending him down isn’t much of a choice, but he’s not going to get a ton of playing time here either -- as long as Nick Johnson remains reasonably upright.

Jamey Carroll has been excellent, filling in in the middle infield and picking up some garbage time playing time. I would love to see Frank get more aggressive with hitting for Guzman -- either with Carroll or one of the outfielders. He’s about the only person on the bench who has some utility, primarily because of his versatility and on-base skills.

It hasn’t been pretty. And it certainly hasn’t helped us win any games, but something’s going to have to give at some point.

Each of the last two games, Blanco has pinch-hit before Davis. I don’t know if that’s a change in the depth chart, or if Frank’s just trying to dust the cobwebs off Blanco’s bat to see if he’s worth keeping. Neither can be sent down freely. Davis would have to clear waivers (and even though he played like crap this year, someone would take a gamble based on his minor league numbers), and Blanco would have to be offered back to the Reds, barring a trade.

I’d dump Davis. He’s shown next to nothing, and we’ll have another right-handed OFer who’ll need a spot sooner or later -- assuming Alex Escobar can stay healthy!

While I was at it, I’d dump Carlos Baerga too. He’s shown nothing either. Henry Mateo will be coming off the disabled list within the next two weeks or so, and should take Baerga’s slot. Mateo is a Rey Ordonez-level hitter. But, he does play the middle infield, giving him more utility than Baerga. (And more importantly, it’d free up Jamey Carroll to be used more liberally.)

It’s certainly not the bench the ’98 Yankees had with Strawberry and Tim Raines able to pinch-hit, but it’s an average bench -- one that won’t hold the team back.

3 Comments:

  • Loverro mentions a Jamey Carroll clone. DOesn't there happen to be something as close to one at New Orleans, Wes Carroll?

    By Blogger Brian, at 4/27/2005 2:07 PM  

  • What about Brendan Harris for Baerga (though he's not really impressing in New Orleans right now). Rick Short would be a nice story and is a good contact hitter. Of course neither are slick fielders.

    As for Alex Escobar, I think a voice from our past may be heard. Did somebody say...Endy?
    He's batting .302 and is leading the team in walks. (Ty Godwin is batting .402 and has an OBP over .500 as well). One of these two will be up soon, though probably for Ryan.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 4/27/2005 2:10 PM  

  • Harris is an attractive option, obviously. He just hasn't hit for crap yet. He'll get going, and will be in the mix, eventually.

    For some reason they're really down on him though.

    I wonder if they'd give Endy another chance? He didn't quite burn the bridges to the ground, but he certainly annoyed some people with the way he handled the exit.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/27/2005 2:13 PM  

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