San Francisco Giants: What Can Bruce Bochy Expect from His Bench?
The Giants' World Series hopes do not ride on the success of their bench. Many would argue they don't even ride on the starting lineup. However, there are still a few fun questions to turn over in your head:
Like, "What happens if Freddy Sanchez finally suffers one setback too many?"
Or, "Who the heck is the backup third baseman?"
It's hard to evaluate the bench of a major league baseball team. Players don't sign up to ride the bench, and teams won't pay a player big money to sit on the bench. Backups are usually backups because they aren't good enough to start. They usually competed for and lost the chance at a starting job in Spring Training.
So far, it's been touch and go. The Giants' bench is hitting a very scrub-like .211 through 12 games, only slightly below last year's pace of .223. Guys who generated some buzz during Spring Training have come back to Earth to an extent. At the risk of falling victim to a small sample size, let's take a look at the bench and their prospects for the coming year.
Once again, Belt slugged his way into an opening day start with a hot spring.
Several games into the season and a few dozen inside fastballs later, Belt was back in his customary slot on the bench fetching coffee and shagging fly balls in BP. Because when your top prospect looks weak after 13 at-bats, you have to shake things up and go with the 35-year-old guy hitting .207. Every time.
Who is the Giants' most valuable reserve?
The ultimate tease, Belt's potential remains unknown. Another yo-yo season seems a likely and unappetizing possibility.
The sample size is a small .10 at-bats. But so far, Pill has given exactly what Giants fans expected: A right-handed bat off the bench who will hit it out every once in a while. Pill has three hits, including a long home run and a long double.
Will he ever start? Again, we've got that 35-year-old ex-slugger in the way. Pill will continue to come in late versus lefty specialists and will probably play a part in more than his share of dramatic moments this season.
The biggest shocker out of camp, Blanco was Andres Torres reincarnate with more speed. So far, his playing time has been cut by the dynamic trio of Schierholtz, Belt and Huff (yes, him again).
Hopefully, the planets do not align in a way that involves Blanco playing everyday at any point this season, but he provides Darren Ford-like speed off the bench while representing an improvement on Ford in just about every other part of baseball.
Another year of Eli Whiteside and/or Chris Stewart brings unpleasant thoughts.
After overdosing on both of those out-machines last season, Hector Sanchez provides a bright shiny ray of light. Maybe it's because he's actually a backup. Perhaps it's because he brought with him the Venezuelan Magic Zito Dust. In any case, after tearing up winter ball, Sanchez should be an improvement.
Manny Burris/Ryan Theriot:
I'm holding my breath daily waiting for the Freddy Sanchez retirement announcement. It's starting to feel like one of those Robb Nen/Mike Matheny "never ever gonna get better" situations.
The lineup hurts without him, because one of either Theriot or Burriss must hold up the bottom of the order. Every day. When calculating wins over replacement, these guys are "replacement."
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