5 Bench Players Making the Biggest Impact in the 2012 MLB Playoffs
As the 2012 MLB Playoffs continue and the final two division series wrap up, the depth of every roster is being tested.
Sure, we've seen the likes of Derek Jeter, Buster Posey and Prince Fielder breeze through pressure for their respective squads, but Raul Ibanez's two home run performance in Game 3 against the Baltimore Orioles brought about a new aspect of the playoffs that the experts seldom discuss.
Each playoff team made the postseason on the strength of a formidable starting lineup.
Each team contains very few weaknesses, making it difficult for teams to exploit their opponents.
Every lineup is solid and each team boasts a pitching staff that is capable of throwing a shutout on a nightly basis.
The difference between playoff baseball teams is marginal. That's why having a solid bench is essential to any squad that wants to make noise in October.
Let's take a look at the five best bench players remaining in the 2012 MLB Playoffs.
The New York Yankees have had to use more players to make the playoffs in 2012 than they have in previous years.
With the injury to Brett Gardner, the Bombers had to platoon in left field with Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez until the acquisition of Ichiro solved the issue. Yankee veterans Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are getting older and can not play the field like they used to.
That's where Jayson Nix comes in.
Nix is a fastball hitter who does his best work against lefties. In Game 2 of the ALDS, Nix hit the ball hard on several occasions, including a double in the third inning and a near home run in the sixth.
He plays a serviceable shortstop and can even play the outfield if needed.
Nix is a versatile defender that is capable of doing damage at the plate against left-handed pitchers. He played well in Game 4 for the Yankees, and could prove useful in a decisive Game 5.
San Francisco Giants infielder Joaquin Arias is an extremely valuable player to bring off the bench because he can hit both righties and lefties effectively.
Defensively, Arias can play both third base and shortstop. The Giants understand his value, having used him in four of the five ALDS games they played against the Cincinnati Reds.
Arias is currently hitting .316 on fastballs and .400 on sliders thrown by left-handed pitchers. He hits over .300 against righties on off-speed pitches as well.
Although Arias does not hit for power, there is no absolute way to attack him at the plate. He can hit a pitch in almost any location, which makes him a dangerous hitter.
So far this postseason, Arias is 3-for-6 with two doubles. He had a significant impact against the Reds and should continue to do so throughout the postseason.
Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina has yet to have a major impact in the 2012 playoffs. He's posted one hitless at-bat to go along with a pair of walks. While Bernadina has played in three of the four ALDS games, he has yet to showcase his full ability.
That said, Bernadina hit .291 in the regular season. As a player who is relied upon to come off the bench, Bernadina did some impressive work at the plate this season.
He's not going to get a lot of at-bats with the Nationals stacked outfield of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Matt Holliday in front of him, but Bernadina has the potential to impact the game as a batter, fielder or pinch-runner.
The Nationals have a valuable piece in Roger Bernadina, so keep an eye on him as the playoffs progress.
Robert Andino had a down year in 2012.
He only hit .211 this season, which is the worst mark he's put up since he came to Baltimore in 2009.
But Andino is still an outstanding defender with the ability to hit lefties. On the season, he hit .330 on fastballs from left-handed pitchers. He also hit over .310 on off-speed pitches thrown by righties.
Similar to Joaquin Arias, there is no one way to attack Andino at the plate.
In the field, Andino can play second base, shortstop and third base. He's a versatile fielder that provides a limited amount of offense at the plate. He will be used as a defensive replacement late in games throughout the playoffs, and will receive his opportunities at the plate.
Look for Robert Andino to have an impact in Game 5 of the ALDS, and possibly even deeper into the playoffs.
This one is the most obvious.
Ibanez has had such an impact off the bench for the Yankees that he's been inserted into the starting lineup for the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS.
He hit two home runs in Game 3 that brought the Bombers back to life. He is the reason the Yankees are still alive in this series.
While the casual baseball fan might not have been aware of Ibanez before his Game 3 performance, he's been key to the Yankees' success throughout the year.
Ibanez hit 19 home runs this season while platooning with Andruw Jones between left field and designated hitter duties. He's come up with several timely hits that have enabled the Yankees to survive a season that was riddled with injuries.
He's a veteran hitter with postseason experience. The Yankees can count on Ibanez to come through in clutch situations, so look for him to come up big against Baltimore in Game 5.