The respective benches in the 2008 World Series will play a larger role than usual with the Phillies participating this year. National League teams are constructed with the pitcher's spot in the batting order in mind. They are built for matchups, defensive substitutions, bunting, speed, and other skills that generally go unused in the American League.
That being said, most members of the Phillies' bench have but one or two specific responsibilities. For example, Matt Stairs was quoted after his game changing home run in Game Four of the NLCS that he always swings for the fences. The Phillies know that, Matt Stairs knows that, and that was precisely what he was in the game to do. So Taguchi was not going to be batting in that spot.
With every pitch and at-bat making a potential impact, the Phillies bench will have to play an important role in their success.
So if I were in a fantasy baseball draft and had nothing to pick but Phillies bench players, this is the order in which I'd pick them with their respective role(s):
1. Greg Dobbs (3B/OF/LH)
Dobbs is a left-handed, pinch hitting specialist who led the NL in pinch hits this year (22). He is a relatively clutch hitter and was the only Phillies player to bat over .300 (.301).
Granted they were in limited at-bats, but he is still Charlie Manuel's best weapon off the bench (6-for-11 in the playoffs) and could see time at the DH spot during road games depending on the starting pitcher.
Unfortunately, Dobbs is a dramatically weaker hitter against left-handed pitchers (1-for-9 this year) which prevents him from ever becoming a day-to-day starter.
2. Chris Coste (Catcher/RH)
Coste is arguably the best right-handed bat coming off the Phillies bench which isn't saying much. This journeyman catcher, who was a rookie at the age of 33, does not strike much fear in opposing pitchers and primarily acts as the back-up catcher for the Phils.
He did not have a single AB during the first two rounds of the playoffs but might be called upon to provide a few solid ABs as the DH against left-handed starters. His hitting prowess is best described as extremely average.
3. Matt Stairs (1B/LH)
Stairs was the hero in Game Four of the NLCS with one swing of the bat. He knocked a 3-1 pitch to deep right field, giving the Phillies the needed runs to pull out the come-from-behind victory. And that's pretty much all he's contributed to the team all year.
Before the playoffs, he had played in a total of 16 games for the Phillies, collecting a whopping five hits. But he's batting 1.000 so far in the playoffs with an equal number of RBI as Ryan Howard (2). He will most likely see ABs as the DH or pinch hitter.
4. Eric Bruntlett (IF/OF/RH)
Bruntlett is the obligatory utility man who can play both infield and outfield. He generally comes in for Pat Burrell in late game situations as a defensive replacement. Typical of utility players, he is a pretty poor hitter with very limited pop. He is a classic NL player and will only be used to play defense or lay down a sacrifice bunt.
5. Geoff Jenkins (OF/LH)
People might remember Jenkins as a pretty solid player for the Milwaukee Brewers who consistently hit 20 plus homers. Well, he's not that player anymore as he's struggled all year with only nine home runs and 29 RBI.
He hasn't seen much time in the playoffs because if he's not hitting he doesn't really contribute anywhere else. Don't count on seeing much more of Jenkins in the World Series unless it’s high-fiving his teammates and providing moral support to Manuel.
6. So Taguchi (OF/RH)
Taguchi is the most worthless member of the Phillies bench. Ironically, he is the only member of the entire team who has a World Series ring. So other than flashing his Cardinals World Series ring around to motivate the players, don't expect for him to contribute much else. The 39-year-old Taguchi no longer has the defense, legs, or hitting to even qualify him as a Bruntlett type utility player.
The DH will play a huge role in the Series as the Phillies cannot pencil in a consistent, everyday hitter for the reasons mentioned above. Also, the meteoric rise of left-handed stud David Price provides extra matchup headaches for Manuel by almost negating Dobbs, Stairs, and Jenkins late in the game.
But Hall of fame GM Pat Gillick has done a fantastic job of putting the necessary pieces around the core group of Phillies. He picked them out of the scrap heaps of his old teams that might not have the desired statistics and athleticism, but they do have the character and moxie required to play in Philadelphia.
One of the six players above will contribute significantly to a win in this year's World Series—whether it is a clutch hit or timely throw.
But it will most likely be the only thing they do all series.
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