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Position Report: Bench
by alex ciepley
2003: Ramon Martinez, Paul Bako, Troy O'Leary, Tom Goodwin, Mark Bellhorn, Lenny Harris, Hee Seop Choi, Jose Hernandez, Doug Glanville, Tony Womack
2004: Martinez, Bako, Todd Walker, Todd Hollandsworth, Goodwin, Jose Macias
Christian: Simply put, last year's bench sucked. Dusty Baker came in and attempted to install the same sort of bench he was used to using in San Francisco -- old guys who know how to play the game right but can't find their way to first base with a compass. In retrospect I'm actually surprised Shawon Dunston never found his way into a Cubs game. Let's look at the OPSs of the guys who got the most time off the bench:
Choi started very strong but faded after his injury, Martinez had another decent year as a super-sub (though he lost some of his power), and Bellhorn was shipped out in mid-June. Beyond that, only Tom Goodwin had what might be considered an acceptable season off the bench. It was really bad. Remember that, for the most part, these guys were used as pinch-hitters, either to gain a platoon advantage late in the game, or to bat in place of the pitcher and prevent the #9 spot from being an automatic out. Speaking of pitchers, here are the OPSs of the Cubs' five starters:
Yes, you're reading that right. Three of our starters out-hit Lenny Harris, and Carlos Zambrano had better offensive numbers than Troy O'Leary. Small sample size, sure, but the point is that the whole point of having hitters on the bench, to allow late-inning substitutions to prevent an automatic out, was completely lost on the 2003 Cubs.
This year things look to be better. Here are the 2003 OPSs of the three new additions to the Cubs bench:
I just watched the Sesame Street 35th Anniversary Special over the weekend, so that's probably the reason why the song "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other" is going through my head. Still, as bad as Jose Macias looks to be, he was better than a bunch of guys on last year's bench. Every at-bat that goes to Walker instead of Lenny, or Hollandsworth instead of O'Leary, or even Macias instead of Womack, is an at-bat that gives the Cubs a better chance to win than they had last year.
Alex: Christian's pretty much got this one covered. The Cubs' bench was crap last year, and it is improved this year, though still not a world-beater. It would be nice to have a little more OBP on the bench, but hey, that's true of the starting lineup as well, and why would you covet something that just "clogs up the bases" anyway.
I'll be interested to see how the Cubs' bench changes throughout the season. While Macias starts the year on the DL, the Cubs arguably have two better options stashed away in the minors:
2004 PECOTA PROJECTIONS ----------------------- Jose Macias 240/289/336 Damian Jackson 268/331/379 Benji Gil 261/296/430
Unfortunately, the above lines speak more to Macias' ugly bat than to any great skills possessed by Jackson or Gil. Christian does have a point, though: even Macias' putrid projection beats the offense generated by last year's woeful foursome of Jo-Hern, Womack, Glanville, and Harris.
Other than Macias, there isn't too much to criticize. Hollandsworth is a fine fourth outfielder, and the Cubs have two outfielders in AAA in Kelton and DuBois who could step in at any time with Hollandsworthish at-bats. I'll leave you with these crazy-spooky fortune cookies: