Dodgers Bench Players Have “Made” Season
It’s only appropriate
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
/Searches LasordasLair archives for Winter of 2013-2014
Whoa, those are a lot of posts about the Dodgers bench. And rightfully so, nobody had any idea how that was gonna turn out. I was so concerned, I wrote an actual post about Michael Young hopefully becoming a Dodger again. At the time I thought Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier, and Brendan Harris could possibly be on the bench. We laugh at this now, but it was a real problem at the time, nobody knew how Scott Van Slyke was going to perform when given the chance to be on a major league bench full time. Coming into the season he had 209 total career plate appearances, and was not tolerable in 57 of those.
If you told me that A.J. Ellis was going to go on the DL twice, and Tim Federowicz was going to hit .131/.169/.230, and Drew Butera was going to have 141 plate appearances into late-July, I would have been terrified for the state of the team.
They had to rely on a last second Justin Turner signing to avoid having Brendan Harris on a major league bench. While I liked the signing, this was the same Justin Turner who was outright released from the Mets and couldn’t find a minor league deal until February 5th. All 29 other teams had to have looked at him and saw something they didn’t like, especially considering that Alexi Casilla got a deal before Turner did.
Erisbel Arruebarrena was forced into 8 games of action, and Miguel Rojas has been an integral part of the bench. Insane.
Of course, none of this compares to Chone Figgins coming into games 38 times this season, and Dodger fans not laughing or completely hating it. He has made a remarkable turnaround, and while he is injured at the moment, once he finishes his rehab, I might actually want him to be a part of the bench going forward.
This isn’t everybody, we could go on and on about Clint Robinson, Carlos Triunfel, Mike Baxter, Miguel Olivo (HAH), you know a lot of different guys have passed through the Dodgers bench, however speaking quite honestly, they have done a better job than we could have ever hoped coming into the season.
Using Fangraphs WAR, Adrian Gonzalez has been worth 1.3 fWAR. Guess the Dodger players immediately ahead of him? Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke. They have been worth 1.7 WAR and 1.8 WAR, respectively in 40% and 45% less plate appearances. Bench players who are on pace to post 2.0 fWAR are incredibly valuable. Van Slyke is particularly desirable to have considering the OF’s injury woes, and also because he mashes lefties. SVS has been in the lineup well over 90% against left handed starting pitchers, he has pushed himself to play an passable CF (for a game at a time) and that’s a testament to how hard he’s worked. I don’t think he’s an everyday player, I think he could get exposed going through the rigors of playing 130-150 games a season, but he is perfect for the team as currently constructed.
As for Justin Turner, with Hanley Ramirez being the everlasting injury problem he is, and with Juan Uribe‘s hamstring acting up, Turner has been a mainstay in the Dodger lineup when healthy, carrying a 128 wRC+ this late into the season, while being 5 runs above average in the 247.1 innings he’s logged at the hot corner has been absolutely invaluable.
And to think that they could have signed Ramon Santiago, or Alexi Casilla, and absolutely regretted it.
Miguel Rojas and Chone Figgins are the next tier of valuable bench pieces, Rojas has been a fill in for Hanley Ramirez, and despite the terrifying threats of starting him in Australia as the 2nd baseman, he has been valuable for the Dodgers, adding half a win of value off of his glove alone, he’s saved 6 runs at SS thus far, which pretty much falls in line to the “Omar Vizquel” comps people have (probably lazily) thrown on him.
And Chone Figgins, boy did I hate that signing, not because it cost the Dodgers anything initially, but when Figgins was hitting with a man in scoring position versus the San Francisco Giants in the top of the 9th with 2 outs down by one in May instead of one of the 4 OF’s, then it would have been a real problem. Luckily it hasn’t been an issue. I don’t really care about Figgins’s slugging %, because at this point, all of the value he gives up in power, he makes up in baserunning, he’s posted 2 runs above average on the basepaths, as well as a .373 on base % which is huge for a utility guy who has played 3b not awfully.
Drew Butera could have been a disaster, having to play in 41 games, and for the most part, his bat has been just that hitting for a .202/.279/.298 line, but his defense has been above average and he’s posted a 0.6 WAR which is just about all you could have hoped for.
Arruebarrena, Robinson have also done some positive things, Erisbel was probably misused a bit given that he needs developmental time, but he’s injured and I’d like to see how he looks next year, and in very limited time, Robinson has been mostly forgettable aside from the huge go ahead single against Cleveland June 30th.
I’d personally like to forget Carlos Triunfel, Migue Olivo, and Mike Baxter were ever Dodgers as they’ve posted a combined -0.3 fWAR, but aside from that the Dodgers bench has been a very underrated part of a world series contending team. Getting a combined 4.8 WAR from your bench is huge when you haven’t been able to rely on solid performances (relative to their career averages) from your regulars such as Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and A.J. Ellis.
All of a sudden, instead of dreading how on earth a Dodgers bench was going to support Hanley Ramirez, the 4 headed outfield situation, A.J. Ellis, etc. We are looking a them as a definitive strength as opposed to a weakness, and that’s a huge positive.