We continue our seven-part look at the NLDS.
Part IV : Bench
LH: Greg Dobbs (.301, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 30 R, 3 SB, .824 OPS)
LH: Geoff Jenkins (.246, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 27 R, 1 SB, .693 OPS)
LH: Matt Stairs (.252, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 46 R, 1 SB, .750 OPS)
RH: Chris Coste (.263, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 28 R, 0 SB, .748 OPS)
RH: Eric Bruntlett (.217, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 37 R, 9 SB, .594 OPS)
RH: So Taguchi (.220, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 18 R, 3 SB, .580 OPS)
LH: Mike Lamb (.235, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 22 R, 0 SB, .596 OPS)
LH: Russell Branyan (.250, 12 HR, 20 RBI, 24 R, 1 SB, .925 OPS)
RH: Rickie Weeks (.234, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 89 R, 19 SB, .740 OPS)
RH: Bill Hall (.225, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 50 R, 5 SB, .689 OPS)
RH: Mike Rivera (.306, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB, .812 OPS)
The Brewers play with a couple platoons. One is the second base platoon between Ray Durham (singles, doubles) and Weeks (homers, steals). They also move Hall around and start him a lot at third base, though he has sat considerably lately for Craig Counsell. Both Weeks and Hall can pop the ball out of the yard. Weeks is also dangerous as a stolen base threat, so he can be a very versatile option for the Brewers.
Of course, both Weeks and Hall aren’t really contact hitters, so the Phils can feel lucky about that. The lefties on the bench are the same. Lamb is more of a last-gasp piece, while Branyan is one Phillie fans know well from 2007. He’ll do exactly what you’d think — hit a home run, or walk, or strike out. That’s it. He’ll get spots with men on base against righties. JC Romero will be ready to face him.
Rivera is the backup catcher, and will be used as such. Kendall plays practically every game.
The Phillies will go with a six-man bench. Dobbs is the big bat, the one who will get the first look with men on and a righty on the mound. The Brewers should try to disable him with Brian Shouse. After Dobbs, it’s more or less famine. Stairs is a nice option if you want instant pop, much like Branyan. Jenkins provides instant not-much-at-all, much like Hall, but is capable of a homer, much like Hall.
On the right side, the Phils are even more empty. Bruntlett might be the first man off the bench because of his versatility and knack for the single-and-steal. But something tells me Charlie Manuel might go with Taguchi first, as his experience outweighs seemingly everything else, including statistics. He hasn’t hit well this season, but could very easily get a big hit or two.
Coste is the backup catcher and may be used as a pinch hitter, considering he has the most pop from the right side.
Analysis: The Brewers have a little more home run power off the bench, so I have to give them a slight advantage. If Branyan gets five tries in the series, one of them will be a home run. Hall, while not a real astute hitter, can also rip one. I like Weeks’ versatility as a hitter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s used in bunt situations.
I’m not too worried about the lefties, though. Branyan probably won’t get five tries, and Lamb isn’t that tough. Romero and Eyre will be used against Fielder and Counsell, but besides them? I see Madson and Durbin being more important in this series.
The Phils bench lacks right-handed pop, which could hurt considering the Brewers will be toting Shouse and Mitch Stetter against lefties. I’m afraid Dobbs won’t get his chance against a righty — all he really needs is one chance. There’s not much worse than seeing Brunlett or even Coste at the plate in a deciding situation late, because there are no other righty bench players.
It’s possible Manuel starts Dobbs, considering Milwaukee has just one lefty starter. That gives Manuel at least the option of Pedro Feliz on the bench. Hopefully he thinks about that. As for Jenkins and Stairs, I’m not completely sold on either, though I still think Jenkins has a big hit in him.