Monday, March 19, 2012

The Dodgers' bench is going to be an issue this season

The most underrated part of a Major League Baseball team is the bench. Contending teams tend to have strong benches while mediocre teams tend to have, well, mediocre benches.

This applies to the Dodgers, a team with a mediocre bench for years. This season, though, could possibly be the worst in recent years.

This post was inspired by this tweet from Dodger fan Andrew Grant of Minor League Central:
"There's a non zero chance Matt Treanor will be the best hitter on the Dodgers bench."
That really makes one think. If Treanor is the Dodgers' best bat off the bench, this is going to be a long season.

The following players are locks for the Dodgers' five-man bench, assuming they carry seven pitchers:

Tony Gwynn
Jerry Hairston
Adam Kennedy
Matt Treanor

That leaves one spot and a few possibilities.

Josh Fields is hitting well this spring and would provide the only power potential off the bench -- and that's nowhere near a sure thing as he's struggled to stay in the majors since his debut.

Justin Sellers possesses decent on-base skills, but not much power. The fact he can play shortstop at least adequately has to be a plus in his column. Hairston is penciled in right now as Dee Gordon's backup.

Jerry Sands is the best young hitter closest to the majors the Dodgers have, but he'd be better off playing everyday in Triple-A.

Other guys in the mix include Ivan De Jesus, Trent Oeltjen and Cory Sullivan, but they are longshots to make the 25-man out of Spring Training.

Even in the best-case scenario, the Dodgers' bench is going to be bad. A way to remedy that is to not sign mediocre (at best) Major Leaguers to fill these roles. Another way is to sign superstar players, forcing borderline everyday players to the bench (I'm looking at you, James Loney). Alas, that won't happen until next winter.

Don't expect any heroics from this group. It has to rate as one of the worst in the majors. It just puts extra pressure on the starters to play well and not get hurt (like they can avoid that) so the Dodgers don't have to rely on the bench.

Notes from today's game against the Indians

Clayton Kershaw had a nice outing, and I got to see it on MLB Network. His line for the day is as follows: 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. He seems ready to start the season right now.

Kenley Jansen pitched an inning and struck out two. Business as usual for him.

Andre Ethier hit a triple, but it was a generous one. He hit a flyball to left field that should have been caught. Instead, the left fielder slid and kicked the ball away, allowing Ethier to get to third. Regardless, it was Ethier's ninth extra-base hit in 10 Spring Training games. If numbers mean anything in March (which they don't), Ethier could be primed for a big season.

The aforementioned Sellers had three hits, including an RBI double, in his quest to be the Dodgers' fifth man off the bench.

Photo credits: SD Dirk on Flickr

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