I have been starting to think I'm the only one out there not exactly excited about our new and supposedly much improved bench. From message boards and discussions I seen on casual Phillies sites or groups the overwhelming consensus has been that virtually every bench replacement has been a significant upgrade. I don't really buy it.
More after the jump.....
Think back to this scenario... Game 3 of the World Series tied 1-1, down by 2 runs with 2 outs in bottom of the 6th and a man on first, and up to the plate comes...........wait for it..........................Juan Castro. Would you really be that much more excited for him than who he replaced, Eric Bruntlett, in the same situation. Going from a .231/.303/.330 career hitter to a .230/.270/.332 hitter isn't exactly going from a Pinto to a Bentley. Both play multiple positions and I'd give the slight edge to Castro in fielding, but when you consider Castro doesn't play any outfield, and Bruntlett has been successful there, it essentially cancels out Castro's slight edge elsewhere. Also, it would make no sense putting in Castro as a late inning defensive replacement at 2B, 3B, or SS(the positions he plays) when he is not better than either of the starting options. At least Bruntlett could occasionally spell the defense- lacking Ibanez and provide a defensive upgrade in left field. If anything, that would make Bruntlett more valuable than Castro in the field.
I also don't think replacing Gload instead of Stairs strike fear in the hearts of relief pitchers anywhere. At least Stairs could get the occasional walk(11.9% career) and still had decent pop(.184 iso in 09) compared with the soft hitting Gload(.125 career iso) who doesn't walk at a good rate(6.1% career). For those of you who still love average, yes Gload is a better hitter for average than Stairs, but consider Stairs' BABIP last year was 68 points lower than his career norm. He is closer to a .250 hitter than the .194 he showed last year. I don't think the about 30 point would be difference between the two is enough to make up for the difference in walks and power. One edge Gload has is fielding, although he is much closer to Pat Burrell than Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield(-32.4 career UZR). I just can't give the edge in fielding to someone who has the speed of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Would have been great if we could have gotten the recently signed the cheaper, better Ryan Garko but I will assume he preferred the chance to start more often in Seattle.
The last replacement is probably the clearest upgrade, although still rather small in my eyes. Bako was atrocious offensively. There is no other way of looking at it. His 59 OPS+ over the last three years is a testament to that. However, Schneider's 79 OPS+ over the past three years is not exactly that of a raker either. Last year alone their wOBA were almost identical at .281 and .278, respectively although Scheider was the unluckier hitter last year. Both were almost identical last year fielding according the fans scouting report with a 3.17 average rating for Schneider and a 3.19 for Bako. I probably should include Coste also since he still played a decent amount of time for the Phillies last year. His 81 OPS+ over the past three years is the best of the bunch but his fielding is a notch below, scoring a 2.43, one of the worst in the majors. Given Bako and Schneider's equal fielding and the latter's edge in offense, albeit not a large edge, is an upgrade but I wouldn't consider it a big one.
You can still be the judge for yourself, but to me two pushes and one slight upgrade is not what I would call "significantly" better than last year.