Do the Brewers Have a Bad Bench? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

I decided to put out the call on Twitter (where you can follow me @WhatsaTararrel) for topics Brewers fans were interested in hearing about last night. I only got one response, from Brewers Addict (@ballacksrise), who asked, “How about convincing me Conrad is worth a bench spot?” Sounds like a fine question to me, and I’ll expand it a bit to talk about the bench in general, as there seemed to be quite a few Brewers fans complaining on Twitter earlier this week about how bad the team’s bench is, and I feel like that’s a sentiment that deserves some attention.

The Brewers have five bench spots available, which will almost certainly be allocated 2 OF, 2 IF, and 1 backup catcher. The OF spots will go to Aoki and Gomez, and if Hart starts the year on the DL, his spot will be taken by either Logan Schafer, Caleb Gindl, or Travis Ishikawa. Each has their strengths: Schafer is more solid defensively, Gindl has the stronger bat, and Ishikawa has experience as a pinch-hitter (Although Schafer and Gindl have both already been sent down to Nasvhille, Adam McCalvy has indicated they’re still possibilities for this roster spot). Personally, I would go with Gindl, as the Brewers already have three outfielders who can play CF, so defense isn’t that big of a concern. However, considering that whoever fills this spot will probably only be up for around 5 games, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

At backup catcher, the Brewers are going with George Kottaras. In last week’s podcast, J.P. Breen indicated he’d prefer Martin Maldonado to get a backup spot, as he values defense in the backup catcher role. No disrespect intended to J.P., but I am firmly on Team Κοτταράς. Personally, I don’t really see why a particular attribute, such as defense, would be valued more in a guy who only plays every fifth day; what I’d rather see is a player whose skillset complements the starting catcher’s. If Lucroy were a big bat, terrible glove type catcher, then absolutely I’d like to see Maldonado make the roster; however, because he’s got a great glove, and a good bat but with little power, I like having a guy who can come off the bench and mash, and don’t mind his defense so much. Just a personal preference. Either way, the Crew is fine in this department.

This leaves the two backup infield slots. One of these is going to Cesar Izturis who, to put it mildly, is bad. He’s never been known for his bat, and lately his glove has left much to be desired, too. He really doesn’t seem to belong on a major league roster at this point in his career, but the Brewers need someone who can back up SS behind Alex Gonzalez, and Izturis is pretty much the only such someone they have. Then, finally, this brings us to the other IF spot, which is most likely going to be claimed by Brooks Conrad. Taylor Green was also in the running for this spot, but appears to be out of it after being sent to AAA Nashville. So, here’s the big question: why Conrad over Green? There are several reasons, but I think it ultimately comes down to one word: handedness. Aoki, Schafer, Gindl, Ishikawa, and Kottaras all bat left-handed. Gomez bats right-handed, and Izturis is a switch-hitter, but neither of them are in the majors for their bats. The Brewers need a legitimate right-handed bat off the bench. Taylor Green is left-handed, and Brooks Conrad, for all his faults, owns a .268/.358/.465 career line against left handed pitching. Granted, that’s only in 81 plate appearances, so it probably overstates his true talent, but he still appears to be a solid right-handed option off the bench.

So that’s the bench. Now, to address the question in the title of this post: is this a good bench or a bad bench? Well, it’s certainly better than the bench they started with last year, which featured Jeremy Reed, who dragged in a .253/.310/.356 career line, Erick Almonte, who hadn’t played since 2003, and Mark Kotsay, who, well…. It also featured Wil Nieves in the backup catcher role, who failed to hit my weight in a Brewers uniform, let alone his. Granted, being better than last year’s opening day bench is a low bar to clear, so putting that to one side, I still feel like overall this isn’t a bad group. Certainly, I think the team’s OF depth is enviable; as I said before, they have 3 players who can man centerfield, and they have two guys in the minors who are more than qualified to be 5th OFs. The infield spots on the bench are clearly a weakness, but I’d say that’s more to do with Izturis than Conrad. They have multiple good candidates to pinch hit against righties, and one solid option to pinch hit against lefties in Conrad. Considering how right-handed the starting lineup is, it’s probably better for this bench to lean more left-handed, so I’d say the composition is a good fit for this team. In an ideal world, you’d like to see a bench full of guys talented enough to be starting on worse teams. Short of that, what the Brewers have works quite well. Now if only they had someone who could back up SS…

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. SecondHandStore says: March 31, 2012

    Interesting thoughts on back-up catchers. I just want someone who can provide a decent bat in pinch hitting situations. If he’s playing every fifth day I guess I don’t care that much about his defense, ask Wil Nieves about that. I also don’t know that I care about him complimenting the starter. As long as he’s not a liability when he starts and he can go for a bit in case of injuries, I don’t care what style he brings. I’m not at all saying I’m right, you’re wrong or anything like that. This is just how I always looked at it. I know some people might be hesitant to use a back up catcher to pinch hit for fear of something happening to the starting catcher, but Roenicke didn’t seem to balk at it.
    I’m curious how many of Kottaras’ 111 at-bats came from pinch hit opportunities.

    • Nathan says: March 31, 2012

      According to Baseball reference, George made 13 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in 2011. He had two hits, drew one walk, and made it on base one other time. That’s a .182/.250/.182 line.

      • SecondHandStore says: April 2, 2012

        Thanks for the info. I looked it up too. Just for added context, he also has 3 RBIs in his higher than average stress pinch hitting situations. I’m not sure if you’re trying to say that you disagree though or if you’re just giving me the info. I’ll say this, if you go ahead and look up the numbers for Mike Rivera and Wil Nieves, you’ll see that Kottaras is light years ahead of them as a pinch hitter and a hitter in general. I stand by my statement regarding back-up catchers.

  2. oh Hal says: March 31, 2012

    Edwin Maysonet can play SS. Signing Izturis is not only taking a million dollars and lighting it on fire, but Melvin’s enormous ego won’t let him admit a mistake and he’ll be slapping grounders probably all season. It really is a condemnation that he can’t come up with a 3rd choice who is sub replacement level.

    • SecondHandStore says: March 31, 2012

      They signed Izturis pretty early on, I’m guessing as insurance in case they couldn’t get anyone better. Lo and behold…
      They tried for Renteria, but he didn’t want to play here. Everyone is always looking for MI and while it’s not exciting to see Izturis on the line-up card I’m not sure what else they could have done.

  3. Matt says: March 31, 2012

    And here’s where have no depth in the SS position at almost anywhere in the organization hurts big time. I’m not going to lament losing Alcides, as I would have traded him for the playoffs as well (which is essentially what we did).

    But I wonder if there is a team that has a AAA/AA SS prospect and is in need of a catcher. I seem to remember that the hottest rumor at the trade dealine last year was George K. going somewhere, with the Giants being the name I heard the most. I love me some Kotarras, but I’d trade him in a second for a decent SS prospect.

    • Matt says: March 31, 2012

      To answer my own question, it would be interesting to see if one could ply Tampa Bay for Hak Ju Lee, or hope and pray that the Red’s Devin Mesoraco can’t get it together quite yet and try for Billy Hamilton.

      • Ryan Topp says: March 31, 2012

        I’m sure the Brewers could get Lee from the Rays…if they offered up a couple of their top pitchers in the minors or something. You’re not going to get Lee for anything other than a ton of talent going back the other way. As for Hamilton, the Reds aren’t going to move him within the division without getting a haul and a half in return and he’s not close to big league ready anyway.

        I think this is going to go the other way around, with the Brewers dealing a pretty low upside prospect for a limited veteran MI sometime in June or July.

  4. desertfool says: March 31, 2012

    And why was Taylor Green sent down??

    • Ryan Topp says: March 31, 2012

      Like Alex said, because of the handedness issue primarily, but also because I think the team wants to get him regular AB’s still at this point in his development. Sitting on the bench and getting maybe a start per week and 4-5 PH chances is tough on anyone, especially young players. His time is coming at some point, but it’s not here yet.

  5. doug says: April 1, 2012

    awesome comments

  6. N says: April 1, 2012

    I figure they give Izturis a shot, but if he can’t play D cleanly they will call back Maysonet or grab someone off waivers. Is Luis Cruz available??

  7. N says: April 1, 2012

    J Hairston Jr would be nice right now

  8. 19er says: April 2, 2012

    Yeah i agree with all of this. Without the pickup of Aoki, this could be the worst bench (more so the infield) we have seen in a long time. It is concerning because obviously Ricky doesnt stay healthy for a full year and hopefully aramis doesnt have the one year that he was hurt. Plus if Gamel struggles then we could be in a real bind to either have to trade or dip into the minors to have Green or Maysonet come up. Either way i think we will find this out after about a month and people will be screaming for better options.

  9. Dan says: April 3, 2012

    so our shortstop sucks and our infield defense needs improvement…what else is new


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