The 2-Man Bench

M's Watcher, along with the announcer who called Kirk Gibson's home run, can't believe what he just saw:

It's hard to believe the M's managed to carry two DH-only players the whole year.  That maybe says more about what we got out of a solid Branyan at 1B, the smoke-and-mirrors out of LF, and paper thin utility coverage. 

I'm still not sure how or why we did it in 2009, but can't imagine it again for 2010.  Any thoughts on that?


Like you sez Watcher:

1.  It's hard to imagine two DH's, neither of which can play full time, and

2.  We just imagined it. 

In technicolor.  For 162 games. 


=== My Brave Face Dept. ===

How many times did a short bench came back and bit the Mariners?  Do you remember, notably, even a single time? 

One more boldface line on Wakamatsu's resume.  Most managers, including Piniella and Hargrove, insist on two or even three middle infielders for the bench.   (In 2002, for example, Lou had not only switch-hitting Carlos Guillen at SS, but had Willie Bloomquist, SW Desi Relaford, and SW Luis Ugueto on his bench behind Guillen.)

Keeping the bench stocked with ineffective-but-safe jacks-of-all-trades makes a manager's job easy, and prevents them from being embarrassed by accidentally being short a player late in the game.

Wakamatsu accepted the responsibility of anticipating game situations.  This forced him to be alert during games, but he demonstrated that "flexibility" is a luxury, not a necessity. 

Wakamatsu, like Earl Weaver, didn't want or need three different 200/300/350, switch-hitting, shortstops on his bench.   And, impressively, Wakamatsu wasn't worried about reporters laughing at him if Adrian Beltre wound up playing shortstop for a couple of innings.   For a rookie manager that is amazing.


=== Deployment ===

In modern baseball, you have only 3 benchies, since one is a backup catcher.

Since the DH is a starting role also, if you have a second DH, then you're playing with two position-player backups other than catcher.

Check me on this!, but IIRC, in August, the 3 backups were Langerhans CF-LF-RF, Wilson SS/2B/3B, and Sweeney.

What precisely is the problem with having one man back up your three outfielders for nine innings?   What is the problem with having one man back up your infielders for the same three hours? :- )

Did you ever play park-rec softball?  Is one backup for OF and one for IF sufficient in baseball?  This ain't college football and the Veer offense.


=== Insurance ===

If a player gets injured, as players do, Wok used position flexibility. 

The rules don't say that Jose Lopez can't play 1B; dogma says that.  The rules don't say that Bill Hall can't play LF or even CF; that's just the inertia of peer pressure.

As we've always sermonized, it's not the end of the world if you get caught with Jose Lopez playing CF for two innings.  Your in-game insurance is that a player goes out and takes a position that isn't ideal -- for a few innings.

After the game, you have callups from Tacoma.

It's not as big a deal as old-school managers tell you it is.


=== Tradeoffs ===

One thing is, you're not going to pinch-hit and pinch-run a whole lot.  Wok was ribbed, by us locals, "Hey Wok, did you know the rules allow for a pinch-hitter?"

Instead of a few extra pinch-hits during the summer, we got Mike Sweeney.  As you know, Sweeney brings his own plusses, and in the second half, those plusses included a 300/400/550 batting line.


=== Dr's R/X Dept. ===

I thought that the 2010 decision was whether to bring back 0, or 1, Griffeys or Sweeneys.

Now then, rumblings are that a minimum of 1 "is a no-brainer" and obviously there's the possibility of 2.

Is it feasible?  Obviously.  It was feasible during the entire 2009 season.  Thanks to Don Wakamatsu's alert, agile managing.

Would I do it?  Huh.  How important is the ML bench time for the blue-chipper you're forcing back to Tacoma?  You're weighing developmental time for (say) Mike Carp against a second DH who would

(1) Probably hit comparably,

(2) Give you the Pythag-defying leadership benefits,

(3) Cost you 200-300 AB's of investment time in a player you plan to win your next pennant with.

If I had a blue-chipper who was ready to go, a Dustin Ackley or Matt Tuiasosopo type, then the cost of a 2nd DH would be too high.  If not, then I can probably afford to have a Mike Carp hang on for a little while more in Tacoma.

Check the young guns' performance in March.


Dr D



...he had a nice year but there's no reason the Mariners can't wait until February or even early March to decide on him.  Griffey you have to make a call on early because you owe him that respect.
But the good news is...the Mariners can promote Ackley with or without Griffey/Sweeney.  If Saunders doesn't hack it...Ackley is next in line.  And the Mariners can promote Carp if Sweeney fails too.


So if it's your roster Matty, what's your baseline 25 as of the players we have right now?   As least as far as the bench and starting LF/DH?

M's Watcher's picture

Carrying two DHs is like having a 23 man NL club.  In NL parks for interleague play, the most you have is a couple PH opportunities with them and that's it.  It's amazing how much Wak got out of them.
The question for 2010 is that you have to decide about bringing Jr back in the off-season, before you know what to expect from Tui, Ack, and others.  You'll only see the kids make their play in Spring Training, but you'll never say goodbye to Jr in March after re-signing him in January.
Let's hope Griff hits a HR in his last AB on Sunday and makes a triumphant, thunderous farewell.


We're starting with:
Rob Johnson (BC)
Adam Moore (C)
Russell Branyan (1B)
Mike Sweeney (1B / DH)
Jose Lopez (2B)
Matt Tuiasosopo (3B)
Josh Wilson (SS)
Bill Hall (UT)
Mike Saunders (LF)
Franklin Gutierrez (CF)
Ichiro! (RF)
Mike Carp (DH / 1B)
Ryan Langerhans (OF)
Felix Hernandez
Erik Bedard *
Brandon Morrow
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Ian Snell
Doug Fister
Luke French
Chris Jakubauskas
Sean White
Shawn Kelley
Mark Lowe
David Aardsma
Guys you can let go in ST - Langerhans (if, say, Ackley does a lot better than we hope and ends up the LF), Hall (if he just isn't hitting enough), Josh Wilson (if you can find a better option, please do), Mike Carp (if you find a good FA to DH, then Carp can go down to AAA and he won't lose any ground...he's a fungible guy to have but you know he is going to hit immediately at a nice moderate clip if he is on the big league club), Chris Jakubauskas (we don't need a 7-man bullpen the whole year but if we're going with one...we have lots of options for his spot), Luke French (we also have Messenger, Olson and Hill to try out for his bullpen spot...and French can go down to AAA if need be), Doug Fister (if the rotation is full and you want to keep Fister a starter available in case of Bedard-related or Morrow-related disaster, he still has options).
Guys I implicitly made the decision to re-sign as soon as possible: Mike Sweeney (keeping him around makes perfect sense given Branyan's weaknesses and questionable back), Erik Bedard (no reason not to try to squeeze a cheap recovery year out of Erikkkkk) and David Aardsma (you can't sell-high on a solid closer without retaining said solid closer).

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

Carrying the double shot of DH is NOT reason to laud Wak for his ingenuity.  Point of fact, the roster construction removed 90% of the roster moves available to other managers, which meant after filling out the lineup card, the only decision Wak really had was which pitcher and when to call for a sac bunt, (which the Ms led the league in last I looked).
And it is VERY selective memory to not recall the ENTIRE MONTH OF MAY, when there was a long-running multi-monologue about the egregiously stupid choice to NOT send Sweeney to the DL at his first twinge.  Why?  Because they were forced to play Burke at first base for a single game.  I completely agree that many of the arguments about defensive purity are overstated.  But, perhaps that is necessary, so as to not overlook the impact of the OFFENSIVE sacrifices when the short bench bites. 
Replacing your .900 OPS 1B with a .750 backup due to injury is unfortunate.  Replacing your .900 OPS 1B with a .550 backup catcher is just plain stupid.  And if your roster puts you in a position where this is your BEST choice ... then it is not the choice of playing Burke at 1B that is stupid, it is the roster construction that is stupid.
Me?  I'm an NL guy.  I EXPECT to see at least one PH every game, and am not shocked to see two, or even three.  In the AL, with the DH, the need for pinch-hitting isn't there.  But, if you only have 1 positional backup for IF, and 1 for OF, then if you use either, and they come into the game, then you are completely out of backups for those positions.  Why are managers loathe to PH for catchers, (even the .600 OPS backup who is playing today)?  Because the situation "could become" desperate if an unexpected injury pops up, (pun intended).
In truth, when the club was struggling the hardest to score runs, there were REPEATED complaints that Wak never pinch-hit ... even when there was an obvious case where one of the reserves seemed to be a much better critical-situation matchup than the starter.  But, in 2009, the bench essentially became a tool SOLELY used for giving starters rest when minor injuries cropped up.  The ABILITY to utilize in-game strategies was effectively removed from the rookie managers table.  He COULDN'T screw up by making a dubious lineup change during a game, because all options were removed.
Perhaps this was by design.  It's certainly a novel way to simplify the managers job.  Wak was placed in a position where he could ONLY concentrate on pitching and defensive choices.  And by and large, he did a stellar job.  The question then is, can you move a team to the next level without those in-game options?  Personally, I have my doubts.  If you hope Wak will develop into a Cox or LaRussa or Torre or Pineilla ... then at some point, he's going to need to have EVERY weapon possible available in his arsenal, and you'll have to trust him to make more good choices than bad.
2009 was a sim-league OOTP season.  You pick your starting lineups for platoon purposes, set your small-ball setting to max, and then let the game engine churn thru the 162 games with no thought whatsoever for in-game machinations.  And Seattle probably buried the speedometer of success for that model.  But, the next step is MUCH harder than the first one.  And you can't take that step if you refuse to allow yourself to risk having more weapons at your disposal.

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