Benchmarking the Reds' bench

Still a fire in Cairo or is Giza living up to his name?

Defining "the bench" can be a moving target in baseball, unless you're teaching ESL. It's at least harder than it would be in a sport like basketball. Last season, the Reds slashed .258/.316/.383 as subs. But this includes regular starters who pinch-hit, while it excludes back-ups who start. With platoons and shifts in role over the season, it gets cloudier.

Edgar Renteria had the sixth-most PAs last season and played in the 8th-most games. it would be hard to consider him a bench player, just as it would be hard to consider batting him second a "good idea." Last season, there were three players who I'd consider bench players over the longest period of time. We'll throw Edgar Renteria in to complete the set:

Player % of games as starter slash line wRC+
Edgar Renteria 73.9% .251/.306/.348 78
Chris Heisey 45% .254/.309/.487 114
Miguel Cairo 54.9% .256/.330/.412 99
Fred Lewis 55.6% .230/.321/.317 69

The 2011 Reds had Todd Frazier, Dave Sappelt, Yonder Alonso and Juan Francisco to pull from in the upper minors. This season, the bench is pretty clearly inferior and there are far fewer reinforcements. With trades and injuries, right now it's Dioner Navarro and Joey Gathright laying in wait.

As subs in 2012, the Reds are .250/.283/.413.

We'll count Ludwick as a bench player here. His numbers are similar to Heisey, so the Reds usually have a similar available bat on the bench - and he's made a few less starts. Here's the current bench:

Player % of games as starter slash line wRC+
Wilson Valdez
35.7% .226/.222/.264 22
Ryan Ludwick
79.5% .206/.287/.426 89
Miguel Cairo 36% .156/.191/.267 15
Kris Negron (AAA)
0% .212/.291/336 -

Rolen's return will improve the bench, but it may not improve the team. Todd Frazier is currently the second-best hitter on the team by wRC+ and he hasn't shown himself to be a major liability at the hot corner. Unless Frazier gets regular playing time between 3B and LF, while Rolen is significantly improved over what we've seen over the last year and a half, it could be subtraction by addition.

My prescription would be to ease Rolen in, using him as a LIDR and part-time 3B, while ensuring Frazier gets about as much playing time as he does right now.

I also think the Reds should go after at least one player for their bench. Mark Kotsay and Justin Maxwell are two players on sunk teams that could be had for cheap and improve the bench at least marginally. It's nothing to get excited about, but every little edge matters in what could be a close race. That's exciting, right? Close race?

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