Solving the Bench Problem

It’s no secret that the Brewers’ bench is bad, and that sort of thing is exposed when you have to play a getaway day doubleheader. Most of us knew the bench would be looking thin to start the year when Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart started the season on the disabled list, but the problem is starting to get some national attention.

If you missed it last week, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus took a look at Milwaukee’s bench and didn’t mince words, saying “despite coming into the season with a strong case for the pole position in the NL Central, the 2011 Brewers are the undisputed kings of ‘Wait, he’s in the majors?'”

Considering the Brewers just finished a series against a Washington squad that featured, among others, Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Cora, and Jerry Hairston, Jr., that’s saying a lot. The most frustrating thing about the lack of depth on the Brewers’ bench, though — at least when it comes to offensive side of things — is that it’s almost completely by choice.

While guys like Erick Almonte and Mark Kotsay are struggling to justify their spots on the 25-man roster, Mat Gamel and Brandon Boggs are raking to start the year in Nashville. Yet Kotsay is going to keep his roster spot for much of the season (if not all of it) because he’s a nice guy that Ron Roenicke likes and someone who’s been around for ages…nevermind the fact that he can’t hit anymore and can barely move around enough to play right field. Almonte made the team almost solely based on the fact that he hit well in spring training, and the fact that he’s a rare right-handed bat off the bench makes it seem like he’s safe for the time being, too.

The Brewers are in a bit of a pickle because they want to contend this year, but they don’t want to further stunt the development of Gamel, who could use the defensive reps at first base. But if they wanted to fix some of the offensive deficiencies of the bench, they’d have him on the big league roster right now, taking Kotsay’s place as a 1B/RF type that can’t really play either position. At least Gamel would give the team a prayer when it comes to late-inning offense, even if he still has a bit of a hole in his swing.

The most puzzling part of this bench mess, though, is still the reluctance to put Boggs on the roster. He’s solid defensively. He’s a patient hitter at the plate with a good amount of power. He’s a switch hitter. Doesn’t that just about sound like the perfect reserve outfielder to you? Yet not only was he placed behind Kotsay and Almonte on the depth chart, but Jeremy Reed also finished ahead of him and the team risked losing him through waivers. It’s something that didn’t make sense at the time, and considering what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, makes even less sense now.

Watching Almonte make a fool of himself in right all weekend in Washington and Kotsay constantly ground out weakly to second base is already hard enough to watch. It’s downright irritating when you think about just how fixable this all is. Almonte shouldn’t be playing for a major league team, let alone starting out of position for one hoping to make a playoff run or getting late-inning pinch-hit ABs.

At least the problem is easily fixable, though, and that’s why it’s too early to get too worked up about the weekend sweep in Washington. It’s not like they lack options. They’re just refusing to think about using them at this point. It’s frustrating, but it could be worse.

Quantcast