2009 Year in Review

Year in Review: The Bench

http://broadstreetsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/eric-bruntlett.jpgNot much you can say about the Philadelphia Phillies backups during the 2009 season other than they just weren’t very good.

For the most part, the crew consisted of Eric Bruntlett and Matt Stairs, whom we reviewed earlier in the offseason, Greg Dobbs, Paul Bako, John Mayberry Jr., Miguel Cairo, and Ben Francisco.  Chris Coste left mid-season and guys like Lou Marson, Andy Tracy, and Paul Hoover made nary a contribution.  But overall, it was a sad, sad year for the group that was counted upon to provide a spark off the pine.

Greg Dobbs had been the main man for the previous two seasons, hitting .271 in 2007 and .301 in 2008.  Of course, ’09 brought injuries, which in turn sapped Dobbs’ ability to produce in late-inning situations.  He finished the year with a .247 average and just five home runs after smacking 19 homers the two seasons prior.  In pinch-hitting situations, that average plunged to just .167 over 60 plate appearance; not exactly what the Phillies expected when they inked Dobbs to a two-year deal before the season.

Paul Bako took over as the backup backstop for Chris Coste in June and didn’t really offer anything different than Coste.  Those in the know say Bako “handles a staff better” than Coste did, but isn’t it really comparing apples with apples when both guys hit in the .220’s and rarely play?  Needless to say, Bako won’t be back next season and in ’09 didn’t make much of an impact.

John Mayberry Jr. was an intriguing piece as Spring Training opened last February, looking as though he might be a candidate to be a left fielder of the future in Philly.  The giant righty had a home run and three RBI in his first game of the season against the New York Yankees.  However, the holes in his swing became more evident as the season progressed and Mayberry found himself in Triple-A for the stretch run.  Big John could still be a presence if he can shorten his swing, but don’t count on it as of now.

Miguel Cairo was an adequate replacement for Eric Bruntlett as the last guy on the bench -the super-utility player, if you will.  Cairo completed the 2009 campaign with a .267 average in limited time, but his ride is also over with the Phils.

Ben Francisco looks to be a keeper and a guy who could be a replacement for Raul Ibanez down the road.  Francisco split the season with Cleveland and the Phillies, hitting 15 total home runs while playing an adequate left field.  That’s three straight seasons with 15 HR’s for Benny, so he has the necessary pop to be a viable option off the bench.

As a pinch-hitter, he hit just .200 over 15 at-bats, so he clearly didn’t receive a ton of opportunities other than the occasional spot start. But when he did play, he produced. Francisco will be a very important piece for the Phillies in 2010, and perhaps for an extended period beyond next year as well.

GRADE: 2/10: Stairs hit a few big home runs, but early in the year.  Dobbs struggled with injuries and never got going. Bruntlett was basically a warm body on the bench.  The others rarely came up with any big time, late-inning heroics.  Francisco was good, but not as a PH. Overall, an awful season for the Phils bench, as they finished the season hitting just .186.

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