Year in Review: The Bench – Phillies Nation
2009 Year in Review

Year in Review: The Bench 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.



  1. Joel V.

    December 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I agree with the rating. I thought that the bench was a weakness all season and Amaro barely did anything to strengthen it besides adding Francisco.

  2. James Kay

    December 27, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Great photo. Unassisted game ending Triple Play against the Mets no less. Like it or not, Bruntlett is now forever immortalized as a Phillie. Check out the expression on Daniel Murphy’s face, priceless.

  3. Brendan

    December 27, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Gotta think Ross Gload will be an upgrade over Stairs.. Dobbs was banged up all year, should rebound.. Castro is a defensive upgrade over Bruntlett.. Still have ZERO speed off the bench.. Maybe this kid Quintin Berry could provide some speed off the bench? Hes gotta be on the 40 man roster for a reason..

    I fear this team, offensively is gonna get old really quickly if some of these youngsters dont step up…
    eg. Brown Gose Berry Gillies

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  5. Stuart

    December 27, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I keep looking at all these ratings. We really didnt have a strong season if you look at it this way and we still made the series and gave the yanks a run for their money in a couple games. Imagine if everyone can play up to their level. I think we will be parading down broad st again if that happens.

  6. Brian Sr. of CO

    December 28, 2009 at 7:36 am

    If the 2010 bench plays to their potential, we have a much stronger bench. In part because Francisco will be here the whole season, LOL. If Francisco wasnt picked up the bench score probably would have been a 1 or 1.5 LOL. The Phils made due with what they had last season, but thankfully they tried to upgrade a little bit. Sure there may have been better bench players to be had, but some of the pick ups thus far have been upgrades, and thats always nice.

  7. George

    December 28, 2009 at 9:10 am

    This was a truly bad bench, and I’m not sure they deserved even a “2.” The bad part is that this was basically the same group that had finished up the 2008 season, and had done well. You can’t blame the front office for retaining players who really had helped in 2008, and they did upgrade, or at least tried to, in July.

    I’m not too worried about lack of bench speed, because the Phil’s bench had very little of that even in their World Championship year. Nobody will be pinch hitting for Werth or Victorino, or Rollins, and that should be sufficient speed. If the bench players can get on base more than last year, and play better defense (Gload surely can out-field Stairs), the Phils will be fine.

    I’m more concerned about the shaky pitching staff. Will Hamels and Lidge rebound? Will Romero recover completely? Will Happ suffer the “sophomore jinx?” Can Blanton do as well as last year? Will the fifth starter be decent? If the answer to these questions is “no,” it wouldn’t matter if the Phils had five Eric Bruntletts or five Babe Ruths riding the pine, because in either case, they won’t win.

  8. Denny Dennehey

    December 28, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Poor bench last year. Mayberry, jr. will not be a major leaguer — too many holes in his swing and lackadaisical play in the field — BAD COMPONENTS for a rookie. Gload will help this year, along with a healthy Dobbs. Francisco is a definite upgrade over Stairs and Mayberry. One more bat would not hurt

  9. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 11:16 am

    lack of bench production was directly related to lack of playing time

    because our everyday players were so good that Charlie didn’t want to take any of them out of the lineup..

    This year’s bench of: Francisco, Dobbs, Gload, Schnieder, and whatshisname- the utility infielder from LA..

    looks great on paper, but need to see some playing time if we ever want them to produce!

  10. Pat Gallen

    December 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I think we all learned a valuable lesson last year; that the bench actually is a vital component. Hopefully this new crew can step in and play a few more games this year, giving the regulars some rest. Cant expect everyone to stay in one piece for yet another season.

  11. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Pat, any plans to add that “Previous 4 Comments” section back to the left-scroll?

  12. Chuck

    December 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Chase Utley could be relegated to the bench….and if he didn’t get that much playing time he would suck.

    Still…all in all….the Phillies have indeed upgraded the bench…and hopefully all members of it will be vital contributors in 2010.


    Here’s another vote for the return of the “Previous 4 Comments” section…it’s VERY helpful in navigating this site…..and understanding where the CURRENT conversation is.

  13. Pat Gallen

    December 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Don and Chuck, thanks for bringing that to our attention. Not even sure where it went, I’ll check it out

  14. mikemike

    December 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I am not familiar with Tim Dierkes. He posted on MLB trade rumors that Polanco signing was one of the worst, He states no one would have offered even 5 million and more than two years. I personally like the deal dont care its three years, Hopefully by then we will have a young replacement for third.

  15. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I think Tim Dierkes is the guy that runs

    If the Polanco signing was for only two years, it would probably be seen as a great deal.. but considering Mark DeRosa is going to get $6 per year over two years, Figgins got like $9 M for 4 years or 5?

    Polanco at $6 M for 3 years isn’t bad in my opinion.. he’s as steady a bat as you’ll find on the Free Agent market (outside of Holliday/Bay)

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  17. psujoe

    December 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Don and Chuck,

    I slightly disagree on why the bunch stunk. If Bruntlett could’ve hit even .220 early on then Utley could’ve taken a day off or two. Bruntlett was such an automatic out that they didn’t want to put him in the lineup. I really wish we had a right handed backup at first base so Howard could take his days off against a lefty. Little things like that make a difference, IMO.

  18. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    i agree.. but also.. Bruntlett wasn’t on the team for his bat, he was on the team so that if anything happened to Rollins or Utley, you didn’t have Greg Dobbs trying to play short-stop

    any defensive-minded utility player is going to struggle even more at the plate with a serious lack of playing time..

    Ben Francisco is not the same bench-role as Bruntlett, so I’ll expect him to hit when he gets a chance.. but Juan Castro … he’s on the team for his glove, so if he gets you a hit, its a positive, but lets not expect everyone on the team to hit at least .250 because that’s just not realistic

  19. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    its funny to me that its always bruntlett that gets named as to why our bench “sucked”

    to me… Jenkins was the player to keep instead of Stairs last year.. not sure if that would’ve made any difference or not, but at least he can play the field and run the bases

    Dobbs was hurt.. and with Feliz healthy, didn’t get any real chance to get comfortable last year.

    Mayberry Jr. is a great AAA/ emergency outfielder.. but he’s not a legit MLB or even 4th OF for a good team

    the backup catcher plan hurt them last year, but Bako was a nice pickup (at least defensively) when they got him

  20. George

    December 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I pretty much agree with psujoe here. The Phils bench proved early on that they were so bad they couldn’t sub for the regulars. That’s why the lack of playing time. I’m sure Manuel would have loved to have rested Utley, Rollins, Feliz, and Ibanez, but their replacements were about as good as the ninth hitters on T-ball league teams.

    I’m not sure what should be done about first base. There are some lefties Howard just can’t hit. Maybe Gload or Francisco could be tried there during spring training. Castro might be an option, but he really wasn’t signed for first base, and his bat is probably the weakest one on the bench.

  21. psujoe

    December 28, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Unfortunately when Dobbs, Stairs and Bako are struggling it just highlights Bruntlett’s struggles as well becaus he replaces Rollins and Utley. it was a total bench effort to stink so bad. B. Francisco helped when we got him in there for Mayberry.

  22. psujoe

    December 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I like what the Phils have done with the bench this year. I saw that the one site ranked the Polanco signing as one of the worst yet. Just too much $$$ for too many years.

  23. George

    December 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Lots of people seem to think Jenkins would have been a better option than Stairs. The Phils obviously thought otherwise, as did every other major league team. He went unsigned for the entire year, even though with his salary already covered by the Phils, he’d have been a free outfielder.

    There had to be more to the Jenkins thing–no more bat speed or footspeed, maybe, bad clubhouse influence, maybe, premature baldness, maybe–who knows?!–and as much as Stairs bombed in the second half, he may still have been the better choice.

  24. Don M

    December 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I thought that right out of spring training last year.. and was surprised when he was let go..

    Im not as smart as baseball executives, but clearly Matt Stairs wasn’t the answer to any question last year

  25. psujoe

    December 28, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I kind of wish we could’ve gotten another piece in the Lee deal like we did in Francisco, but Rube already filled in small pieces.

  26. j reed

    December 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Bench players need a minium amount of playing time to offset the variance intrinsic to the game. How much time , I don’t know but I have a hard time thinking our bench really had that chance. I think alot of that came from the offense having to offset the pitching woes early in the season and a rotation without Myers and a legit ace until Lee arrived. As such the bench was forced to sit and not only for offensive reasons, but for defensive ones as well. I like Dobbs but a 3rd basemen he is not. And Stairs is really a AL player. Hopefully Franciso’s arm will improve in the off-season. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s throwing a baseball of a paper airplane. Also I think if the bench had a legit contact hitter like Eckstein or Jamey Carrol they would have seen more playing time. Hopefully Gload and Castro will see more playing time. Plus I think we can all agree after his WS production what a well rested Utley can do vs. a tired, overtraining Utley. Not to mention how Jayson Werth’s swing speaks volumes when he’s fatigued.

  27. j reed

    December 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    whoops, that’s
    “throwing a baseball or a paper airplane…..”

  28. WFC010

    December 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    I actually really like this years bench for the most part, although I wish we had more Homerun power to fill the void left by Stairs. Anyone know how much money Jim Thome is commanding these days? He’s younger than Stairs, and still has enough power for the bench.

  29. MikeB.

    December 29, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Andy Tracy hit well as a pinch hitter after he was called up in September.

  30. Brian Sr. of CO

    December 29, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I think if anything, Bako proved that with more playing time, offensive numbers would improve. Not like Bako ever had all star numbers, thats not what I am saying at all, but his numbers at the plate improved as he settled into a more active role behind the plate. When he first started I would have ranked him as HORRIBLE honestly. As time went on, he get better. Still mediocre for the most part, but hey, still an improvement. I think thats what we have this season, we have an improvement (on paper) on the bench. I think there were also some holes where Jimy Williams left as the bench coach. Maybe on some teams the bench coach is a nobody, or just a placefiller, but I think it took charlie several months to get his mojo back to where it was when Jimy was here. When Jimy was on the bench, he and Charlie always seemed to be together. This past season, Charlie seemed to be by himself on the bench more, not discussing the game, or strategy (guessing).

  31. George

    December 29, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Home run power off the bench is overrated, because power hitters in general strike out too much, or don’t have the speed required to beat out a double play grounder. With a runner on third, you only need a single; with no one on, you need a base runner for the other power hitters in the lineup. You never need a strikeout.

    Thome may be younger than Stairs, but he’s still the same AL type player. He’s DH material, and given his abilities, will likely get a pretty big contract.

    I still say that although Stairs didn’t answer any questions, there was a reason he was chosen over Jenkins. NOT ONE TEAM WANTED JENKINS! Why, I wonder?

  32. Don M

    December 29, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I dont think replacing Stairs HR power will be an issue.. he only hit like 4 last year

    but his presence in the lineup did allow for Jimmy Rollins to get that game winning hit off Broxton … did Amaro see that far ahead and know that Phillies-Dodgers was likely.. and that Stairs would still be in Broxton’s head ???

    Thome can be an everyday DH and I think that was the known plan, that he was a postseason rental for the Dodgers

    Andy Tracy should, and probably will, be in line for a callup this season, he can hit at every level.

    Jimmy Williams was definitely a huge piece to the strategy-aspect of Charlie Manuel’s success .. but I wouldn’t say that Charlie is “guessing” the other times. He knows baseball inside and out

    but when his options off the bench were Mayberry or Bruntlett

    and his options for a Closer were Lidge or Madson … of course every decision he made last year was going to look like the wrong one!!

  33. j reed

    December 29, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    i forgot about tracy. The Broxton-Stairs duel aside, I want contact hitters. We have plenty of power, and with that comes the slumps that often befall power hitters. Polanco like consistency is much welcome. Slap hitters who can flash the leather off the bench works for me.

    De Rosa is now a Giant, 2 yrs. for 12 mill.

  34. George

    December 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I’m not all that sure Jimy Williams made a big difference. Do any of us really know what he and Manuel discussed? Maybe Williams was just agreeing at times, and the strategy was mostly Charlie’s. Manuel certainly has won a lot with other bench coaches, both in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

    Given the Phils’ bench and bullpen in 2009, as Don M points out, any decision would be the wrong one. I’ll go one further and point out that Manuel certainly had no control when Werth, Howard, or any of the other regulars struck out with runners on, and he had no control when his starters had 8.00 ERAs early in the year, or when Myers, Romero, Ibanez, and Dobbs couldn’t play, or when no one seemed to be able to close.

  35. George

    December 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Ho, Hum. DeRosa is a Giant. $6 million per, same as Polanco. In two years, DeRosa will be 38, if I’m not mistaken; older than Polanco will be in THREE years. He’s also coming off wrist surgery.

    Just pointing this out to those who wanted DeRosa so badly.

  36. George

    December 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Whoops! Got my birthdates messed up. DeRosa will not be 38, but only 36 in his second contract year. Polanco will be 36 in his third contract year, or about the same age.

    Still, everyone seems to think Polaco’s signing was for too many years, whereas no one seems to care when it comes to DeRosa. Personally, I see no difference between 36 and 36.

  37. psujoe

    December 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Derosa at 2/12 is pretty steep IMO. He’s a big health risk. If healthy though he gives a club a lot of flexibility.

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