No bench in MLB has made as big an impact as Phillies'

No bench in MLB has made as big an impact as Phillies'

April 23, 2013, 11:15 am
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The Phillies’ bench didn’t look like a strong point entering the season.

Either Laynce Nix or John Mayberry was to be pushed into a starting role on a daily basis, removing a platoon option late in the game.

The backup catcher, Humberto Quintero, had a .267 career on-base percentage.

Ender Inciarte, a Rule 5 pick with no major-league experience, was on the opening day roster, even if he was quickly shipped out for Ezequiel Carrera, a guy with 384 plate appearances under his belt.

Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen? There were concerns Galvis’ gap power was a by-product of the performance–enhancing drug for which he tested positive. Frandsen needed to prove he was more than a one-year wonder, that his 210 plate appearances with the Phillies meant more than the 626 with two California teams prior.

And yet through 20 games, this unheralded unit has been the best bench in baseball.

The Phils’ bench is hitting .333, second in the NL only to the Reds’. But while Cincy’s bench has loaded up on singles, the Phillies’ pinch-hitters have had difference-making extra-base hits. The Phils have two pinch-hit doubles and three pinch-hit homers. Their five extra-base hits off the bench leads MLB, as does their .353 OBP, their .667 slugging percentage, their 1.020 OPS and their 10 RBIs.

They haven’t been meaningless stats, either.

Frandsen won a game against the Royals with a walk-off three-run double.

Nix won a game in Miami with a go-ahead, ninth-inning homer, and tied a game the Phils eventually won on Sunday night with a brilliant 10-pitch at-bat that led to a game-tying RBI double. He’s just 3 for 22 with no extra-base hits or RBIs as a starter but 5 for 10 with a double, two homers and five RBIs as a pinch-hitter.

Even Carrera, who was hitless in his first seven at-bats as a Phillie entering Monday night, reached base on an infield single with two outs that prolonged the inning for Jimmy Rollins, who delivered a game-winning single.

Galvis, too, has a pinch-hit homer under his belt, but it’s his versatility that has made him a valuable bench piece. Galvis is one of just three major-leaguers this season to have lined up at second base, shortstop, third base and left field. (Martin Prado and Reid Brignac are the others.) But Galvis has exhibited Gold Glove-caliber defense at each position – even left field, which he had never played professionally prior to 2013. He made a leaping catch at the wall on the first play of the game Saturday night against the Cards that every other corner outfielder on this team probably would have missed.

The Phillies (9-11) have needed every bit of their bench. The average NL bench has knocked in four runs. If the Phils’ bench did that, they’d be 25th in runs scored as opposed to 20th.

And, based on the clutch nature of their run production, a few games worse in the standings.