Was the Brewers bench as bad as it seemed?

Throughout the entire 2014 season, I was critical of the Milwaukee Brewers bench. Not the actual bench the players sit on, but the players who are classified as bench warmers. Aside from Rickie Weeks and Lyle Overbay, both part-time starters, I felt the team had no real hitters behind the regulars. This was before I ever looked at the statistics. This was merely based on the eye test. But a few days ago I decided to take a closer look and to see if my eye was on point.

The Brewers accumulated 47 pinch hits last season, which was the seventh-most in baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates led with 61. But while they were among the top 10 in pinch hits, their .222 average was around the middle of the pack. Still, they were five points over the league average of .217.

Here’s a breakdown of who those 47 pinch-hits came from.

  • Rickie Weeks: 14 (.250)
  • Lyle Overbay: 11 (.323)

There were seven players with one.

Take away Weeks and Overbay, and the Brewers hit .180 (22-for-122) when pinch hitting. Without them, there was really no one who an opposing pitcher had to worry about. Khris Davis was 0-for-11 as a pinch hitter, and his outfield partner, Gerardo Parra, was 1-for-8. . Those are extremely small sample sizes, but with pinch hitters, that’s what you have to expect. Based on this, my eye test passed.

Now, instead of judging the Brewers pinch-hitting capabilities on their batting average, let’s look at their wOBA and OBP in order to get a more accurate picture of how they fared. Note: I’m only using the players I listed above.

Rickie Weeks 67 .319 .373
Lyle Overbay 40 .399 .425
Scooter Gennett 22 .253 .318
Logan Schafer 17 .165 .250
Mark Reynolds 16 .376 .375
Elian Herrera 15 .145 .133
Jeff Bianchi 9 .396 .444
Average .293 .331

Weeks, Overbay and Reynolds were clearly the best bats off the bench for the Brewers. Bianchi could have been one, but an injury derailed his season. Meanwhile, Gennett really struggled off the pine, Schafer was useless and Herrera added absolutely no value. They just didn’t get the job done.

Going back to my eye test, the Brewers performed better than I originally thought. Their on-base percentage and wOBA, which says a heck of a lot more than batting average, was admirable. It probably could have been even better if Roenicke utilized his bench in a more reasonable way. Some of the decisions he made were head-scratchers, but you can say that about any manager.

The scary thing is, the best pinch hitters that Milwaukee had in 2014 will be gone next season, and the worst will most likely remain on the roster unless Doug Melvin is able to scrounge up better hitters. Having Parra on the team for an entire season will definitely help, but if Herrera and Schafer return to the bench, the Brewers might as well have the pitchers hit for themselves.


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