2009 Season in Review: The Bench

This is the fourth in a series of five Yankeeist 2009 Season in Review recaps. Please be sure to check out 2009 Season in Review: The Infield, 2009 Season in Review: Starting Pitchers and 2009 Season in Review: The Bullpen if you haven’t already done so.

The Yankee bench had been an afterthought for much of this decade, though the counterargument generally ran that the Yankees’ starters were so talented that the need for a strong bench was minimal. The 2009 Yankees had what was probably the team’s deepest bench since the last World Series championship, though it didn’t fully round into shape until the relatively minor acquisitions of Eric Hinske in late June and Jerry Hairston at the trade deadline. Many fans were expecting the Yankees to pull some kind of monster deadline deal off, and instead were a bit befuddled when the team picked up utilityman Hairston. However, Hairston proved to be a worthwhile backup in limited duty, and Hinske Glenallen Hilled a bunch of home runs coming off the bench.

None of the bench saw much playing time in the postseason with the exception of offensive black hole Jose Molina.

Jose Molina, C
162-Game Averages: .235/.277/.332, 60 OPS+
2009 regular season: .217/.292/.268, 51 OPS+, .260 wOBA
2009 postseason: .167/.286/.167, 0HR, 0RBI, .228 wOBA

Jose Molina is a terrible hitter. How bad, you ask? So bad that Cody Ransom actually out-wOBAed Molina, albeit in roughly half the number of plate appearances. Molina’s been very solid defensively for the Yankees, but his bat is so worthless you have to figure Franciso Cervelli is handed back-up catching duties next season.

Eric Hinske, OF
162-Game Averages: .254/.336/.438, 100 OPS+
2009 regular season: .226/.316/.512, 116 OPS+, .350 wOBA
2009 postseason: .000/1.000/.000, 0HR, 0RBI, .706 wOBA

Hinske was a quality midseason pick-up and produced at an above-average clip in limited duty. Not sure what type of deal he’s looking for or if the Yankees are interested in retaining his services, but they should definitely try to bring him back if he’s willing to continue to be a role player.

Hinske had one plate appearance in the postseason, drew a walk, came around to score and wound up with a .706 wOBA.

Jerry Hairston, IF
162-Game Averages: .259/.328/.373, 85 OPS+
2009 regular season: .237/.352/.382, 96 OPS+, .325 wOBA
2009 postseason: .250/.250/.250, 0HR, 0RBI, .223 wOBA

Hairston was a more-than-serviceable utlity infielder for the Yanks after they acquired him at the non-waiver trade deadline. Hairston’s had a fairly strange career — I seem to recall that Hairston was thought of as the Orioles’ second baseman of the future for a little while there, and I also remember a Hairston/Brian Roberts platoon at second base for the O’s before Roberts started tearing the cover off the ball. Hairston only ever posted one above-average season for Baltimore, in 2004, and that was in only 86 games.

Hairston’s established himself as a solid career backup, and I’d have no problem bringing him back for the bench if he’s interested in returning.

Ramiro Pena, IF
2009 regular season: .287/.317/.383, 86 OPS+, .312 wOBA

Pena was one of the bigger surprises out of camp last spring, and was pressed into duty in April with A-Rod out and Cody Random sucking it up something spectacular at the hot corner. Pena, despite not having played above AA at that point, came up and played great defense supplemented by better-than-anyone-figured-he-was-capable-of offensive numbers. Pena’s likely a career sub, but he was useful for the Yankees and hopefully can continue to be a helpful piece off the bench next year.

Francisco Cervelli, C
162-Game Averages: .283/.294/.354, 72 OPS+
2009 regular season: .298/.309/.372, 81 OPS+, .283 wOBA
2009 postseason: .000/.000/.000, 0HR, 0RBI, .000 wOBA

Cervelli’s bat is nothing to write home about, although he still looks better than Jose Molina at the plate, which is why everyone expects the Yankees to hand Cervelli the back-up catching job in 2010. Like Pena, Cervelli hadn’t played above AA either before being called up to the Bigs, and also provided better-than-expected numbers while developing an excellent rapport with the pitching staff, playing solid defense and displaying a bit more athleticism than we’ve traditionally seen out of the catcher’s spot for the Yankees.

Cervelli quickly became a fan favorite, and his signature moment was his first career home run against Atlanta back in June, which helped jumpstart a sleepy Yankee offense and probably represented a more significant turning point in the Yankees’ 2009 season than a lot of people realize. Going forward, I think the Yankees and the fanbase would be thrilled if Cervelli can be an 81 OPS+ player in the back-up catcher role.

One thought on “2009 Season in Review: The Bench

  1. This is good stuff and I would like to think that alot of reason behind this years dominance (hard to compare to '98 but similar) had to do with depth on the bench. Our bench consisted of chumps like Miguel Cairo, Enrique Wilson and some other hacks for several years.

    Frankie Cervelli is a fanstic back up Catcher and could one day be a #1 with some more seasoning. Hinske and Hairston were spectacular mid-season moves; both were done quietly, which was a nice chance of pace, but proved quite worthy in their rare appearances. Pena could be more than you think he is. At the age of 24 he came up with some big hits and flashed some serious leather. That said, I would love it to have all these guys back on our bench for another season and I feel like it can be done on the cheap.

    As for Molina, his defense was spectacular although I feel his caught-stealing rate decreased as the season went on. Unfortunately for him, you might as well put a corpse in the batter's box when he's up. However, I will never forget the grand slam he knocked in Detroit to get his boy Phil Hughes a W in what was I think an 11-0 drubbing out in ole Comerica…