We have spent a lot of time and hundreds of words discussing the Yankees lineup, the inconsistent offense, the superlative defense, and their bullpen. However, the bench is also an important part of a championship tea,; and the Yanks’ unit didn’t look very good in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Cleveland Guardians.
Yes, outside of an early two-run shot by Giancarlo Stanton against Shane Bieber, the offense just wasn’t there. However, the current Yankees bench doesn’t offer many offensive solutions late in games, even if it’s understandable to some degree that hitting isn’t the bench group’s forte.
The reality is that injuries, poor play, and even the loyalty the organization shows towards some of their struggling players have really affected the Yankees bench for the ALDS. It became evident that outside of Matt Carpenter (who may not be 100 percent healthy), there are no real offensive threats on the Yankees bench.
It’s true that on almost every team, even those in the playoffs, we can’t really expect the bench to be nearly as good as the regulars, and it’s also true that the Yankees’ group of reserves probably isn’t really that much weaker than their opponents. However, if it weren’t for injuries and the organization’s odd fixation with Marwin González, the unit could definitely be better, and put the team in a better position to win close games, like the one that arose yesterday.
Right now, the Yanks’ bench consists of Carpenter, Tim Locastro, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Higashioka, and González. Injuries erased the chance to have Andrew Benintendi and DJ LeMahieu occupying Locastro and González’s spots, and you could make a strong case for Oswald Peraza instead of Hicks had Benintendi been available.
In the end, it’s odd that the Yankees opted to keep Marwin on the roster in order to leave him on the bench in a game like yesterday’s, with so many moving pieces.
Manager Aaron Boone’s use of his bench resources was not exactly on point yesterday, either. He left Locastro, a guy with a career 82 wRC+ and a 67 wRC+ mark on the season, in to face Emmanuel Clase, leaving Hicks on the bench. Hicks might not be at his best, but Clase was a bit wild at that point (he threw many more pitches than he is used to) and he could have worked a walk, at least. So the Yankees bench is not only offensively-challenged, but it also appears the manager either doesn’t trust them or wanted to save them for later in Game 2, which can be a dangerous strategy.
In a perfect world, which means if it weren’t for an odd affinity for Marwin and some poorly-timed injuries, the Yankees bench could have even been a strength. The unit could have featured, for example, Oswaldo Cabrera, LeMahieu, Carpenter, Higashioka, and Peraza or Hicks, with Benintendi as the starting left field. That group has several capable hitters, loads of speed and athleticism in Cabrera/Peraza, and versatility in Cabrera and LeMahieu.
Injuries are part of the game, but roster construction is, too: as an organization, the Yankees need to make sure to have other capable alternatives for all positions instead of having to roster the Gonzálezes and Locastros of the world. They are both consummate professionals and have given everything during their time as Yankees, but their on-field performance didn’t warrant a roster spot in the biggest of stages.
If the Yankees make it to the Championship Series, they better hope for their injured players to get health(ier), because the bench could end up helping to swing a close game.