The Atlanta Braves have started off the year on a bit of a roller coaster. The offense has looked good at times, the pitching has been fair, and even the bullpen seems to have settled into a nice rhythm. But without a doubt the Braves bench has been a disaster. Many people thought that the bench would be a disaster before the season began and called for the Braves to stick with the traditional 7 man bullpen and run a deeper bench. The Braves actually did that, but it still hasn’t worked out. The bench is batting somewhere in the neighborhood of .210 right now. And 3 of them are batting below .145 . That’s not good.
However, I’ve heard quite a bit of chatter already about how this team ignored the bench and didn’t spend money in the right places. That is not entirely true. This offseason the Braves made moves for Sean Rodriguez and Micah Johnson. 2 pieces that if healthy would be making a significant impact on this lineup. Don’t get me wrong they aren’t going to make this bench perfect, but it would be tremendously better. With the addition of Ryan Howard, I believe the Braves have some legitimate options in the near future. To go with that, I think that they were wise to not go out and overpay for guys to sit on the pine and fill up spots where legitimate players may sit in the near future. Let’s play visionary for a moment and consider what this bench might look like by the end of May or June.
Ryan Howard, Kurt Suzuki, Micah Johnson, Brandon Phillips (That’s right, while he is currently smashing the ball, he might be sitting on the bench as the Braves will not sit on Albies forever and any slight dip or minor injury for Phillips might bring the future to today), Rio Ruiz, and Lane Adams… not to mention the possibility of a Dustin Peterson sighting by July if he comes back healthy, and by late in the year maybe we even see the return of Sean Rodriguez. That is a significantly different bench than the one we have right now.
Now, in no way am I excusing the Braves from this disastrous bench. I am simply saying that going and spending a bunch of money on someone like Kelly Johnson, while looking good in an immediate hot take, probably isn’t the wisest business decision.
What IS unexplainable to me is the mind numbing decision to repeatedly bring a lifetime .212 pinch hitter off the bench to face a right handed pitcher just because he swings from the left side. I simply cannot understand the logic behind bringing Emilio Bonifacio off the bench as our first option. I strive not to be a reactionist, but I simply cannot continue to defend this decision. He is batting .111. That’s not half the Mendoza line. To give you a bit of the bumfuddling logic behind this, Chase D’arnaud is a career .217 hitter against righties (terrible but better than Bonifacio). Recker is a lifetime .206 (still atrocious) but he’s hit 11 Homeruns!!! I mean at least there is a chance. Over the last 4 years Bonifacio has an OBP of .210… Both Recker and Chase both have a .276 OBP against righties.
I am a patient guy, I could even make the case for Bonifacio making this team’s bench. I didn’t agree with it, but I understood the logic of it. What I cannot make the case for is continuing to use him as the first option off the bench. I like Brian Snitker and a lot of the things he brings to the table, and unlike much of the twitterverse I actually think those are some tangible things. However, continuing to pull the weakest hitter into the game at what often feels like the most clutch moments is beyond mind boggling and leaves even me with no way to defend him. It’s like trying to defend the really sweet pretty girl in high school that keeps going out with the biggest chauvinist jerk in the school.
At the end of the day, I do think help is on the way and that Braves fans should once again be a little patient. That being said it does no good to have the fastest horse in the race if you leave him in the stall for Ol’ Betsy the mule. That mule might have been a decent workhorse at one point and time, but now she’s pretty much only good for eating briars. I think Brian Snitker may just be too kind and set in his ways to put the ol’ gal out to pasture… but for the love of racing I hope Coppy isn’t.