In the BravesFTW Preseason Preview our writers put little faith in the Braves bench. Could you blame us? After losing Omar Infante and Matt Diaz, two of the top substitutes in the National League, the Braves were going to have to rely some on young, unproven players off the bench.
Sure, we accounted for Eric Hinske and his professional bat. The Braves have the best backup catcher in the game in David Ross, as well. While Brooks Conrad's glove scared us we were fairly confident that he could provide some pop as well. But after those three, the Braves have had to rely on a combination of Matt Young, Brandon Hicks, Wilkin Ramirez, Joe Mather, Diory Hernandez, and JulioLugo.
Young and Hernandez have spent just as much time at Triple-A Gwinnett as they have Atlanta this season. Mather is no longer with the team after he chose free agency when the Braves designated him for assignment in June.
Lugo, Hicks, and Ramirez are a combined 7-for-52 (.135) on the season. Four of those hits belong toRaimrez.
In pinch hit situations 14 Braves players are a combined 28-for-124 (.226) on the season. That places the Braves at No. 14 in Major League Baseball in pinch hit average. But those 28 pinch hits are the sixth-most of any team in the majors.
BravesFTW writers gave the Braves bench a C-grade coming into the 2011 season. Based upon those pinch hit numbers, and the combo of David Ross and Eric Hinske as two of the top off-the-bench players in the game, it would appear that we vastly underrated this bench.
Yes, the black hole that Hicks, Lugo, Young, and Hernandez create when they have to fill-in occasionally is noticeable. But being able to stick Hinske or Ross in the lineup without missing a beat is a major plus. Conrad has been no slouch off the bench this season either.
With those three bullets and Wilkin Ramirez' .500 average as a pinch-hitter, this Braves bench has solidified itself as one of the best in the game throughout the first half. If GM Frank Wren makes a move for another bat, as many expect him to do, this bench could wind up playing a pivotal role in a memorable October run.