San Francisco Giants: Bolstering the Bench Vital to Improving Offensive Production

By John Shea
Michael Young
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A blatant lack of depth on the San Francisco Giants‘ bench largely contributed to mediocre offensive production in 2013. The Giants’ 25-man roster was exposed when center fielder Angel Pagan suffered a serious hamstring injury that required surgery. Other critical injuries to second baseman Marco Scutaro and third baseman Pablo Sandoval forced the Giants to plug unseasoned farm league prospects into the starting lineup promptly leading to massive inefficiency on offense.

General manager Brian Sabean has reportedly prioritized revamping the back-end of the Giants’ starting rotation as a main point of emphasis. However, the Giants’ front office brass would be wise to emphasize improving bench depth in an effort to increase offensive production. The free agent market doesn’t boast enormous talent, although signing a couple key players could help relaunch a Giants’ offense that ranked 22nd in slugging percentage last season.

The Giants’ bench featured a contingency of inadequate talent in 2013. Middle infielder Tony Abreu was San Francisco’s most productive bench player, recording a .442 slugging percentage and 17 extra-base hits in 147 plate appearances. Utility infielder Joaquin Arias was marginally effective, posting a .271 batting average and 19 runs driven-in while playing in 53 games.

San Francisco’s best home run threat off the bench was first baseman Brett Pill. He continuously demonstrates supreme ability to dominate at the triple-A level, but his power hitting prowess hasn’t translated in the big leagues. Pill posted a .224 batting average with three home runs in 85 official at-bats last season.

The culmination of several key injuries and a serious lack of bench depth ultimately contributed to the Giants’ anemic offense. Sabean religiously prioritizes bolstering the team’s pitching staff in an effort to appropriately build a roster based on the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park. However, it’s difficult to mount late-inning rallies when Abreu and Arias are the best pinch-hitting options off the bench.

San Francisco won two World Series championships specifically because of its dominant pitching staff, but the Giants were also clutch in nail-biting situations. If San Francisco is going to reclaim status as a legitimate contender in the National League, Sabean and Co. need to target players that can produce off the bench.

Veteran infielder Michael Young would be a solid addition to the Giants’ roster. The seven-time All-Star combined for a .279 batting average, eight home runs and 46 runs-driven-in with the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. Young boasts a .300 career batting average, recording at least 565 plate appearances in every season since 2002. His proven track record is an asset which aided the arch-rival Dodgers in last season’s stretch run.

Utility outfielder David Murphy struggled for the entirety of the 2013 campaign, but he owns a .275 career batting average in nearly 3,000 plate appearances. Murphy has also bashed at least 11 home runs in each of the past six seasons. He endured the worst season of his big league career in 2013, posting a dismal .282 on-base percentage. However, his career numbers point toward drastic improvement next season. Murphy recorded 3.5 wins above replacement (WAR) in 2012 with legitimate value off the bench.

The free agent market features a thin crop of talent, but adding players that have previously sustained success off the bench will help relaunch the Giants into contention.

John Shea is a San Francisco Giants writer for Follow him on Twitter @shea_prosports. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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