I am beginning to discern a pattern to Pat Gillick’s acquisition of utility players. The GM seems convinced last year’s bench wasn’t up to the task and that a key pinch hit here or there would have gotten the Phils over the hump. On record as believing five more wins would do the trick this season, Gillick has been tinkering around the edges ever since. Gillick has also made it clear on numerous occasions he wants his manager to have lots of interchangeable parts. A piece by Todd Zolecki in today’s Inquirer underscores Gillick’s determination to help Charlie, noting that a few recently acquired infielders may also see time in the suddenly short-handed outfield.
We may see lots of platooning at third base, catcher and in the outfield. A few sources have even suggested the Phils would use Pat Burrell to spell Ryan Howard at first base when a tough left-hander is on the mound. And everyone knows Chase wore down toward the end of the season and could have used a day or two off. Now, at least, there will be six guys qualified to step in temporarily.
There is much to be said for keeping everyone on the bench happy. Players like coming to the ballpark every day believing they have a chance to start or get into the game. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to find out how much difference a strong bench really makes, so I will assume that while it probably matters, pennants are largely won by starters, all nine of them.
Which brings us to pitching, which remains a big problem. I don’t need to recapitulate the individual issues. Suffice it to say many of the arms Pat inherited and even more of those he has acquired don’t impress. Can they replace Billy Wagner’s 12 win shares? By my calculations that would leave the team more than five games shy of the magic number Gillick believes it will take to win.