Consider Game 4 of the National League Championship Series last year. With the Dodgers and Phillies caught in a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning, Manuel called upon veteran left-handed slugger Matt Stairs to pinch-hit against L.A. closer Jonathan Broxton. Stairs deposited a pitch deep into the right-field bleachers at Dodger Stadium for a two-run home run that served as a signature moment in Philadelphia's run to the World Series.
This October, Stairs is once again lurking on the bench for late-inning situations, as are other players who can fill a variety of roles. Beyond Stairs, the cast includes outfielder Ben Francisco, catcher Paul Bako and utility players Eric Bruntlett, Gregg Dobbs and Miguel Cairo. Stairs, Dobbs and Bako provide left-handed bats off the bench.
With All-Stars throughout the Phillies' starting lineup, leading to few changes unless injuries arise, Philadelphia has assembled a group of reserves with great position versatility. Bruntlett manned seven different spots during the regular season and Dobbs can handle the infield and outfield corners. Cairo can handle multiple infield positions and has appeared in the outfield in the playoffs.
When the Phillies are in Yankee Stadium, where the designated hitter will be utilized, Francisco will start in left field and Raul Ibanez will shift into the DH role. At home in Citizens Bank Park, Ibanez will move back to left and Francisco will give the Phillies another option off the bench.
In this run to the World Series for the Yankees, one of the more memorable images occurred in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels. Jerry Hairston Jr. hustled home in the 13th inning at Yankee Stadium, sliding across the plate with the game's winning run before jumping into a mob of his teammates in a wild celebration.
Similar to the Phillies, the Yankees' strong starting lineup calls for few changes on a game-to-game basis. The bench is filled with role players who will be called upon primarily in late-inning situations. Consider how Hairston even worked his way into that crucial game against the Angels. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the 13th inning, replacing Freddy Guzman, who pinch-ran for Hideki Matsui in the ninth.
A main weapon that resides on Yankees manager Joe Girardi's bench is speed. Outfielders Guzman (a switch-hitter) and Brett Gardner (a left-handed bat) provide New York with a pair of fast runners who can step in for some of the veterans in late situations. During the regular season, Gardner swiped 26 bases and hit .270 over 108 games for New York.
The veteran Hairston gives the Yankees insurance at a number of positions, along with a decent bat off the bench. Acquired from the Reds in a July 31 trade, Hairston appeared at six different positions in 2009. In 131 games between his stints with New York and Cincinnati, Hairston hit .251 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs.
Behind the plate, the Yankees have a solid defensive option in Jose Molina, who is the preferred catcher of starter A.J. Burnett. New York also has rookie catcher Francisco Cervelli, who hit .298 in 42 games. That pair gives the Bronx Bombers a solid tandem behind veteran starter Jorge Posada.
Note: Hitter evaluations based on a 100-point scale, factoring in power, contact hitting, speed, fielding, experience, recent performances and moxie. Click on each expert to see all of their selections for the 2009 World Series.
Final tally: Yankees 78.4, Phillies 76.9
World Series Bench Matchup
|Panelist||Phillies' bench||Yankees' bench||Expert analysis|
|75||80||The Phillies feature Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett and Gregg Dobbs, while the Yankees have Eric Hinske, Brett Gardner and Jerry Hairston. I like the Yankees' versatility and think Hinske is a poor man's Stairs, so that gives them the edge.|
|65||74||The Phillies have a shallow bench and rarely use it; Francisco will be the only reserve to see any meaningful exposure in the World Series. The Yankees' bench features more options, with speedsters Brett Gardner and Freddy Guzman and the versatile Jerry Hariston, Jr. likely to play bigger roles.|
|80||75||The edge goes to the Phillies, simply because NL teams use their benches more and keep them more in tune.
|80||80||Both benches have versatility from the right and left sides of the plate. The Phils have the experience of using their bench in the NL games, while the Yankees may have better overall speed.
|75||75||Jerry Hairston is the versatile utilityman who shows up at a variety of positions for the Yankees. The Phillies rely on Matt Stairs for power off the bench.
|81||84||Yankees have more speed but the Phillies have more pop.
|84||85||The Phillies have two excellent pinch-hitters in Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs, but that's about it. The Yankees counter with speed in Brett Gardner and Jerry Hairston Jr. Girardi uses his bench more.
|75||74||The DH in American League parks weakens limits the Phillies bench, but will put pressure on the Yankees manager when the Series shifts to the NL and pinch hitters become more important.