Well, okay, it's not official yet - Greg Dobbs is still battling it out with Ricky Gutierrez and Ramon Santiago - but it seems pretty likely that Dobbs will win the contest and join Dan Wilson, Scott Spiezio, and Willie Bloomquist on the team's four-man bench to start the season. The quartet is less than inspiring, to put it lightly, and I got to thinking: is this the worst Opening Day bench we've had since 2002? The 2001 bench was both versatile and reasonably productive, but since then the backups have seemingly occupied the lowest level of performance imaginable. Last year's Red Sox showed what kind of advantage you can get by having a talented, flexible bench, and who knows what one of those would have done for the 2003 Mariners.
And so, a direct comparison is in order. I'm using the Opening Day benches because those are the guys with whom the team presumably believes it has the best chance of winning, with one exception - I'm using Ben Davis as the backup catcher in 2003, instead of Pat Borders, because there's no question that the team would have gone with Wilson/Davis had Wilson not started the year on the DL.
2002 Opening Day bench: Davis/Sierra/Relaford/Ugueto/Gipson
2003 Opening Day bench: Davis/McLemore/Mabry/Colbrunn/Bloomquist
2004 Opening Day bench: Davis/Cabrera/Hansen/McCracken/Bloomquist
2005 Opening Day bench: Wilson/Spiezio/Dobbs/Bloomquist
^-repeat 2004 numbers
The PECOTA system expects the bench to perform around the same level as last year's, which really wasn't all that different from 2003's. The four players as a whole should improve over their collective 2004 performance, if only because Spiezio should bounce back a bit.
There's a little potential here, I guess - the bench's 75th percentile projection is essentially identical to the 2002 bench - but without Bucky Jacobsen, the Mariners will be starting the season with a weak group of backups for the fourth consecutive year. Given how the overall offense has improved, the bench seems like a small piece of the puzzle, but PECOTA's projecting that we'll be giving more than a full season's worth of at bats to the offensive equivalent of Angel Berroa, circa 2004. That's not going to help the team.
Another guy who isn't going to help the team is Mickey Lopez, who's been "traded" to San Francisco for cash. Lopez is 31, and has all of one hit in the Major Leagues (an infield single, at that), but you have to like his chances of getting another cup of coffee in an organization that's giving a long, hard look to Donaldo Mendez.