It's difficult to quantify an effective bench, especially offensively. Chances are that in this offense environment, a team with a cadre of effective hitters not getting regular at-bats is simply poorly managed.
Moreover, while the plate appearances that the White Sox have given to Brent Morel, Orlando Hudson, Brent Lillibridge, Eduardo Escobar, Kosuke Fukudome, Jordan Danks, Tyler Flowers and Rey Olmedo have certainly been terrible--Danks is the only one with an OPS over .600, and it's not going to last--there have also only been 604 of them. And in the case of Morel and Hudson, they were acting as starters, even if they were playing like bench players.
Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo on the other hand, have combined for 1216 significantly below-average plate appearances between each otheer. The larger issue would therefore be a lack of options to replace those three with--not that I'm advocating it--rather than specific bench roles needing improvements. Tyler Flowers is the most-used bench player, and even with his playing time, the difference between falling on his face offensively (like he has), and tearing things apart like 2010 Ramon Castro, is about one win over replacement.
That said, the bench is still brazenly awful at the plate. Together, they have been worth -41.5 weighted runs created below average, compared to -28.3 for Beckham, Ramirez and Viciedo in twice the opportunities. Since Danks is now the only reserve who can at least offer extra defensive value, such a performance calls for judicious deployment of the reserves to stave off a big drop in overall team performance. A Sunday lineup with this group, isn't a competitive one.
Which is why the current nagging ailments of De Aza and Youkilis cause anxiety. Even with the upgrades in place and Rios & Pierzynski going berserk, the Sox offense has only been floating around average for the last month.
Youkilis' injury risk was well-established when he made his way here, and was part of the reason his price was dollar-store cheap. While he sought to make his sore knee sound non-serious, it was characterized in a way where it wouldn't be surprising to see it cited again for a missed day.
"You have aches and pains for a while, but it got to a point where I need to slow down,” Youkilis said.
The number of times De Aza has been spotted on the ground in pain this season are too many to count on one hand, but apparently his collision with Maicer Itzuris while sliding in for a double on Saturday--which he shook off to remain in the game and played in Sunday's game after--is the cause of the back stiffness that's kept him out of the last two games.
Given his injury history, De Aza has held pretty strong through his Quentin-like proclivity for awkward contact. Like Youkilis, De Aza is speaking optimistically but not with commitment about playing Wednesday.
Jim Margalus described the Sox setup as "the skeleton of a contender", and as Chris Sale referenced Monday, there can be little to no rest for the bones of the team down the stretch. Either they hold up or the Sox falter, as they're nothing behind them.
Tags: Alejandro De Aza, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, Carlos Quentin, Dayan Viciedo, Eduardo Escobar, Gordon Beckham, Jordan Danks, kevin youkilis, kosuke fukudome, orlando hudson, Ramon Castro, rey olmedo, Tyler Flowers, White Sox