Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Intangibles

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Sep 15, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder

Travis Snider

(23) hits a two run single against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Benches

Jung Ho Kang‘s emergence this year made the Pirate bench one of the deepest in the majors. But with Kang’s injury, that depth became less apparent. The Pirates will still have good players coming off the bench in this game, including at least one starter. Whether that starter is Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison, Aramis Ramirez, or Pedro Alvarez is yet to be determined. But each of these players could change the game with one swing of the bat, and that’s huge off the bench.

The Cubs have a bevy of youth on their bench, which also will include guys that can change the game with one swing. If Jake Arrieta is dominating, the Cubs’ bench may not be dipped into too much, however. But the same can be said about Cole and the Pirates’ bench too. A bench can affect the game in a number of different ways. A power bat can tie the game or give his team the lead with one swing, or a pinch runner can steal a base and put himself in scoring position. And a defensive replacement can protect a late lead when the bullpen’s in the game.

The Pirates will most likely carry 16 position players and nine pitchers, or 15 and 10 depending on which route Hurdle wants to go. If Harrison’s on the bench, he has a knack for timely, clutch hits, so that could be huge for the Pirates late. Ramirez or Pedro have the potential to hit one out on any at-bat, as does Polanco. Outside of those four, the next best offensive players for Pittsburgh are Michael Morse and Travis Snider. Neither are great defensively, but both have power potential. The Pirates will also most likely carry Sean Rodriguez for defensive purposes late in the game, and his defense is much better than any of the other bench options. Pedro Florimon and Keon Broxton will likely round out the bench, and both players bring speed and pinch-running potential, though neither can hit major league pitching well. And let’s not forget the two backup catchers Hurdle will carry in Chris Stewart and Elias Diaz. Stewart has been known to get big hits, and he’s good at getting timely singles from time to time.

The Cubs’ bench depth lies in the outfield. Austin Jackson has playoff experience during his time with Detroit, and he can add both speed and power off the bench. Chris Denorfia is a veteran that typically hits for average. And Jorge Soler can hit one out at any time, but he also strikes out a lot. Javier Baez is probably the biggest offensive threat off the Cubs’ bench, who hasn’t lived up to potential yet but is expected to eventually add power to his repertoire. Tommy La Stella isn’t great offensively but he’s a good option as a defensive replacement late. David Ross will play backup to Miguel Montero and probably won’t get an at-bat unless the game goes long. And someone like Quintin Berry could get that last spot as a pinch-running option.

Both benches have a variety of options in the form of power, speed, and defense. The Cubs have a mix of youth and experience, while the skill-set of the bench for the Pirates is more varied. In the end, I give a slight edge to the Pirates based on experience and the multitude of reliable options in any area that they want to attack off the bench.

Verdict: Pirates

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