Reds' bench keys surprising season

When pondering the National League Central's shiny new champions, it's hard to miss Cincinnati's hitting stars: Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, and Jay Bruce. If you like a power/speed combination, you've probably appreciate Drew Stubbs. The Reds have just one pitcher with more than a dozen wins, but Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto have been good and 40-year-old Arthur Rhodes was an All-Star this summer.

The real key for the Reds, though? Their bench. Aside from the regulars, five Reds have more than 100 plate appearances this season. Actually, all five of them have at least 174 plate appearances. Led by catcher Ryan Hanigan, all five have been above-average National League hitters.

Hanigan, Ramon Hernandez, and (in limited action) Corky Miller have combined for 88 RBI, second only to Atlanta's catchers in the National League. Cincinnati's catchers rank third in on-base percentage and third in OPS.

The Reds' other super-subs have been outfielders Chris Heisey and Laynce Nix, and infielders Miguel Cairo and Paul Janish.

The performance of these guys is an argument for Dusty Baker as Manager of the Year. Unfortunately, it's also an argument against the Reds' postseason chances. Even if Baker finds playing time for them, it's far from clear that they'll continue to perform as well as they have. Generally speaking, if bench players could really hit like regulars, they would be regulars. Baker can't even platoon Hernandez and Hanigan; both bat right-handed.