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Super-Utility Men, and Their Place in Baseball

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To me, they may be a group of the most under valued individuals in baseball.  They may not be the most talented group of ballplayers, but their important part to their teams and one cannot underestimate the importance of a solid utility man.

They're there whenever a manager needs a pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner.  They're there when an everyday player goes down to an injury or needs a day off.  The quality 10th man is one of the more underrated aspects of the game.

Remember when Scott Rolen went down last season?  Abe Nunez didn't put up the numbers Rolen would, but filled in admirably.  What about the late season emergence of Tony Clark?  And how about Tony Graffanino going to Boston just before the trade deadline to fill the void at second base?

They're not the best of ballplayers, but many of them have had a significant impact on their teams:

Even though the stats are inflated from the everyday play of Bill Hall and David Dellucci, both are some of the best bench players in baseball today.

This offseason, Corey Koskie was dealt to the Brewers, leaving Bill Hall without a starting job (which is still a confusing trade to me), but Brewers GM Doug Melvin may have precisely summed up the situation most utility-men are put into when playing for a ballclub:

"Billy will find his way. Every year he seems to get his 400 or so at-bats. Things will work themselves out there."

Though I don't necessarily agree that Corey Koskie should have the starting third-base job over Bill Hall, I feel that Melvin has made a very good assessment of what the modern day super-utility man really is.

Most of these men aren't capable of holding a starting job.  Many aren't going to receive a full-time job in years coming either.  But these men are able to play whenever called upon, and many play multiple positions which is a valuable feature.   They're there in case of injury and they're there whenever a manager needs a pinch-hit.  They're an undervalued group of player's who manage to weasel their way into a batter's box 400 times a season and still make a difference.