A pinch hitter is a player who bats in place of a teammate when the manager decides to make a lineup change while his team is at-bat.
That’s the basic idea … simple enough! But here are a few more things you might want to know about pinch hitters.
When is a pinch hitter used?
A pinch hitter is used in at least two primary scenarios:
— In a critical batting situation when the player scheduled to come to plate is a relatively weak hitter. Sending in a pinch hitter at that moment gives the manager and team a better chance of getting another man on base or scoring a run, but it comes at the cost of the player who was originally in that lineup slot — he cannot re-enter the game.
— To gain a platoon advantage. If a dominant right-handed reliever is mowing down a team’s righty batters, the manager may choose to send in a left-handed pinch-hitter to gain an edge in hitting the ball. It’s typically harder for pitchers to strike out (at least) other-handed batters than it is for them to strike out same-handed batters.
What makes a good pinch hitter?
Since pinch hitters are not starters, it’s key that they be able to come off the bench at a moment’s notice. Staying “in” the game by watching the action and anticipating when an opportunity to get in the lineup might arise is important so that the pinch hitter can limber up and knows what sort of “stuff” the opposing pitcher has.
Of course, a good pinch hitter should be able to handle the bat, including the ability to collect hits AND a good enough eye to draw the occasional walk with relatively few strikeouts.
And, it may sound counterintuitive, but a good pinch hitter should have some defensive versatility, being able to man several positions on the diamond.
Does a pinch hitter stay in the game?
That depends on the player, the team, and the situation. If the pinch hitter replaces the pitcher in the batting order (rare since the adoption of the universal designated hitter in 2022), the pinch hitter will usually come out of the game when his team takes the field again.
But if he has replaced another position player in the batting order, the pinch hitter will often stay in the game and play defense for his team.
Who has the most pinch hits in MLB history?
Lenny Harris collected 212 hits in his major league career, more than any other player. Harris is followed on the all-time leaderboard by Mark Sweeney and Manny Mota.