Pinch hitter

I always hear this when I watch ESPN. What’s the big deal with a pinch hitter in baseball making a home run?

Now batting,

In a game, a player who plays the whole gamehas at least 3, often 4 or 5 chances to make an impact. A pinch hitter has one. Also, a vast majority of the time, a pinch hitter is brought in during a crucial moment. Thus if he dies get a home run, it is a very big home run.

Jim Petty
A Snappy message should appear here

Also, pinch hitters are cold coming off the bench. The starters are warmed up from batting practice and playing defense.

Also, pinch hitters aren’t as good a hitter as the starters, or else they would be starting.

Cheese Head, there’s a lot wrong with those two statements.

For one thing, I’m sure most of the guys on the roster take BP whether they’re in the lineup or not. When you’re in the majors, you can’t afford to get out of the groove because you never know when you may have to start.

For another, a pinch hitter may be a position player who platoons with another at his position; one right-handed, one left-handed, depending on who’s pitching. And they both may be excellent hitters.

I’ve always been confused about the rules regarding pinch hitters and pinch runners, probably because it doesn’t happen that often in the American League. Is the rule that the pinch hitter has to stay in the game, AND the player he hit for has to come out of the game? Or is it only one or the other? And is it the same deal with pinch runners?

Well, it’s a big deal because as a rule, the pinch-hitters are the players who weren’t good enough to be in the starting lineup, so it’s surprising when one of them manages a home run.

Of course, there are other reasons a player may be on the bench for a particular game even if he is good. But despite this, due to the general nature of bench jockeys, it is a pleasant surprise when a pinch hitter manages a home run.

Well, not a pleasant surprise for the opposing team, of course…

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

If I bat for you, you must leave the game permanently. I can either stay in and take the field, or more often (since you are probably the pitcher), I’ll be the “pitcher” only so long as it takes me to bat and run. After that another pitcher will take my place and actually pitch.

Pinch hit home runs are noted because:

  1. There aren’t many pinch hitters in one game and the chances of any of them hitting a home run are less than a player who has played the entire game. (Usually because he hasn’t seen what the pitcher is throwing.)
  2. A pinch hitter is usually used when a team is behind, so more often that not a pinch hit home run may change the ultimate outcome of a game.

Finally, a pinch hitter doesn’t even have to bat once. Often times a manager changes pitchers when a certain pinch hitter is sent up to bat. The pinch hitter can then be replaced (and is lost for the game) by another pinch hitter. The pitcher has to stay in a pitch to at least one hitter.

Not entirely true. In the National League (the only place where real baseball is played), each team usually has a pinch hitting specialist – someone who has a talent for coming off the bench cold in pressure situations and come up with a hit. Some people made a career out of successful pinch hitting (e.g., Smokey Burgess).

With a DH, of course, this sort of talent isn’t as essential.

The rule for a pinch runner is the same as a pinch hitter. Once a pinch runner comes into a game, the player he is running for cannot return to play during that game. The pinch runner does not have to play defense the next inning, the coach can send out a defensive specialist in his place. In that case the player who pinch ran cannot return to play during that game. BTW, a player has to be announced over the stadium PA system before he is deemed to be in the game.

If a replacement runner is a “pinch runner” and a replacement batter is a “pinch hitter” then why isn’t a replacement pitcher a “pinch pitcher”?

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Doctor Jackson:

Because replacing pitchers is a common occurrence, and is not done only in a “pinch.”

Chaim Mattis Keller

Technically, you don’t have be announced over the PA to be considered a replacement. The determining factor is when the umpire writes down the new name on his lineup card. After that, the PA announcer says who coming up.
Normally, the umpire points to the person coming into the game to indicate this.

Actually, the practice of using relief pitchers almost as a matter of course is fairly recent. For most of baseball history complete games were the rule and relievers were only used “in a pinch”.

The player must be announced over the PA to be in the game. It is not uncommon for a manager to send a “decoy” player to the on deck circle, then call him back at the last moment. The opposing manager always waits until the pinch hitter is announced before he makes any pitching change. The umpire’s lineup card is changed first, true enough, but the PA announcement is the opposing manager’s confirmation that the change is official and irrevocable.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

No, if the umpire writes down the name of the batter, he’s in the game. The PA announcer doesn’t matter. If the umpire decides you’re in, you’re in.
A good manager will ask the umpire if a player is officially in the game before making a move.
Not all PA announcers are paying attention to who is exactly in a game. Trying attending a game at Comiskey Park and you will find many a player mysteriously appearing in a game.

Doctor Jackson:

Not really. Yes, the “specialty reliever” is a new innovation, and there did indeed used to be many more complete games than there are now. However, the pitcher was still the most frequently-replaced player on the field, even back then. It was much more common to need to replace the pitcher than to need to replace one of the other players.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Oh, no, I’m not sure if my thought train can handle two tracks much longer!

I’ll aquiesce on this one. I do know that in most ballparks (never been to Comiskey) you can watch the manager and see that he makes his move immediately after the PA announcement. I’ve heard various braodcasters say something similar to “…here’s the announcement of the pinch hitter and there goes (the manager) to the mound…”. I’ve even heard them go so far as to say “…(the manager) will wait for the hitter to be announced and then bring in the reliever…”.

I really did mean that original question as a “driveway/parkway” type thing, but couldn’t resist a debate. Perhaps that question belongs in Great Debates, but I ain’t gonna post it.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Anyone familiar with the story about Mike “King” Kelly? As player-manager for Boston in the 18th Century, he was familiar with the rule that stated a substitution could be made simply by anouncing it.

A pop-up was made by an opposing batter, and it drifted toward Boston’s dugout. Kelly could see that his catcher would never reach it in time to make a play, so he jumped up, yelled, “Kelly now catching for Boston!” and caught the foul ball for an out.

Kelly is one of the more colorful men to have played the game, and is responsible for forcing the powers that be (or were) to make the rules more specific and stringent, through antics like the above.

The Dave-Guy
“since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?” J.H. Marx

“In the National League (the only place where real baseball is played)”

A conceited remark, I say. I take it you ascribe to the notion that without the designated hitter, there is more strategy involved.

To a degree, this can be true, as pinch hitting for pitchers and pulling double switches can make for an interesting line up card.

But a lot of the “strategy” in baseball is predictable. If you have runners on, and a poor hitting pitcher coming up in a close game in the late innings, you will pinch hit for him. Not much “strategy” there, its really a “no-brainer.”

With the DH, you have to decide whether the pitcher is tiring, or doing well, in making the decision to change pitchers. You are also more likely to change pitchers to face a particular batter in the AL, because you won’t worry about changing pitchers again the next inning when its his turn to bat.

On the whole, however, I favor the NL’s rules over the AL’s, because I believe all 9 players should be in both ends of the game, and because the major leagues should play by the same set of rules. But the argument that there’s no strategy because of the DH rings hollow with me; the strategy is simply different.

“The hell is, they ain’t hittin’”

“23 Skidoo”

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”

The King Kelly substitution story is generally considered to be a baseball legend. I don’t know if that qualifies as an urban legend however. I suppose that’s for the folklorists to decide.

It’s a great story, though! For anyone interested in learning about baseball from the super-basic (what are the positions called) to the complex (pitch-calling strategies/outfield shifting/gripping two vs. four-seam fastballs) as well as records and folklore, I highly recommend the book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Baseball” by Johnny Bench. It’s a fascinating and entertaining read.

BTW, here’s what Johnny says about pinch hitters: “A pinch hitter doesn’t officially enter the game until his name is announced, so a manager will send someone on deck, see if the opponent changes pitchers, then decide who to use. That’s why the manager on defense doesn’t change pitchers until the hitter’s name is announced. If there’s a pitching change and the manager on offense wants to change hitters again, the guy whose name was just announced is out of the game – without ever coming up to hit.”


“Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women, and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I’ll probably waste.” Tug McGraw, when asked how he intended to spend his $75,000 salary.