A pinch hitter is someone who is substituted for a teammate who is scheduled to bat. Pinch hitters may be inserted into a game for a variety of reasons, some of which are:
- Replace a lesser hitter at an advantageous time (e.g., particularly common in the National League where pitchers are required to hit)
- To take advantage of batting or pitching splits (ideally, both)
- In preparation for a double switch when the defense takes the field
- When a team decides to go big or go home (i.e., looking for a home run); also known as a Kirk Gibson (well, I call it that)
The Kirk Gibson
Ok, so these pages are intended for people who are relatively new to baseball and are looking to learn more baseball terminology and quite possibly baseball history.
Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series is one of those classic baseball moments everyone should know.
The scene is a “literally, cannot run” Kirk Gibson pinch hitting against the Oakland Athletics All-Star pitcher Dennis Eckersley.
Now, do yourself a favor and listen to the equally iconic Vin Scully deliver the call.
Something Resembling a Top 5 Pinch Hit Moments
This isn’t really a top 5 moments, but more 5 pinch hitting moments that are worth knowing about.
Kirk Gibson – 1988
I’ve already mentioned this one above, and given you the video that hopefully watched (no, really, go back and watch it if you did not).
Cookie Lavagetto – 1947
Lavagetto smashed a double off the right-field wall to provide a walk off win in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series.
Francisco Cabrera – 1992
If you know the name Francisco Cabrera, it is because of his pinch hit single in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. And even then, it may take a baseball history buff–ok, not really, just a kid who watched the Braves religiously in the early 1990s–to know it.
This is another video that is worth the watch.
Willie Mays – 1969
Did you know that Willie Mays 600
Not only that, it broke a 2-2 tie in the late innings of a game played deep in a pennant race. What do you say, Say Hey Kid.
Eddie Gaedel – 1951
If you don’t know the name, no worries. Eddie Gaedel only appeared the one time on August 15, 1951. Gaedel only stood 3’7″, which makes his strike zone something that even the best pitcher would have difficulty finding. He managed to walk on four straight balls, only to be replaced by a pinch runner. Unfortunately, the baseball commissioner voided his contract so Gaedel would never get the chance to bat again.
Infographics and Charts Related to Pinch Hitting
Note: Pinch hitting is much more common in the National League due to the requirement for pitchers to hit.
Interesting Pages about Pinch Hitting
Baseball Reference Pinch Hitting Entry – lots of great tables showing pinch hitting related stats
Baseball Almanac Pinch Hitter Records – also lots of fun tables filled with stats
Article from The Hardball Times – bit dated now (2006), but still a good read
Article from Gaslamp Ball – “The Dying Pinch Hitter”
Article from CBSSports – “Where Have All the Pinch Hitters Gone?