What is a Pinch Hitter (Baseball)?

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 600th home run came off a pinch hit? Well, I didn’t either until today!

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

Infographic Summarizing Pinch Hitting Stats from 2019

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?

Wesley Lyles

Wesley is a jack of all trades hobbyist. Though much of his spare time is spent playing board games (especially solo card games like Legendary), Hearthstone, Rocket League, and MLB The Show.e He also enjoys most sports, but pays way too much attention to baseball and football.

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