MLB games only allow one player’s permanent substitute during a match, which is not the case for the NBA, NHL, and NFL. For example, a new relief pitcher sometimes comes in for the starting pitcher, while a pinch-runner enters the game to add more speed on the base paths. In some cases, and significantly more often in the National League, you will have a pinch hitter bat for someone during a game. Learn the purpose of a pinch hitter, the difference between that and a DH role, and more!
What is a Pinch Hitter in Baseball?
A pinch hitter is a substitute player that replaces a hitter in the lineup during a game. For example, these players tend to have better offensive hitting skills than the person they are replacing in the lineup to hit, like a pitcher. Pinch hitters occur in both Major League and Minor League baseball for a wide range of reasons.
What Is The Purpose of a Pinch Hitter?
Pinch hitters are valuable weapons off a bench for a manager to use during a game. Pinch hitters typically come in during the offensive inning to replace a starting player towards the end of a game. At the end of the offensive inning, the hitter will usually take over the defensive role of the player they bat for in the lineup.
Also, pinch hitters can be a starting baseball player getting a half-day off. For example, you might give your starting first baseman a half-day off so they can rest. If the game is close, you might see the baseball manager call them off the bench to hit in a critical part of the game since their bat is that good.
Finally, baseball teams tend to carry a few players on the bench who can substitute as a pinch hitter late in the game for someone else. The player that the pinch hitter is replacing can’t return to the game later. However, the team can substitute at the end of the offensive inning to ensure a skilled player takes the field for a defensive position. Typically speaking, this strategic change is a double switch.
The National League and Double Switches
In the National League, teams often use the double switch to replace pitchers and defensive players simultaneously. During the offensive inning, they will first switch the pitcher for a defensive player who’s higher up in the lineup. At the same time, the team will replace an equivalent defensive player with a relief pitcher later in the batting order. Check out the double switch baseball guide to learn more!
How is a Pinch Hit Recorded on Scorecard?
There are a few ways that baseball teams record pinch hitters and pinch-hitting in the box score. First, players who slot in as pinch hitters receive a “PH” next to their name. When a pinch hitter hits the ball, they receive a pinch-hit as the recording. Similarly, if they hit a home run or grand slam, they achieve a pinch-hit home run or a pinch-hit grand slam.
What is the Difference Between a Pinch Hitter and a Pinch Runner?
Pinch running is very similar to pinch-hitting. However, the runner will come in after the batter reaches any base instead of substituting for a player when they reach the plate. A pinch runner is typical when replacing a player who can hit very well but maybe slower while running the bases. Pinch runners are generally only used for running bases and creating a higher-scoring probability on a hit to an outfield due to their speed.
What Is The Difference Between a Pinch Hitter and a Designated Hitter?
Pinch hitters and designated hitters often sound very similar but are different. While the National League requires pitchers to bat during offensive innings, the American League doesn’t have this stipulation. Instead, a specific player on the roster takes the pitcher’s place in the batting lineup, known as the designated hitter.
The designated hitter rule only applies to games that occur in the American League or American League ballpark. During inter-league games between the American and National League, American League teams must have their pitcher bat if they’re playing at a National League team’s home site. However, if the game is home for the American League team, the National League team will adopt a designated hitter.
Famous Pinch Hitters in Major League Baseball
New York Yankees hitter Yogi Berra hit the first pinch-hit home run in a World Series in 1947 during game three against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Berra slotted in for Sherm Lollar during the seventh inning of the game when the Yankees were trailing 9-7 behind the Dodgers. His run cut the deficit to one run, but the Yankees eventually lost the game.
The Baseball almanac has several records regarding pitch hitters. Lenny Harris is one of the most well-accomplished pinch hitters, with 804 at-bats and 212 pinch hits. His career batting average was .269, and he had a total of 369 RBI.
Outfielder Matt Stairs has the career record for pinch-hit home runs with 23. Meanwhile, Dave Hansen and Craig Wilson each share the single-season record for the most pinch-hit home runs with seven each. Hansen set the record in 2000 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Wilson matched it a year later while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Seven-time MLB all-star Ichiro Suzuki wasn’t just an offensive powerhouse. He also is one of the most accomplished pinch hitters. Ichiro holds three different single-season pinch-hitting records, including most pinch-hit games (109), at-bats (109), and plate appearances (100) in a single season.
Conclusion About Pinch Hitters in Baseball
It’s not unusual for baseball teams to substitute players during an offensive inning to benefit from someone’s offensive potential. When a team makes a substitution during the batting order, the player is called a pinch hitter. These players have an essential role in the offensive diversity of the group, helping them make dramatic plays and win games.
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