In baseball, a pinch hitter is a substitute batter. Batters can be substituted at any time while the ball is dead (not in active play); the manager may use any player who has not yet entered the game as a substitute. Unlike basketball, American football, or ice hockey, baseball does not have a "free substitution rule" and thus the replaced player in baseball is never allowed back into that game. The pinch hitter assumes the spot in the batting order of the player they replace.
The player chosen to be a pinch hitter is often a backup infielder or outfielder. In the major leagues, catchers are less likely to be called upon because most teams have only two catchers, while pitchers are almost never used as pinch-hitters, because they tend to be worse hitters than other players on the team. The pinch hitter may not re-enter the game after being replaced with another player. The pinch hitter that the person replaced cannot go back into the game.
The American League of Major League Baseball, the Pacific League in Japan, the KBO League in Korea, and various other leagues use the designated hitter rule, such that pitchers seldom bat. This removes one possible situation where a pinch hitter may be desired.
Pinch hitters are often used to replace a starting player when the pinch hitter is thought to have a better chance of reaching base or helping other runners to score.
In the National League of Major League Baseball, the Central League in Japan, and various other minor leagues, pinch hitters are often substituted for the pitcher in the middle or late innings of a game. This is because pitchers are often poor hitters and get tired after six to seven innings of pitching. Besides, when the manager already plans to replace the pitcher in the next inning, the major downside of using a pinch hitter, namely that the player being replaced cannot re-enter the game, is taken away.
This use of a pinch hitter is often part of a double switch, in which a relief pitcher replaces a defensive player who will not bat soon, and at the same time a defensive player replaces the pitcher who is scheduled to bat soon.
The pinch hitter may remain in the game following a pinch-hit at-bat and need not (but may) assume the same position as the player for whom he pinch-hits as long as some other player assumes that position. For example, on 16 August 2009, the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for second baseman Alberto Gonzalez and then remained in the game at third base, with previous third baseman Ronnie Belliard switching positions to play second base after the change. Alternatively, the manager may designate another player to replace the pinch-hitter; this scenario is common when a team pinch-hits for a pitcher without executing a double switch, such that the new pitcher then replaces the pinch hitter and assumes the previous pitcher's place in the batting order.
MLB all-time pinch hit leaders
This is a list of players with the most pinch-hits in Major League Baseball history. Names which appear in bold are active players. Includes games through July 22, 2011.
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All-time pinch hit records
- Most pinch hit at-bats
- Lenny Harris – 804
- Most pinch hits career
- Lenny Harris – 212
- Most pinch hit grand slams
- Most pinch hit home runs
- Matt Stairs - 23
- Most pinch hit game winning grand slams
- Brooks Conrad – 2
- Most pinch hit grand slams by one team in a season
- Atlanta Braves – 3 total in 2010
Single season pinch hit records
- Most pinch hits
- Most pinch hit at-bats
- Lenny Harris – 83 (2001)
- Most pinch hit games
- Lenny Harris – 95 (2001)
- Most consecutive pinch hits
- Most pinch hit home runs
- Most pinch hit RBI
- Most pinch hit walks
- Matt Franco – 20 (1999)
- Most pinch hit game winning grand slam home runs
- Brooks Conrad – 2 (2010)
Pinch hit home runs
- The following players have been called into a game and hit a pinch-hit home run during their first ever Major League at-bat:
American League Date Name Team Inning April 30, 1937 Ace Parker Philadelphia 9th Inning September 5, 1962 John Kennedy Washington 6th Inning June 19, 1963 Gates Brown Detroit 5th Inning September 30, 1964 Bill Roman Detroit 7th Inning September 12, 1965 Brant Alyea Washington 6th Inning August 7, 1968 Joe Keough Oakland 8th Inning April 7, 1977 Alvis Woods Toronto 5th Inning
National League Date Name Team Inning April 21, 1898 Bill Duggleby Philadelphia 2nd inning April 14, 1936 Eddie Morgan St. Louis 7th Inning May 21, 1948 Les Layton New York 9th Inning September 14, 1950 Ted Tappe Cincinnati 8th Inning April 12, 1955 Chuck Tanner Milwaukee 8th Inning September 8, 1998 Marlon Anderson Philadelphia 7th Inning April 17, 2001 Gene Stechschulte St. Louis 6th Inning August 21, 2005 Mike Jacobs New York 5th Inning September 1, 2005 Jeremy Hermida Florida 7th Inning September 4, 2006 Charlton Jimerson Houston 6th Inning September 8, 2008 Mark Saccomanno Houston 5th Inning August 28, 2009 John Hester Arizona 6th Inning
- ESPN.com – Box score: Nationals 5, Reds 4. Game played at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 16, 2009.
- "In A Pinch". New York Times. September 17, 2006. p. Sports p. 2.