Pinch hitter

Last updated
Lenny Harris had 212 hits in 804 pinch hit at bats, both records in Major League Baseball. 1988 Nashville Lenny Harris.jpg
Lenny Harris had 212 hits in 804 pinch hit at bats, both records in Major League Baseball.

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, and in a similar way to association football, baseball does not have a "free substitution rule" (at the professional level) and thus the replaced player is not allowed back into that game. The pinch hitter assumes the spot in the batting order of the player whom he replaces. Pinch hitters are commonly used to replace a weak hitter (often the pitcher) or to gain a platoon advantage.


The player chosen to be a pinch hitter is often a backup infielder or outfielder whose defensive skills are limited. In Major League Baseball (MLB), catchers are less likely to be called upon to pinch-hit, because most teams have only two catchers. Pitchers are rarely used as pinch hitters, because they tend to be worse hitters than other players on the team. However, some pitchers have been used as pinch hitters; this tactic had almost vanished by the 1980's, but is now seeing a comeback as benches have diminished due to injuries, offering few other options beyond the 12 or 13 pitchers.

The American League of MLB (and, since 2022, the National League), the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the KBO League (in Korea), the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (in México), and various other leagues, use the designated hitter rule, such that pitchers seldom bat. This eliminates one possible situation in which a pinch hitter may be more desirable.

For statistical and scorekeeping purposes, the pinch hitter is denoted by PH. [1]


Pinch hitters are often used to replace a starting player because of injury or 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 MLB, the Central League of NPB, 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 may become less effective after six to seven innings of pitching. Thus, as the manager often 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. If a player acts as a pinch hitter and his team bats around in the inning, he may come to the plate a second time. The second (and subsequent) times he bats in the inning are not considered pinch-hitting appearances.

The pinch hitter 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 August 16, 2009, the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for second baseman Alberto González and then remained in the game at third base, with previous third baseman Ronnie Belliard switching positions to play second base after the change. [2] 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.

If a pinch hitter hits for the DH, the new pinch hitter stays in the game as a DH, and may not be used in the field. If the new DH does take the field, then the team forfeits the DH for the remainder of the game (thus, causing the pitcher to enter 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.

  1 Lenny Harris 212
  2 Mark Sweeney 175
  3 Manny Mota 150
  4 Smoky Burgess 145
  5 Greg Gross 143
  6 Dave Hansen 138
  7 John Vander Wal 129
  8 José Morales 123
  9 Orlando Palmeiro 120
10 Jerry Lynch 116
11 Red Lucas 114
12 Steve Braun 113
13 Terry Crowley 108
Denny Walling 108
15 Gates Brown 107
16 Matt Stairs 105
17 Jim Dwyer 103
Mike Lum 103
19 Rusty Staub 100
20 Dave Clark   96
Greg Dobbs [3]    96
22 Vic Davalillo   95

All-time pinch hit records

Lenny Harris – 804
Lenny Harris – 212
Rich Reese, Willie McCovey, Ron Northey – tied with three each
Matt Stairs – 23
Brooks Conrad – 2
Atlanta Braves – 3 total in 2010

Single season pinch hit records

Ichiro Suzuki – 109 (2017)
Ichiro Suzuki – 109 (2017)
Ichiro Suzuki – 100 (2017)
John Vander Wal – 28 (1995) [4]
Dave Philley and Rusty Staub – tied with eight each (1958 and 1983)
Dave Hansen and Craig Wilson – tied with seven each (2000 and 2001)
Brooks Conrad – 2 (2010)
St. Louis Cardinals (Jeremy Hazelbaker, Aledmys Diaz and Greg Garcia) – 3 (April 8, 2016) [5]
Joe Cronin, Jerry Lynch, Rusty Staub – tied with 25 each (1943, 1961 and 1983)
Matt Franco – 20 (1999)

Pinch hit home runs

American League
April 30, 1937 Ace Parker Philadelphia9th Inning
September 5, 1962 John Kennedy Washington6th Inning
June 19, 1963 Gates Brown Detroit5th Inning
September 30, 1964 Bill Roman Detroit7th Inning
September 12, 1965 Brant Alyea Washington6th Inning
August 7, 1968 Joe Keough Oakland8th Inning
April 7, 1977 Alvis Woods Toronto5th Inning
National League
April 21, 1898 Bill Duggleby Philadelphia2nd inning
April 14, 1936 Eddie Morgan St. Louis7th Inning
May 21, 1948 Les Layton New York9th Inning
September 14, 1950 Ted Tappe Cincinnati8th Inning
April 12, 1955 Chuck Tanner Milwaukee8th Inning
September 8, 1998 Marlon Anderson Philadelphia7th Inning
April 17, 2001 Gene Stechschulte St. Louis6th Inning
August 21, 2005 Mike Jacobs New York5th Inning
September 1, 2005 Jeremy Hermida Florida7th Inning
September 4, 2006 Charlton Jimerson Houston6th Inning
September 8, 2008 Mark Saccomanno Houston5th Inning
August 28, 2009 John Hester Arizona6th Inning

See also

Related Research Articles

At bat Baseball term for a valid batting attempt

In baseball, an at bat (AB) or time at bat is a batter's turn batting against a pitcher. An at bat is different from a plate appearance. A batter is credited with a plate appearance regardless of what happens during their turn at bat, but a batter is credited with an at bat only if that plate appearance does not have one of the results enumerated below. While at bats are used to calculate certain statistics, including batting average and slugging percentage, a player can qualify for the season-ending rankings in these categories only if they accumulate 502 plate appearances during the season.

Home run Four-base hit resulting in a run by the batter in baseball

In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home plate safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team. A home run is usually achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without the ball touching the field. Far less common is the "inside-the-park" home run where the batter reaches home safely while the baseball is in play on the field.

Ichiro Suzuki Japanese baseball player

Ichiro Suzuki, also known mononymously as Ichiro, is a Japanese former professional baseball outfielder who played professionally for 28 seasons. He played nine years of his career with the Orix BlueWave of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), where he began his career, and 14 with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB). After playing the first 12 years of his MLB career for the Mariners, Suzuki played two and a half seasons with the New York Yankees and three with the Miami Marlins. He played his final two seasons with the Mariners.

Designated hitter Offensive position in baseball and softball

The designated hitter (DH) is a baseball player who bats in place of another position player, most commonly the pitcher. The position is authorized by Major League Baseball Rule 5.11. It was adopted by the American League in 1973 and later by the National League in 2022, making it universal in MLB. Within that time frame, nearly all amateur, collegiate, and professional leagues have adopted the rule or some variant with the notable exception of Nippon Professional Baseball's Central League.

In baseball, the double switch is a type of player substitution, usually performed by a team while playing defense. The double switch is typically used to make a pitching substitution, while simultaneously placing the incoming pitcher in a more favorable spot in the batting order than was occupied by the outgoing pitcher. To perform a double switch, the ball must be dead.

Daryle Ward American baseball player

Daryle Lamar Ward is an American former professional baseball first baseman and left fielder. He played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1998 to 2008 for the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs. He is the son of former major leaguer Gary Ward. Daryle Ward is currently the Hitting Coach for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Batting order (baseball)

In baseball, the batting order or batting lineup is the sequence in which the members of the offense take their turns in batting against the pitcher. The batting order is the main component of a team's offensive strategy. In Major League Baseball, the batting order is set by the manager, who before the game begins must present the home plate umpire with two copies of his team's lineup card, a card on which a team's starting batting order is recorded. The home plate umpire keeps one copy of the lineup card of each team, and gives the second copy to the opposing manager. Once the home plate umpire gives the lineup cards to the opposing managers, the batting lineup is final and a manager can only make changes under the Official Baseball Rules governing substitutions. If a team bats out of order, it is a violation of baseball's rules and subject to penalty.

Baseball rules Overview of the rules of baseball at different levels and in different countries

The rules of baseball differ slightly from league to league, but in general share the same basic game play.

Batting (baseball) Baseball offensive act of facing the pitcher and attempting to hit the ball into play

In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for one's team. A batter or hitter is a person whose turn it is to face the pitcher. The three main goals of batters are to become a baserunner, to drive runners home or to advance runners along the bases for others to drive home, but the techniques and strategies they use to do so vary. Hitting uses a motion that is virtually unique to baseball and its fellow bat-and-ball sports, one that is rarely used in other sports. Hitting is unique because it involves rotating in the horizontal plane of movement, unlike most sports movements which occur in the vertical plane.

Garret Anderson American baseball player

Garret Joseph Anderson is an American former professional baseball left fielder. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the California / Anaheim Angels / Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers between 1994 and 2010. He holds Angels franchise records for career games played (2,013), at bats (7,989), hits (2,368), runs scored (1,024), runs batted in (RBI) (1,292), total bases (3,743), extra base hits (796), singles (1,572), doubles (489), grand slams (8), RBI in a single game (10) and consecutive games with an RBI (12), as well as home runs by a left-handed hitter (272). A three-time All-Star, he helped lead the Angels to the 2002 World Series title, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 2003 All-Star Game.

Raúl Ibañez American baseball player

Raúl Javier Ibañez is a Cuban-American former professional baseball left fielder in Major League Baseball (MLB) now serving as Senior Vice President of On-Field Operations for MLB. He played 11 of his 19 big league seasons for the Seattle Mariners, while also playing for the Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While primarily a left fielder, Ibañez often saw considerable time as a designated hitter (DH), throughout his career.

Leadoff hitter First batter in baseball

In baseball, a leadoff hitter is a batter who bats first in the lineup. It can also refer to any batter who bats first in any inning.

Eduardo Pérez American baseball player

Eduardo Atanasio Pérez Pérez is an American former professional baseball player, coach, and current television sports color commentator. He played in Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball league as a first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder from 1993 to 2006. After his playing career Pérez became a baseball analyst with ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN Latin America as well as a host on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio.

Mike Fontenot American baseball player

Michael Eugene Fontenot Jr. is an American former professional baseball infielder who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Philadelphia Phillies. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. Fontenot was commonly used at second base, shortstop, or third base during his career. He won a World Series with the Giants in 2010.

Nori Aoki Japanese baseball player

Norichika "Nori" Aoki is a Japanese professional baseball outfielder for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He previously played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Jerry Lynch American baseball player

Gerald Thomas Lynch, nicknamed "The Hat", "Lynch The Pinch" and "The Allison Park Sweeper", was an American professional baseball outfielder who ranked among the most prolific pinch hitters in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. He played 13 seasons (1954-1966) with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

The Texas Rangers finished the 2004 season in 3rd place in the West division of the American League. Five Rangers were All Stars, Francisco Cordero, Kenny Rogers, Hank Blalock, Michael Young and All-Star Game MVP Alfonso Soriano.

Shohei Ohtani Japanese baseball player (born 1994)

Shohei Ohtani, nicknamed "Shotime", is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher, designated hitter and outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball's (NPB) Pacific League.


  1. McMahon, Rob, ed. (2009). USA Today Baseball Scorebook. Sterling Innovation. p. 11. ISBN   978-1-4027-6245-1.
  2. "Nationals vs. Reds - Box Score - August 16, 2009 - ESPN".
  3. "Dobbs approaching pinch-hit milestone". Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  4. "In A Pinch". New York Times . September 17, 2006. p. Sports p. 2.
  5. Cardinals set MLB record with 3 pinch-hit homers to beat Braves. Retrieved on April 9, 2016.