Pinch hitter

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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 (PH) 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 1980s, but later saw a comeback in situations when benches have diminished due to injuries, offering few other options beyond a team's 12 or 13 pitchers.

MLB, 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.

When the designated hitter rule is not in effect (e.g., in the Central League in NPB, in the National League before 2022 and American League before 1973 in MLB and leagues such as the Atlantic League which use the double hook rule), 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 player being replaced cannot re-enter the game, the major downside of using a pinch hitter.

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 149
  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

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  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.