We entirely realize that pinch hitting is a lost art. It’s insanely difficult for most players in Major League Baseball. Just the thought of it starts to make my beer filled belly ache a bit. But when we looked at the best pinch hitting teams and the worst, it ached even more.
Since 2009, the Reds rule. Not surprisingly, the Pirates drool. Click here for the article and sortable chart, and yeh, scroll all…. the…. way down to find the Buccos.
Yeh, the Bucs have insanely struggled at pinch hitting during the Huntington Era. This year, the Bucs are in the middle of the pack, well back of Dusty’s Reds, but ahead of those
2013 NL Central Champions leading Cardinals. (And damn, look at those Dodgers)
One of the best two paragraphs from the FanGraphs story is right here.
Yes, we expect Colorado to finish out top on this exercise. They are an NL team — and thus have greater opportunity to stabilize towards true talent levels as well as a greater incentive to keep better bench hitting talent — playing in the league’s most hitter friendly park. But the Cincinnati Reds? Yes, they play in a hitter’s park, but certainly not a Mini-Coors Field. Credit Dusty Baker for being crazy, but credit him also with an apparent knack for using his bench talent.
This season, Jack Hannahan (45 PA, .352 wOBA) and Xavier Paul (35 PA, .403 wOBA) have led the Reds in pinch hitting duty, and have thus far performed well above their career norms. Is it random variation, sure? But it’s not 100% random variation and Dusty Baker and the front office are a steady component of the five years selected above. They deserve some portion of the kudos.
Who was the last Pirates player that was good at pinch-hitting? John Vanderwal is all I can think of right now. It took the Pirates a long time to improve their bench, but recently pinch-hitting has at least lived up to its’ name mainly thanks to Jose Tabata. Sure, Travis Snider has some big knocks in such situations, but outside of those two players, we aren’t sure how much Snider’s homers can outweigh the rollers to second base. Also, Garrett Jones hasn’t done much in pinch-hit roles.
The last Reds player to be good at pinch-hitting? Xavier f*ckin Paul. Unreal.