A pinch hitter is a batter used as a substitute for another batter. A pinch hitter only comes into the game when the batter whose turn he is taking is due to bat. At that time, he is "announced into the game"; the batter which he replaced is out of the game for good. If a pinch hitter is in the on-deck circle but the inning ends before he comes to bat, he is not considered to have been announced into the game and can be used at a later point of the game. If a substitute player is already in the game, having come in earlier as a defensive substitute or as a pinch runner, he is not considered to be a pinch hitter when his turn to bat comes. The usual abbreviation for a pinch hitter is PH.
Pinch hitters are used principally in two situations: to replace a weak hitter (often the pitcher, although a weak-hitting defensive specialist can also be a target), or to gain a platoon advantage. In some instances, a manager will send a pinch hitter to execute a specific play, such as a sacrifice bunt.
When the pinch hitter's team takes the field the next half-inning, the pinch hitter can either:
- (a) take the defensive position of the player for which he pinch hit;
- (b) take another position on the field, with other defensive substitutions being made to ensure that all defensive positions are filled; or
- (c) be in turn replaced by a defensive substitute.
In a boxscore, this would be listed as: Smith ph-3b, for example. The exception to this rule is that a pinch hitter for the designated hitter automatically becomes the designated hitter; if he takes a position on defense, rule 6.10 applies and his team forfeits the use of the designated hitter for the rest of the game.
A pinch hitter may be substituted by another pinch hitter before his turn at bat is completed, for example if the opposing manager reacts to the pinch hitter's announcement by changing his pitcher. Both players are listed as pinch hitters, and the pinch hitter who did not come to bat may not be used again in the game. There is no limit, except the size of the roster, to the number of times a manager can call for a new pinch hitter during the same at bat. Managers have been known to call for a succession of pinch hitters as a means of delaying the game or showing up the home plate umpire. Such a tactic will usually result in an ejection or a forfeit in favor of the opposing team (the latter especially if the object was to delay the game on purpose).
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.
A hit by a pinch hitter is known as a pinch hit. A home run hit by a pinch hitter is a pinch hit home run, and the ne plus ultra is the pinch hit grand slam.
Separate statistics and records are kept for pinch hitters, including at bats, hits, home runs and runs batted in.
Pinch hitting was almost unknown in the early days of the game. Rosters were limited, and every player was expected to take his regular turn at bat. Substitutes were usually only allowed for injuries. Pinch hitters started to be used more often early in the 20th Century, with the appearance of specialized relief pitchers and the expansion of rosters.
In general, batting averages for pinch hitters are low, as they often tend to face the opposition's best pitchers in tense situations, without the benefit of warming up. However, a number of players have become known over the years for their ability as pinch hitters. These are often players whose other skills - especially on defense - are limited. The most famous of these specialists include Smoky Burgess, Jerry Lynch, Gates Brown, Manny Mota, José Morales, Rusty Staub, John Vander Wal, Dave Hansen and Lenny Harris. A number of pitchers have also been used as pinch hitters; this tactic had almost disappeared by the 1980's, but is enjoying a limited revival of late, because major league benches have shrunk, with most managers having 12 or 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster, leaving few options for pinch hitting. The most interesting recent example is Brooks Kieschnick, who spent 2003 and 2004 as a pinch hitter/relief pitcher and was even used as designated hitter.
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 October 10, 2011.
|7||John Vander Wal||129|
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
Single season pinch hits records
- Most pinch hits
- Most pinch hit at-bats
- Ichiro Suzuki – 100 (2017)
- Most pinch hit games
- Ichiro Suzuki – 109 (2017)
- 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 grandslam 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 04-30-1937 Ace Parker Philadelphia 9th Inning 09-05-1962 John Kennedy Washington 6th Inning 06-19-1963 Gates Brown Detroit 5th Inning 09-30-1964 Bill Roman Detroit 7th Inning 09-12-1965 Brant Alyea Washington 6th Inning 08-07-1968 Joe Keough Oakland 8th Inning 04-07-1977 Alvis Woods Toronto 5th Inning National League Date Name Team Inning 04-21-1898 Bill Duggleby Philadelphia 2nd inning 04-14-1936 Eddie Morgan St. Louis 7th Inning 05-21-1948 Les Layton New York 9th Inning 09-14-1950 Ted Tappe Cincinnati 8th Inning 04-12-1955 Chuck Tanner Milwaukee 8th Inning 09-08-1998 Marlon Anderson Philadelphia 7th Inning 04-17-2001 Gene Stechschulte St. Louis 6th Inning 08-21-2005 Mike Jacobs New York 5th Inning 09-01-2005 Jeremy Hermida Florida 7th Inning 09-04-2006 Charlton Jimerson Houston 6th Inning 09-08-2008 Mark Saccomanno Houston 5th Inning 08-28-2009 John Hester Arizona 6th Inning
- "Being known as a pinch hitter adds five years to your age" Terry Crowley
- Pat Borzi: "A Dying Breed", Sports on Earth, June 2, 2014. 
- Thomas Boswell: "Smoky's Children", in Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1984, pp. 201-206.