Leading off the Pinch Hitters series is Jesse Rosenthal, writing about — what else? — pinch hitters.
Jesse lives in Hong Kong, but he was born in Massachusetts to two Bronx natives. “At age 5 I was given the option of either being a Yankees fan or finding somewhere else to live,” Jesse wrote. “I took a fair bit of heat growing up a Yankees fan in MA, but since I was a teenager in the late 90’s, I usually got the last laugh.”
Living in Hong Kong means waking up at 7 in the morning (7 PM in the Bronx) to catch a bit of that night’s — that morning’s? — Yankees game before heading to work. “I took my dad to the last game at the old Yankee Stadium for his 60th birthday,” Jesse wrote. “And we’ll always remember that day.”
The idea of “pinch hitting” by writing a guest post got me thinking: Why not write a guest post about pinch hitting?
I recently watched Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Aside from being an all-around classic game, there is no better example of the importance of pinch-hitting than Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run. The Dodgers were on the verge of losing the first game of the series, but went on to beat the A’s in five games, thanks in large part to Gibson’s pinch-hit home run.
Pinch hitting is a topic we don’t hear much about — especially in the AL where it is less common — but it’s worthy of our attention. The Yankees seem to have a few games each year in which a pinch hitter plays a significant role, sometimes even changing the outcome of the game. What makes a good pinch hitter? Is it the ability to block out the added pressure of the situation? Why are there some HOFers whose pinch-hitting stats are laughable? Mantle had over 100 pinch hit AB’s and hit a combined .235. A guy named Ruth hit below the Mendoza line as a pinch hitter. Sure, it’s likely these AB’s came toward the end of their careers, but the stats are still worse than I would have expected.
Turning our attention to the current Yankees roster, if you could choose any player to pinch hit, who would it be?
I know that Jeter has been clutch throughout most of his career (but he’s 0-for-4 as a pinch hitter). A-Rod and Tex are superstars, but I’m not taking them either (combined 0-for-13 as pinch hitters).
I like Posada (he has 27 hits in including four home runs as a pinch hitter).
In interleague games, the AL team generally calls on the DH as the first pinch hitter in the game — Nick Johnson would be that guy — but what about a tie game in the ninth inning against the Red Sox, when Okajima is brought in to face Granderson. Do you pinch hit for him? If so, who comes in? As the Yankees continue their search for a right-handed utility man, they shouldn’t overlook the value of pinch-hitting.