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INSIDE BASEBALL
Paul Richards
June 06, 1955
ON THE USE OF PINCH HITTERS: TYPE THEM ACCORDING TO THEIR HITTING CHARACTERISTICS; USE THEM WISELY TO DO MOST GOOD
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June 06, 1955

Inside Baseball

ON THE USE OF PINCH HITTERS: TYPE THEM ACCORDING TO THEIR HITTING CHARACTERISTICS; USE THEM WISELY TO DO MOST GOOD

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Pinch Hitting becomes a relatively-simple matter for a manager if he has a Johnny Mize or James (Dusty) Rhodes sitting down the bench from him. Unfortunately, this kind of pinch hitter—fully capable of pinch hitting any time against anyone—seldom comes along, and the problem of which man to choose from your bench for a critical substitution becomes a pretty serious one.

Most managers try to type the available pinch hitters on their clubs. For example, one fellow may be better leading off, while another may be better equipped to hit a fly ball with a runner on third and less than two out. Still another available player might be more desirable in moving a runner from second to third with no outs.

Most important, the manager should know his best hitter and have him ready for emergencies. That hitter should be a fellow who can be counted upon to deliver a game-winning hit. Of course he should not be used too early in the game, or even, say, as a lead-off man in the eighth inning when the club is three runs behind. A base hit could be wasted that might possibly still win the game in the ninth inning. A good hitter who may be used late in the game to pinch hit should never be used as a pinch runner.

Except in those rare cases when you have the really good hitter to whom it makes no difference if the pitcher is right- or left-handed, slow ball, fast ball, high- or low-ball pitcher, the manager must also consider the type of batter he has available to pinch hit against a certain type of pitching. It would not be good policy, for instance, to send a fast-ball hitter to hit against a change-of-pace pitcher.

On the Chicago White Sox for several years, Outfielder Eddie Stewart became the hitter we picked to move a man from second to third base with no men out. Eddie happened to be a fine left-handed pull hitter. Nine out of 10 times, even if he failed to get a hit, his action would move the man from second to third and put him in good scoring position with one out.

Another example of a pinch hitting specialist was Bill Rigney of the New York Giants, whom Manager Leo Durocher used for several years almost exclusively to hit a fly ball with a runner on third and less than two out.

Johnny Hopp of the St. Louis Cardinals became a specialist at scoring a runner from third with a man on first and less than two out. His speed of foot made it virtually impossible to double him on a ground ball. Many times he would merely slap the ball on the ground far enough away from the pitcher to allow the runner to score and, of course, the opposition would have no chance to complete a vital double play.

Most pitchers dream of the day when they will be considered pinch hitters on their own club. There have been some good ones, such as Red Lucas of the Cincinnati Reds, and Red Ruffing and Tommy Byrne of the New York Yankees, but the average pitcher just dreams of being a hitter and is rarely used advisedly.

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