A pinch hitter is a player who bats in place of a teammate when the manager decides to make a lineup change while his team is at-bat.
That’s the basic idea … simple enough! But here are a few more things you might want to know about pinch hitters.
When is a pinch hitter used?
— In a critical batting situation when the player scheduled to come to plate is a relatively weak hitter. Sending in a pinch hitter at that moment gives the manager and team a better chance of getting another man on base or scoring a run, but it comes at the cost of the player who was originally in that lineup slot — he cannot re-enter the game.
— To gain a platoon advantage. If a dominant right-handed reliever is mowing down a team’s righty batters, the manager may choose to send in a left-handed pinch-hitter to gain an edge in hitting the ball. It’s typically harder for pitchers to strike out (at least) other-handed batters than it is for them to strike out same-handed batters.
What makes a good pinch hitter?
Of course, a good pinch hitter should be able to handle the bat, including the ability to collect hits AND a good enough eye to draw the occasional walk with relatively few strikeouts.
And, it may sound counterintuitive, but a good pinch hitter should have some defensive versatility, being able to man several positions on the diamond.
Does a pinch hitter stay in the game?
But if he has replaced another position player in the batting order, the pinch hitter will often stay in the game and play defense for his team.