In baseball, a pinch hitter is a substitute batter. Batters can be substituted at any time while the ball is dead (not in active play); the manager may use any player who has not yet entered the game as a substitute. Unlike basketball, American football, or ice hockey, baseball does not have a "free substitution rule" (at the professional level) and thus the replaced player in baseball is not allowed back into that game. The pinch hitter assumes the spot in the batting order of the player whom he replaces.
The player chosen to be a pinch hitter is often a backup infielder or outfielder. In Major League Baseball (MLB), catchers are less likely to be called upon to pinch-hit, because most teams have only two catchers, while pitchers are almost never used as pinch hitters, because they tend to be worse hitters than other players on the team. The pinch hitter may not re-enter the game after being replaced with another player.
The American League of MLB, the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the KBO League (in Korea), and various other leagues, use the designated hitter rule, such that pitchers seldom bat. This eliminates one possible situation in which a pinch hitter may be more desirable.
For statistical and scorekeeping purposes, the pinch hitter is denoted by PH.
Pinch hitters are often used to replace a starting player because of injury or when the pinch hitter is thought to have a better chance of reaching base or helping other runners to score.
In the National League of MLB, the Central League of NPB, and various other minor leagues, pinch hitters are often substituted for the pitcher in the middle or late innings of a game. This is because pitchers are often poor hitters and may become less effective after six to seven innings of pitching. Thus, as the manager often plans to replace the pitcher in the next inning, the major downside of using a pinch hitter, namely that the player being replaced cannot re-enter the game, is taken away.
This use of a pinch hitter is often part of a double switch, in which a relief pitcher replaces a defensive player who will not bat soon, and at the same time a defensive player replaces the pitcher who is scheduled to bat soon.
The pinch hitter may remain in the game following a pinch-hit at-bat and need not (but may) assume the same position as the player for whom he pinch-hits as long as some other player assumes that position. For example, on August 16, 2009, the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for second baseman Alberto González and then remained in the game at third base, with previous third baseman Ronnie Belliard switching positions to play second base after the change. Alternatively, the manager may designate another player to replace the pinch hitter; this scenario is common when a team pinch-hits for a pitcher without executing a double switch, such that the new pitcher then replaces the pinch hitter and assumes the previous pitcher's place in the batting order.
If a pinch hitter hits for the DH, the new pinch hitter stays in the game as a DH, and may not be used in the field. If the new DH does take the field, then the team forfeits the DH for the remainder of the game (thus, causing the pitcher to enter the batting order).
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 July 22, 2011.
All-time pinch hit records
- Most pinch-hit at-bats
- Most pinch hits career
- Most pinch-hit grand slams
- Most pinch-hit home runs
- Most pinch-hit game-winning grand slams
- Most pinch-hit grand slams by one team in a season
Single season pinch hit records
- Most pinch hit games
- Most pinch hit plate appearances
- Most pinch hit at-bats
- Most pinch hits
- Most consecutive pinch hits
- Most pinch hit home runs
- Most pinch hit game winning grand slam home runs
- Most pinch hit home runs for a team in a game
- Most pinch hit RBI
- Most pinch hit walks
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: