Jerry Lynch passed away recently. Lynch was an outfielder for the Pirates and Reds in the 1950s and 60s. He also caught a few games (and did so without a passed ball or error).

But, Lynch is remembered mostly for his prowess as a pinch-hitter. After the jump, I’ll look a bit more into how Lynch ranks among the game’s premier pinch-hitters.

Here are the leaders in most pinch-hit appearances in the game-searchable era. Note that, to avoid including non-PH appearances, I have limited the search to games appearing as a pinch-hitter and having exactly one PA, and stats shown are for just those appearances. For completeness, I’m also showing the PH appearances omitted from the stats and resulting total PH appearances (except those without a PA, when the pinch-hitter was pinch-hit for).

Rk Player Omitted and Total PH games   PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Lenny Harris 75 / 883 Ind. Games 808 737 191 33 4 5 81 58 84 .259 .314 .335 .649
2 Mark Sweeney 27 / 799 Ind. Games 772 658 166 37 0 14 95 95 172 .252 .348 .372 .720
3 Dave Hansen 30 / 705 Ind. Games 675 574 130 21 3 15 77 95 150 .226 .335 .352 .687
4 Greg Gross 90 / 733 Ind. Games 643 527 111 13 1 0 49 99 47 .211 .333 .239 .572
5 John Vander Wal 36 / 624 Ind. Games 588 507 116 30 4 17 90 78 147 .229 .330 .404 .735
6 Smoky Burgess 31 / 601 Ind. Games 570 486 137 25 0 15 134 73 42 .282 .375 .426 .801
7 Manny Mota 54 / 597 Ind. Games 543 457 133 14 2 4 101 55 45 .291 .366 .357 .722
8 Red Lucas 1 / 485 Ind. Games 484 436 116 22 4 2 69 40 40 .266 .328 .349 .676
9 Elmer Valo 12 / 491 Ind. Games 479 376 87 15 2 3 72 87 45 .231 .376 .306 .682
10 Gates Brown 24 / 500 Ind. Games 476 405 101 13 5 15 68 66 58 .249 .353 .417 .770
11 Jerry Lynch 38 / 507 Ind. Games 469 415 105 12 3 16 79 49 87 .253 .331 .412 .743
12 Greg Norton 26 / 489 Ind. Games 463 394 88 17 2 13 67 66 118 .223 .337 .376 .713
13 Orlando Palmeiro 64 / 525 Ind. Games 461 404 103 19 2 2 45 41 58 .255 .324 .327 .651
14 Jim Dwyer 46 / 501 Ind. Games 455 385 90 16 2 10 68 55 73 .234 .323 .364 .687
15 Mike Lum 23 / 475 Ind. Games 452 396 97 14 2 8 56 45 89 .245 .324 .351 .675
16 Matt Stairs 42 / 490 Ind. Games 448 380 92 19 1 20 76 58 101 .242 .348 .455 .803
17 Terry Crowley 46 / 494 Ind. Games 448 385 99 16 1 5 64 56 45 .257 .348 .343 .691
18 Steve Braun 44 / 482 Ind. Games 438 374 101 19 3 4 54 59 55 .270 .368 .369 .737
19 Tim McCarver 27 / 456 Ind. Games 429 356 80 9 2 4 46 59 41 .225 .327 .295 .622
20 John Cangelosi 45 / 469 Ind. Games 423 359 67 7 1 3 11 52 82 .187 .297 .237 .534
21 Jose Morales 66 / 486 Ind. Games 420 386 111 22 2 12 85 26 75 .288 .333 .448 .782
22 Jay Johnstone 36 / 452 Ind. Games 419 376 81 6 2 10 55 38 56 .215 .290 .322 .612
23 Gerald Perry 16 / 429 Ind. Games 413 353 93 16 1 6 62 54 66 .263 .356 .365 .721
24 Jerry Hairston 23 / 434 Ind. Games 411 346 86 15 1 8 50 57 56 .249 .349 .367 .716
25 Rusty Staub 19 / 418 Ind. Games 399 343 94 20 0 7 87 46 38 .274 .353 .394 .747
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2012.

Omitted PH appearances arise from times when a pinch-hitter remains in the game and has subsequent PAs. Those with larger numbers in the Omitted column (e.g. Greg Gross) may indicate PH appearances that include mid-game platoon substitution. I have my suspicions about the low Omitted numbers for Red Lucas and Elmer Valo – the older data may not be entirely compelete and/or accurate. 

So, Lynch ranks 9th all time with 507 plate appearances as a PH. And, he performed quite well in that role. Here are his rankings among the 225 most frequently used pinch-hitters (min. 200 PAs) since 1918.

  • HR – 3rd
  • RBI – 9th
  • SLG – 18th
  • OPS – 24th
  • BB – 27th

The rate stat rankings may be a bit misleading since Lynch did hit in a lower run scoring environment.

Happily for comparison purposes, Lynch appears next to Gates Brown on the list. Brown did walk more and strike out less, but otherwise the numbers are eerily similar. While Brown did hit in a tougher offensive environment, their career OPS+ are nevertheless identical 110 scores. Yet, my sense is that much more has been made of Brown’s skill as a pinch-hitter. Any contrary views on that? 

Lynch had a 167 OPS+ in the 1961 season, playing a key role for the pennant-winning Reds. His pinch-hitting stats that year were exceptionally strong.

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
  as PH 59   59 47 11 19 4 1 5 25 12 5 .404 .525 .851 1.376
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/19/2012.

Incidentally, that  167 OPS+ is tied for 5th best (min. 200 PAs) among the 130 players with career (min. 3000 PA) OPS+ of 108 to 112. 

Gates Brown also had a similar monster year in the Tigers championship season of 1968, with a 234 OPS+ that included this PH split.

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
  as PH 48   48 40 7 18 5 1 3 7 8 1 .450 .542 .850 1.392
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/19/2012.

Selective evidence to be sure, but these two seasons are at least indicative of the value of a reliable pinch-hitter.

In today’s game with 12 and 13 man pitching staffs and resulting ultra-short benches, pinch-hitting specialists could become a vanishing breed. Consider this list of pinch-hit appearances by year since 1998 – you’ll see the 3 lowest totals are the past 3 seasons, and the 4 highest totals are the first 4 seasons in this period.

Rk Year #Matching
1 2000 5778
2 1999 5774
3 1998 5750
4 2001 5743
5 2007 5742
6 2008 5716
7 2003 5700
8 2005 5632
9 2002 5616
10 2004 5615
11 2006 5612
12 2010 5541
13 2009 5451
14 2011 5266
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2012.

What future do you see for the pinch-hitting specialist?

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