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