Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Pinch Me 

Les Carpenter wrote an interesting article on the difficulties of being a pinch-hitter, and some of the tricks of the trade that Dave Hansen has learned while becoming one of the top pinch hitters in the game.

Carpenter does nice work in summing up the pinch-hitter role...

It is an impossible job. Pinch-hitters rarely get to start, they almost never get to play regularly, even for a week. Thus, they never build the consistency that players desperately need. Instead, they sit on the bench for sometimes as long as three hours, shuffling their feet trying to stay warm, watching the pitchers, hoping to pick out some flaw, some fatal mistake they can exploit. They get cold. Then the manager screams their name, and they're in the game.

Hansen is fifth all-time with 129 pinch hits and seventh all-time with 14 home runs and may have been the key player received in the Jeff Cirillo trade.

"You know, I do get the sense in the whole trade that I was the one they wanted put into the deal," Hansen says. "That made me feel good."

What is interesting about Hansen to me is that last year, he stunk as a pinch-hitter, putting up an anemic 164/292/200 line in 65 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. But, when he was called on to start, getting about 20 starts as the Padre 1B or 3B, he came through with a 333/430/472 line that looks very nice if Olerud or Spiezio should go down for a few days here or there. I will be interesting to see if Hansen is used in this way from time to time, ahead of Willie Bloomquist and his 628 OPS of 2003.

Of course, Hansen's 492 OPS as a pinch-hitter is still better than all five Mariners who had 5 or more pinch hit plate appearances including Edgar(400 in 5 PAs), McLemore(333/6), Davis(333/6), Bloomquist(310/9) and Mabry(270/27), so there is nowhere for the M's bench to go but up!

I don't think Dave Hansen will be the bench player that Stan Javier was in 2001, but I sure am happy to have him over Jeff Cirillo, in what should have been a more well-received trade by M's fans. Three guys with the promise of productivity and change to boot for a growing clubhouse cancer and a pitching prospect unlikely to play for us is a damn good deal in my book.

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