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|Posted: Thu May 11th, 2017 01:34 am||
|With teams carrying more and more bullpen arms, a diminished role for pinch-hitters was to be expected. But Dusty Baker, the Washington Nationals' old-school manager, doesn't go for fads.
Including Tuesday night's bomb against the Baltimore Orioles, Nats first baseman Adam Lind has three pinch-hit homers on the season.
Lind is now in the hunt for the all-time record of seven single-season pinch-hit home runs held by Dave Hansen (2000) and Craig Wilson (2001) - a feat that's lacked notoriety since Matt Stairs fell two dingers shy of the mark in 2009 when he hit five for the Philadelphia Phillies.
While Baker, 67, is often maligned for his archaic strategies, it's no surprise he's bucking the trend with his deployment of Lind as a pinch-hit specialist.
Over the past 15 seasons, just two players have hit five or more pinch-hit home runs in one year, due partially to the fact that pinch-hit specialists are being relied upon less.
From 2002-2010 - as far back as FanGraphs' split leaderboards go - the average number of players with 50 or more pinch-hit at-bats was nine. In 2001, Lenny Harris set the single-season record with 83 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
But since 2011, the number of players with 50 or more pinch-hit at-bats per season has dwindled to just five on average.
Prorated over a full season, Lind's 13 pinch-hits through the team's first 33 games puts him on pace to reach 64.
Lind's odds of reaching seven pinch-hit homers are aided by the reality he's blocked at fist base by the red-hot Ryan Zimmerman. Lind also lacks positional flexibility, and is unlikely to be squeezed into the lineup in another spot, save for an emergency.