Sean Rodriguez & Rays Much Improved Pinch Hitting
Sean Rodriguez Hits Rays First Pinch Hit Homer Of The Season
Joe Maddon likes to use a lot of different lineups and he will look to gain a platoon advantage as much as any team in baseball.
Matt Joyce and David DeJesus will see very limited time against left-handed pitching and barring injuries to position players Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe will sit mostly against right handed pitching.
In today’s baseball it is unusual for a starting pitcher to toss a complete game and the opposing manager will mix and match his left handed pitcher versus left handed batters and vice versa.
Sometimes this mix and match game begins early in the game in hopes that the opposing manager will go to his bench and pinch hit and remove a bat out of the lineup.
An example would be bringing in a left handed reliever in the sixth inning in an attempt to get Joe Maddon to remove Matt Joyce making him unavailable later in the game when the other team may bring in a high leverage right hander.
Their are other times where a pinch hitter is brought into a game where the score is tied or his team is trailing and delivering a key hit in a big moment is paramount to the outcome of the game.
As noted above, the Rays use the pinch hitter a lot. They have led the American League in pinch hitting plate appearances every year since 2008 but unfortunately in this period of time they have only performed significantly above league average in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Last year the Rays were slightly about league average in batting average (.213) but were below league average in on-base percentage (.293) and slugging percentage (.302).
The only pinch hit homer for the Rays last year came on their final home game on September 23, 2013 when James Loney connected for a walk off homer against the Orioles Tommy Hunter. Rays pinch hitters only drove in 12 runs in 189 plate appearances.
Yesterday Sean Rodriguez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh after Jonny Gomes had delivered a pinch-hit game tying home run for the Boston Red Sox in the top half of the inning.
Red Sox Manager John Farrell had brought in left hander Craig Breslow in relief of Alex Wilson. He walked Desmond Jennings and gave up a single to bring Matt Joyce to the plate. Rather than allow the left handed hitting Matt Joyce to face Breslow Joe Maddon elected to pinch hit with Sean Rodriguez.
Rodriguez crushed a 0-1 changeup into the seats in left to put the Rays up 3-1. It was his first pinch hit of his career and his sixth home run on the season four of which have come against left handed pitching.
For the Rays as a team their pinch hitters are now hitting .263 (13 for 49) and have a triple slash line of .265/.339/.409 with one home run and nine runs driven in (just three shy of their output for all of 2013).
In 2014 Rodriguez is 3 for 7 as a pinch hitter which already matches his total pinch hits from 2013 (3 for 24). Prior to this season he was hitting .111 (6 for 54) as a pinch hitter.