Alen Hanson had three stellar pinch hit appearances in this latest Diamondbacks series: a 2-RBI double in the 10-3 win Monday night, a 1-out double in the ninth inning when the Giants were mounting a comeback (that ultimately failed), and yesterday’s stunning 2-run home run off of Brad Boxberger to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
I was all excited to write about how Hanson was on pace to break San Francisco pinch-hitting records, based in part on the incorrect assumption that his home run against the Dodgers in that 15-6 blowout loss on April 28th came as a pinch-hitter (it had not! He had been subbed into the game for defense). So, as cool as that story might’ve been — Alen Hanson is on pace to tie or break the Giants’ single-season pinch-hit home run record — instead, I’ll just show you a replay of the home run and then proceed to the larger point:
The Giants are already much improved in the pinch-hitting department, thanks in part to Alen Hanson. Last year, the Giants had a grand total of 5 pinch hit home runs. They had 4 in 2016. Through 62 games this season, the Giants already have 3. They’re also sporting a 129 sOPS+, meaning their pinch hitters are 29% better than the rest of the league. In 2016, that number was 106. Last year, 76. So... again, much better.
Hanson still has a ways to go to match any of the pinch hit records in San Francisco history, though. Ken Oberkfell had 18 in 1989, but Sam Leslie holds the total franchise record of 22, which he set in 1932. Hanson has 4. So, for now, consider him a more versatile and exciting improvement over 2016’s famous pinch-hitter-turned-starter, Conor Gillaspie (11 pinch hits).
But also, don’t discount the excitement a good pinch hitter can generate. Looking back through history, three times have players hit 4 pinch-hit home runs in a season: Mike Ivie (1978), Candy Maldonado (1986), and Ernie Riles (1990). All three of those teams were in the playoff hunt late into the season. Mike Ivie, too, has the distinction of holding the record for most pinch-hit grand slams in a single season with 2. Yes, they were both in that 1978 season. And Oberkfell’s 18 in 1989 were for a team that went to the World Series.
I’m not suggesting this means something, but having the ability to get big hits late in the game from bench players is a crucial part of any successful team. It’s hard to look at the Giants’ roster and think they don’t have, at least in part, the ingredients for success.