Best pinch runners in Tribe history

Does he score? - Jason Miller

The Indians are down by one in the bottom of the ninth, nobody out and our clean-up hitter his just eked a Texas-leaguer into right field. Whatever shall we do now ...

Adding onto Jason's excellent series about Batting Orders (see here for the series finale), I wanted to add on my take regarding the best pinch runners in Tribe history. I also did a quiz regarding pinch running last October.

Based on my excel database culled from Baseball-Reference, 456 different players appeared as a pinch runner in a Tribe uniform from 1919 through 2011. Jason's lists went back through 1916. My database was created before they added the 1916-1918 seasons. Adding in the 2012 results, added three new names to the list (Cunningham, Rottino and Lillibridge), finishing the total at 459 players. However, none of the results from 2012 affected this research as none of them cracked 10 games in their career as a pinch runner.

So from 1919 through 2012, we have had 84 players get 10 career games as a pinch runner. As there is no split in BRef to show what happened in the games when the pinch runner appeared, I had to manually look at each boxscore/retrosheet to determine what happened when the player was appearing as a pinch runner. I love research as many of you know, but I limited my research to the players who had 25 games or more, only 22 players.

So now, what makes a good pinch runner? Well speed typically helps. Your slugger gets on base in the late innings, we are in a tight game (plus 3 to minus 3 runs) and in comes the "speed" guy from the bench. But a few guys who cracked the Top 22, were not speed guys. Mudcat Grant, Jim Hegan and Bob Lemon do not scream speed to me. In fact, Grant and Hegan finished 3 and 4 on the career list in appearances.

So going through the game logs, as a baseline I determined if the player stole a base and/or scored a run as the pinch runner. Not every pinch running appearance is the same though. Quite a few times the pinch runner would take over at first base in a first and second situation when the Tribe was down by two runs, representing the tying run. In this case, that player did not necessarily have an opportunity to steal a base. But I can't let that affect the numbers.

But the player does not always have an opportunity to score as well. He comes into the game with 2 outs and the next batter strikes out. Or he is stranded at first base because of two pop-ups. I also gave extra credit if the player went from first to third on a single, scored from third on a fly ball, scored from second on a single or scored from first on a double, moved up on a wild pitch/passed ball, or any situation where they moved up an extra base. I also deducted points if they were caught stealing, were thrown out at home, or failed to pick up and extra base on a double. [Note that I was unable to give those type of credits to games prior to 1947 as the retrosheets do not show this play by play data. This affected the numbers for Frankie Pytlak, Joe Evans and Bob Lemon's first five pinch running appearances.]

I then averaged the score per pinch running appearance for a rate score.

Starting from the bottom, the top eleven (*three-way tie for ninth) pinch runners in Indians history:

9) Mike Fischlin (1981-1985)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

44

1

14

0

19.25

0.44

So as you can see, stealing a base is not necessarily a requisite to make it on this list. With only one attempt, Fischlin makes it his far because he was able to take an extra base nine times. He pinch ran for Mike Hargrove nine times, Ron Hassey eight times, and Andre Thornton six times.

9) Bobby Avila (1949-1958)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

34

1

11

1

15.00

0.44

I would have thought Avila would be much higher on the list, but he only swiped one base as a pinch runner. But his one swipe is the only instance of the Top 22 players in which they stole home. He pinch ran for Lou Boudreau and Allie Clark six times each and Luke Easter five times.

9) Wayne Kirby (1991-1996)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

35

1

14

4

15.50

0.44

Kirby was a terrible base stealer as a pinch runner, but was able to score quite often. Normally, I would have thought that was because of those powerhouse lineups from 1994-1996, but Kirby was also excellent in 1992, scoring in six of his eight pinch running appearances that year. He pinch ran for Manny Ramirez seven times and Eddie Murray six times. He even pinch ran for Kenny Lofton twice, although once must have been because of an injury as it took place in the 2nd inning.

8) Jim Hegan (1942-1957)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

59

0

20

0

26.50

0.45

Hegan is another guy who gets this high, strictly because of longevity because he never attempted a stolen base as a pinch runner. He scored about a third of the time, but took an extra base 13 times to boost his total. Hegan usually pinch ran for the second catcher on the roster and then would stay in the game. He pinch ran for Hal Naragon ten times, Birdie Tebbetts eight times and Joe Tipton five times.

7) John McDonald (1999-2004)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

34

0

12

0

15.50

0.46

McDonald is another player who was not a base stealer, but who had enough speed to take extra bases notching seven instances of taking the extra bag. McDonald pinch ran for Travis Hafner nine and Ricky Gutierrez and Ben Broussard five times each.

6) Joe Evans (1916-22)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

68

3

29

0

32.00

0.47

As there is very little game data, it is not clear if Evans should move up or down on this list. But Evans was able to score 29 times as a pinch runner, which is a pretty good conversion rate at face value. He pinch ran for plodding catcher Steve O'Neill a whopping 34 times. He also pinch ran for player-manager Tris Speaker ten times at the tail end of his playing career, all in 1922.

5) Jerry Dybzinski (1980-1982)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

27

1

10

1

13.00

0.48

Dybzinski is another example of having a good conversion rate of scoring without generating steals. He took an extra base only six times. He wasn't designated for a specific plodder, running for Bo Diaz and Tom Veryzer four times, Joe Charboneau and Ron Hassey three times each. He pinch ran for 13 total different players.

4) Chuck Hinton (1965-1971)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

26

1

8

1

13.00

0.50

Hinton has similar steal results to Dybzinski and fewer runs scored, but he was much more active on the basepaths. He took an extra base 11 times. He pinch ran for Hawk Harrelson five times and Leon (Daddy) Wagner four times

3) Bill Glynn (1952-1954)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

42

2

16

3

22.75

0.54

Glynn was very proficient in scoring 16 times, but also took an extra base 16 times as well, moving him up to third on the list. Of those 42 appearances, he only ran for three players. He ran for Luke Easter 24 times, Vic Wertz 16 times and Al Rosen twice.

2) Jolbert Cabrera (1999-2002)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

42

3

18

2

24.25

0.58

Cabrera also seemed to benefit from the lineup he pinch ran in. He almost had a 50% run scored conversion rate and was also very active on the basepaths, netting 13 extra bases. He also had one of the most diverse ways in scoring: single, double, walk, force out, passed ball, error, and sacrifice fly. The only main scoring methods missing seem to be the triple and wild pitch. He pinch ran for Jim Thome nine times and Manny Ramirez eight times.

1) Otis Nixon (1984-87)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

93

28

30

13

55.75

0.60

It is no surprise to see Nixon at the top of the list. He does have the most appearances by far and roughly double or triple the appearances of the guys of the Top 22. But although he leads the pack, his rate score is much closer to the pack than one would expect. He obviously has the most steals of any pinch runner in Tribe history, but also has by far the most caught stealing/pick-offs as well.

I think part of his less then dominating rate score lead is due to the sheer volume of appearances. He was only able to take an extra base 26 times too, which drags down his rate. He did steal second and third base in the same inning twice, but once was also caught stealing third after nabbing second. He pinch ran for Mel Hall 18 times, Thornton 16 times and Pat Tabler 11 times.

Next, we'll gander at the two worst pinch runners in Tribe history.

2) Frankie Pytlak (1933-40)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

25

0

5

0

5.00

0.20

Pytlak eked onto the list with 25 appearances. This is somewhat due to his longevity. But he never stole a base and only scored 5 times, netting him a low 0.20 rate score.

1) Mudcat Grant (1984-87)

Appearances

SB

RS

CS/PO

Total Score

Rate Score

67

0

9

0

12.25

0.18

Grant has the third most appearances as a pinch runner, but was far from good at it. He never attempted a steal and was only able to score nine times. He only took an extra base seven times. That is terrible. Some rationale for this is he was used as pinch runner very late in the game. He appeared as pinch runner with two outs on 23 occasions, but there is no doubt he is the worst pinch runner in history.

Here is a table showing the most appearances in a season with their rate scores for that season:

Player

Year

Appearances

Total Score

Rate Score

Otis Nixon

1985

39

16.75

0.43

Otis Nixon

1986

37

29.00

0.78

Joe Evans

1922

27

11.00

0.41

Dave Nelson

1968

25

13.00

0.52

Chico Salmon

1965

24

8.50

0.35

Bill Glynn

1953

21

15.50

0.74

Jolbert Cabrera

2000

20

11.00

0.55

Dell Alston

1980

20

4.00

0.20

Pedro Ramos

1963

20

9.00

0.45

Mike Fischlin

1985

19

6.00

0.32

John McDonald

2004

19

9.50

0.50

Dave Nelson

1969

18

1.00

0.06

Bill Glynn

1954

18

5.00

0.28

Vic Davilillo

1967

17

7.75

0.45

Carroll Hardy

1960

17

6.00

0.35

Joe Evans

1919

16

8.00

0.50

Bobby Avila

1947

16

2.50

0.16

And here are the most successful single seasons (minimum 10 appearances)

Player

Year

Appearances

Total Score

Rate Score

Otis Nixon

1984

10

10.00

1.00

Jolbert Cabrera

2001

12

10.75

0.90

Bobby Avila

1950

14

11.00

0.79

Otis Nixon

1986

37

29.00

0.78

Bill Glynn

1953

21

15.50

0.74

Dell Alston

1979

14

8.50

0.61

Chuck Hinton

1969

14

8.50

0.61

Jolbert Cabrera

2000

20

11.00

0.55

John Lowenstein

1975

10

5.50

0.55

Jim Hegan

1953

11

6.00

0.55

Jim Hegan

1955

11

6.00

0.55

Dave Nelson

1968

25

13.00

0.52

Wayne Kirby

1995

13

13.00

0.52

John McDonald

2004

19

9.50

0.50

Joe Evans

1919

16

8.00

0.50

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker