A few days ago, I tweeted out that Brewers pinch-hitters had been pretty good in 2012, with the supporting facts of second-most pinch-hits and most pinch-hit RBI backing me up. So, originally, I was going to write about how good Brewers pinch-hitters had been.
Then I actually calculated out their batting average and, lo and behold, it didn't look so hot. So I thought maybe there would be an article on how poorly Brewers pinch-hitters performed in 2012.
Then, I figured out other teams' batting averages for pinch-hitters. Now, this article is: Brewers pinch-hitters weren't great, but they weren't the worst, either. Actually, if you look at every single team in the MLB, the Brewers are 15th in pinch-hit batting average--right in the middle.
If you look at just the National league, the Brewers look a little worse. We're already looking at a not-so-great sample size by looking at pinch-hitting stats. The American league will fluctuate even more because they pinch-hit far less due to the designated hitter. In fact, only two AL teams--the Yankees and Indians--had more than 100 pinch-hit at-bats. Most NL teams had more than 200.
So, looking at just the NL, the Brewers rank 11th out of 16 teams in batting average. I'm using batting average because I can't find a single place that will give me the components of OPS, a way of calculating the components of OPS, or any other statistic more valuable than batting average. Earlier, I mentioned that the Brewers had been second in pinch-hits, so why the low batting average? Simple, the team pinch-hit a lot.
The Brewers pinch-hit 282 times over the course of the 2012 season. The average NL team pinch-hit 227.125 times. Unfortunately for them, lots of pinch-hitting correlates to being a worse team. Here is the National League sorted by most pinch-hits, playoff teams are in bold:
The Brewers offense helped them be one of the outliers on that graph, but for the most part there is a pretty strong correlation between good teams and fewer pinch-hit appearances.
Travis Ishikawa led the Brewers in PH at-bats this season, with 50. That number puts him third in the MLB, behind Eric Young and Eric Hinske. Ishikawa hit .260 in those appearance. Both Nyjer Morgan and Brewers back-up catchers (George Kottaras and Martin Maldonado) as a whole made 36 pinch-hit appearances each. Morgan had seven hits and Kottaras and Maldonado totaled seven hits for a .194 average.
Perhaps this winter the Brewers would be well-off searching for a cheap bat to sit on the bench. Mat Gamel should be there, but they could use another. They lost perhaps their best bat off the bench when Norichika Aoki moved into a starting role. Of non-usual starters, no Brewers pinch-hitter with at least ten at-bats off the bench was better than Ishikawa. Really, nobody even came close. It looks like depth could be an area of need for a Brewers team hoping to contend in 2013.