Thursday, November 17, 2016

From the Handbook: Oswaldo Arcia, pinch non-hitter

Who was the worst pinch-hitter in the majors in 2016? The former Twin, Oswaldo Arcia.

Arcia got 13 pinch at-bats in 2016, scattered among four different clubs (Twins, Rays, Marlins and Padres.) He went 0-for-13 with five strikeouts.  Batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, all .000. Alexi Amarista and Brian McCann (each 0-for-14) at least drew a walk, and Amarista had a pair of RBIs.

Pinch-hitters are notoriously inconsistent from season to season, even the ones with successful track records. But 0-for-13 is pretty futile.

The thing is, Arcia fits a historic profile for a successful pinch hitter: Left-handed, free swinger, genuine power and genuine defensive liabilities (the latter being the reason good pinch-hitters aren't in the lineup).

A time-honored approach to pinch-hitting is: Swing at the first fastball strike you see. But Arcia's career is floundering in large part because he struggles to identify fastball strikes. Whether in the lineup or pinch-hitting, getting a good pitch to hit is an essential part of the formula, and Arcia simply fails at that.

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