Thursday, May 5, 2011


Matt Stairs has 23 lifetime regular-season pinch-hit homers. This is
his 24th, hit in Game 4 of the 2008 NL Championship Series...
Matt Stairs collected his one hundredth pinch hit last night, which is notable in several ways:

--He went twelve seasons between his first season with 10+ pinch-hits (1997, 12-for-34) and his second (2009, 13-for-63).

--He has, oddly enough, been in a long "slump" as a pinch-hitter after one of the more electrifying runs in what is arguably the game's most challenging capacity (since 1999, Stairs is .225/.355/.467 in pinch-hit appearances as opposed to .372/.443/.605 from 1992-98).

Despite that odd little (small sample! small sample!) split in his PH data, Stairs is still a major anomaly in that he's hit better coming off the bench (.863 OPS) than when he's started (.836 OPS). Given that the average pinch-hitter gives away between 20-25% of the overall league OPS whenever they come off the bench, Matt's achievement is nothing more or less than remarkable.

Thanks to Forman and company, we can all take a gander at every single one of Matt's pinch-hitting appearances. We can also look at each of his 23 pinch-hit homers (of which, interestingly, 15 have been hit on the road). And we can see that out of Stairs' 100 pinch-hits, exactly one (and one only) has come off a left-handed pitcher. (He's 1-for-26 lifetime as a pinch-hitter against lefties.)

In an earlier era, Stairs might have pinch-hit even more often. His first three years in Oakland (1997-99), when the A's were actually following first-generation sabermetric concepts, set the stage for his career as a starting player; back in the 70s/80s, it is possible that he might have been moved to pinch-hitting more quickly, and his success in the role might have pushed his lifetime pinch-hit plate appearances toward 1,000--which would have been an equally interesting alternative for us to be pondering.
Maine man Stairs began his career
just over the border, before the Expos
were hijacked by Bud and his kronies...

Just follow that slinky chick down the
river, Jason, so we can make room
for Matt as the bench bat in Coors...
It's a bit odd that Matt had never been re-signed by any of the teams who had retained his services over his career--until his "indirect" return to the franchise that first brought him up to the majors (remember the Montreal Expos? They are the skeleton still rattling in the closet of the Washington Nationals).

Where Stairs really needs to play, however, is Coors Field. The Rockies should send Jason Giambi down the Colorado River in a de-inflatable kayak and sign up Matt, whose lifetime record in Coors is 16-for-40 with six home runs. That works out to a .900 SLG, a 1.400 OPS. Think that might be good off the bench?

Let's hope Matt can hang around for a few more needs anomalies more than ever, as we try to survive the oncoming swan dive of the most cynical, self-serving Commissioner in the history of the game. Distract us, Matt!!--help us pay no attention to the used-car salesman behind the screen...