In Major League Baseball, a pinch hitter is a baseball player who serves as a substitute batter for another baseball player. A pinch hitter is only ever active in a game when the batter whose place the pinch hitter is taking is up to bat. A pinch hitter is not considered to be active in a game until they are announced into the game, typically over the jumbotron. After the pinch hitter is announced into the game, the original batter is now out of the game for good.
There are no limits to the number of pinch hitters a manager can call to replace the batter at home plate, aside from roster spaces. However, some managers use this as an unofficial delay-of-game tactic. This can sometimes result in a forfeit to the other team or ejection from the game for one or more of the pinch hitters if caught by an umpire.
Most teams have four or five players on a bench to use as pinch hitters, and the typical abbreviation used for pinch hitter is "PH." Separate statistics are kept for players assuming the pinch hitter position.
Often times, the most common thing pinch hitters will do is simply play the defensive position of the baseball player they replaced. However, the pinch hitter has two other options. The pinch hitter could be replaced by a defensive substitute which is the second most likely option. Alternatively, a pinch hitter can take a different defensive position on the field, but this move requires other players to be shuffled around with substitutions.
Pinch hitters are typically inserted into the game to replace weaker batters such as pitchers at home plate. However, some managers will request a pinch hitter to hit a sacrifice bunt to ensure another player's success. A skill that is seen as desirable amongst pinch hitters is speed, and some pinch hitters are known for their stride and ability to steal bases. This particular trait is seen amongst pinch runners as well, but ultimately, pinch hitters need to be strong batters and fast enough to avoid getting tagged.
Sometimes, a pinch hitter will be replaced by another pinch hitter before the original pinch hitter has completed their batting attempt. For example, if the opposing team's manager changes the pitcher, the pinch hitter may be substituted by another pinch hitter in response.
A pinch hitter steps up to bat in lieu of the original player but a pinch runner does not actually bat. Pinch runners step in for players after they successfully reach first base to take over the physical running of the bases for the original batter. Unlike pinch hitters, pinch runners do not need to be strong batters. Pinch runners basically just need to be fast.