Best Game by a Pinch-Hitter

With American League teams playing games in National League parks, many full-time DHs are left like children wandering aimlessly through a forest. These fearsome hitters are forced to pace the dugout, waiting for an opportunity to pinch hit. But even then, what chance does a pinch hitter have to actually affect a game? Can a guy who doesn’t start the game really have a big impact?

Just ask Art Shamsky of the 1966 Cincinnati Reds. As measured by Win Probability Added, he holds the record for having the most impact on a game as a substitute. Win Probability Added, or WPA, starts by looking at a team’s percent-likelihood of winning a game before a particular player’s at-bat. Then, it looks at the same stat after the player’s at-bat. The difference is that player’s WPA for that at-bat. Then, add all of the WPA’s from each of his individual at-bats, and you have his WPA for the game.

Art Shamsky’s WPA for the game was 1.503, far and away the highest of any player who did not start the game. The Reds’ opponent, the Pirates, were up 7-6 in the bottom of the 8th inning when Shamsky first came into the game. He was not even the first pinch hitter for the pitcher that the Reds used, but he proved to be the most effective. He hit a 2-run homer to give his team an 8-7 lead, which was promptly blown by the bullpen in the 9th. The game then went into extras. Down one again in the 10th, Shamsky mashed another home run to further extend the game. Shamsky crushed a 2-run shot in the 11th to erase a matching deficit entering the frame.

Art Shamsky should have been in the starting lineup this day, apparently.

So the game went into the 13th despite Art Shamsky’s 3-for-3 with 3 HRs and 5 RBIs since the 8th inning. The Pirates continued to beat up on the Reds bullpen, adding 3 more in the top of the 13th. The Reds were set down in order in the latter half of the frame, though, leaving Shamsky standing in the on-deck circle as the game ended. The man tried to lift his team up all on his own, but unfortunately for him, the Reds bullpen was just too bad for him to overcome.

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