Friday night, as I watched Jesus Feliciano hit a weak dribbler to second baseman Martin Prado with runners on second and third with two outs from my section 401 seat in the promenade, yet another need for the Mets became apparent to me. Some pop off the bench would be really nice for the second half of the season. I feel like a solid bat could prove to be just as important as a new bullpen arm at this point.
Feliciano was pinch hitting for Ruben Tejada in that spot. It was the bottom of the 6th, and Braves starter Tommy Hanson had just been pulled. A big 2-RBI hit there would have put the Mets ahead 4-2 and could have very well changed the complexion of the game at that juncture. In the following inning, a recently called-up, and clearly over-matched Nick Evans was tardy on a Johnny Venters fastball while pinch hitting in the pitcher’s spot to lead off.
Having established Major League hitters available on your bench is an invaluable quality late in games. When Matt Franco or Lenny Harris would get up in the on-deck circle, I was confident that if they saw a pitch to hit, they would put a charge into it. Franco, although absentminded at times (he forgot his glove in the Shea Stadium picnic area after taking a picture with me before a game when I was 12), was a master of the craft of pinch hitting from the left side. It was basically his sole purpose on the team and he excelled. I will always remember his walk-off line drive single against the Yankees in the Subway Series, among other clutch hits. Pinch hitters are under-appreciated assets of baseball clubs, yet upon delivery, they are game changers.
The Phillies owe much of their success over the last two seasons to hitters off the bench. In 2008, I felt like every other night I was watching Matt Stairs hit a pinch-hit home run into the right field seats on the highlight reel. The Phils also had Geoff Jenkins raking off the bench that year. These grizzly lumberjacks struck fear into the hearts of opposing relievers
in any situation. They were legitimate power threats. Ben Francisco also provided some pop off the pine for the Phillies last year after being acquired from Cleveland mid season.
When I think of successful pinch hitters, I think about preparation and attitude. Relievers of the opposing teams have to be meticulously scouted, the batting cage must be utilized during games, and piss and vinegar must run through the veins of the pinch hitter when he is called upon. With the Mets lack of spark off of the bench so far this season, who are some bats that might be worth inquiring about over the next month?