Nick Stavinoha: Irreplaceable?

A look at St. Louis Cardinals pinch-hitting results in 2010 and what might be expected ahead.

The news that Nick Stavinoha has been outrighted from the 40-man roster led me to wonder just how effective the St. Louis Cardinals were in the pinch-hitting department in 2010. The impression I had all season was that Stavi was the best in that role, especially early in the season.

Let's see if the figures bear that out.

Overall, Cardinals pinch-hitters produced at a rate of .229/.307/.316 in 2010, with four home runs and 21 RBI in 289 plate appearances (253 at-bats). This compares favorably to the National League as a whole at .223/.293/348, except in slugging. The Cardinals' 253 pinch hit at-bats in 2010 was just two off a share of the NL lead, yet St. Louis' 21 RBI was the third-lowest total of the 16 teams.

Breaking it down - here is how Cardinals pinch-hitters with more than 10 plate appearances in that role performed, ordered by slugging percentage.

Rasmus 0.462 0.563 0.769 16 14 1 4
Mather 0.357 0.357 0.500 15 14 0 1
Stavinoha 0.283 0.321 0.434 56 53 2 4
Jay 0.318 0.375 0.364 27 22 0 3
Schumaker 0.300 0.417 0.300 12 10 0 1
Winn 0.163 0.260 0.256 50 46 1 4
Lopez 0.188 0.278 0.188 18 16 0 2
Miles 0.138 0.167 0.138 32 29 0 0

As you can see from the list above, Rasmus and Mather did well in the pinch-hitting role, albeit in a small sample of 31 PA between the two of them.

Those used most in the role were Stavinoha, Winn, and Miles - and Stavi did indeed do reasonably well, hitting two of the four pinch-hit home runs. On the other hand, he only had four RBI and struck out 12 times in his 56 pinch-hitting plate appearances. Winn and Miles were pretty bad in the role, as was Lopez.

So what does all this mean for 2011? With Mather gone to Atlanta and Rasmus presumably playing more regularly in 2011, they don't really figure into the pinch-hitting discussion for 2011; Colby will be more like Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols (both of whom only pinch-hit twice all season). Stavi is now off the 40-man roster, and Winn and Miles are free agents. Lopez was gone by September.

That leaves Jay and Schumaker as the only two returnees to the roster who had more than 10 pinch-hitting plate appearances in 2010. Other options with fewer than 10 PA in 2010 include Bryan Anderson (3-for-8 with 2 RBI), Tyler Greene (0-for-4 with three walks and a HBP) and Allen Craig (1-for-7).

Clearly, though, the Cards weren't really satisfied with their pinch-hitting production in 2010, and that seems to be a desirable area of upgrade for 2011. But who will be the new bench guys? At this point, who knows? A quick check, however, shows the following pinch-hitting production from some of the possible candidates:

Juan Uribe: 2-for-4 with 1 RBI
Edgar Renteria: 0-for-4
Bengie Molina: 1-for-6
Marco Scutaro: 0-for-3

Not much pinch-hitting going on with that group of names that I've seen bandied about in recent weeks.

One other name that keeps coming up was used even less. Amazingly, Miguel Tejada was never used as a pinch-hitter in 2010 - not once! - and has only six pinch-hitting plate appearances in his entire career. If the Cardinals pick him up for the bench, will he be able to adjust to a difficult role? Will any of these guys?

Are there other candidates out there? The pickings may be thin. Maybe, just maybe, Nick Stavinoha is as good as it's gonna' get.

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