A breakdown of Gattis’ incredible success as a pinch hitter
Evan Gattis has homered in four of the first nine pinch-hit plate appearances of his career. If he maintains this pace and records a pinch-hit appearance in each of Atlanta’s remaining 97 games, he will end this year with 57 home runs, a total that would include the 10 homers he has already hit in non pinch-hit appearances.
While this projection is ridiculous, so too has been everything Gattis has already done as a pinch hitter this season.
With his three-run home run in the four-run ninth inning that capped Monday night’s 7-6 loss to the Padres, Gattis tied the Atlanta record Tommy Gregg set when he recorded four pinch-hit home runs in 1990. Gregg needed 51 pinch-hit at-bats to record this total. Gattis has needed just eight.
The Major League record for pinch-hit home runs in a season is seven. The Dodgers’ Dave Hansen set the record in the 54 pinch-hit at-bats he compiled in 2000. Former Brave Craig Wilson matched the mark during the 34 pinch-hit at-bats he recorded for the Pirates one year later.
Through the first nine pinch-hit plate appearances of his career, Gattis has gone 6-for-8 with four home runs, a double and a walk. In other words, he has not recorded a hit or drawn a walk in just two of these plate appearances. In one of those instances, he still reached first base courtesy of an error charged to Arizona shortstop Didi Gregorious.
So Gattis has actually reached base on a hit, walk or error in eight of his first nine pinch-hit appearances.
Gattis has also driven in seven of the 11 runners that have been on base during his eight pinch-hit at-bats. One of those 11 runners (Dan Uggla), advanced to second base on the go-ahead two-run double Gattis hit against the Mets on May 24. Another (Ramiro Pena) advanced to second base on Gregorious’ error in the eighth inning of a May 15 loss to the D-backs.
So Gattis has stranded just two of the 11 runners that have been on base during his first eight pinch-hit at-bats. The one walk he drew as a pinch hitter was the intentional pass the Pirates issued to load the bases with two outs in the eighth inning of Atlanta’s 10-inning victory on June 4.
While Gattis’ pinch-hit exploits already border on the insane, they serve as just a portion of the incredible production he has already provided during his rookie season. Through the first 156 at-bats of his career, the 26-year-old catcher has batted .263 with 14 home runs, 37 RBIs and a .928 OPS.
Gattis’ days as an everyday member of Atlanta’s starting lineup essentially ended when Jason Heyward returned from the disabled list on May 17. He has recorded just 41 at-bats in the 24 games the Braves have since played.
Still Gattis enters Tuesday night tied for the team lead in home runs with Justin Upton, who has gone deep twice since totaling 12 homers in April. Gattis’ 37 RBIs rank second on the team, just six behind Freddie Freeman’s leading total.
Gattis has homered once every 11.14 at-bats and he has driven in a run once every 4.22 at-bats. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, this home run percentage would place him in front of Chris Davis’ Major League leading mark (11.40). Gattis’ RBI percentage would rank fourth in the Majors, trailing the marks of Miguel Cabrera (3.61), Paul Goldschmidt (4.00) and Troy Tulowitzki (4.14).
In the process of producing these eye-opening numbers, Gattis has managed to make his improbable story that much more incredible.