ATLANTA - JUNE 16: Brooks Conrad #7 of the Atlanta Braves hits a 9th inning home run against the New York Mets at Turner Field on June 16, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
In 2011, no one was used more in a pinch than Eric Hinske and Brooks Conrad. Both were brought back following the 2010 season to provide reliable off-the-bench offense once again.
This year, neither of them had as good a season as they did in 2010. Hinske hit under .200 off the bench, having much of his success this season as a starter. Conrad hit only .210 despite a .319 OBP as a pinch-hitter.
|2011 - Eric Hinske||117||236||24||55||10||0||10||28||26||71||0||1||.233||.311||.403|
Hinske posted pinch-hit numbers of .161/.254/.268 in 2011, a stark contrast to .298/.389/.596 the year before. His six RBI are down from the 12 he drove in last year off the bench:
- PH 2-run HR April 19 at Dodgers ahead 2-1 in 9th inning, Braves win 10-1
- PH 2-run HR May 8 at Phillies ahead 3-1 in 8th inning, Braves win 5-2
- PH 2-run single July 3 vs. Orioles behind 3-2 in 6th inning, Braves lose 5-4
Hinske hit .308 in May, easily his best month, starting 18 games and hitting four of his 10 home runs. April (.269) and July (.282) were also good months, but he disappeared the last two months of the season with a combined 5-for-41 and three RBI. His two PH home runs were the only extra-base hits Hinske had off the bench.
Hinske started 50 games, hitting .246 with seven home runs, 19 RBI and a .321 OBP, but much his overall production came in low leverage situations. He only hit .183 from the seventh inning onward, but with 13 of his 28 RBI. He was, however, very reliable with two outs, hitting .297 with 13 RBI and .310 with two outs and RISP.
His .233 avg. was the second-lowest of his career, having hit .204 in 84 games with Boston in 2007; his OBP was the lowest of his career and his slugging third-lowest. His ISO (.169) and BB% (9.8) were the lowest since 2005 and his K% (26.9) was the highest of his career.
|2011 - Brooks Conrad||92||103||11||23||5||0||4||13||15||41||2||0||.223||.325||.388|
Brooks Conrad wasn't much better as a pinch-hitter than Hinske, but he was certainly more productive. He started the season 1-for-12 in April, but his walk-off single May 1 against the Cardinals showed he was still able to get the big hit. All three pinch hits during May were crucial, one of them his first home run of the season:
- PH walk-off single May 1 vs. Cardinals tied in 9th inning, Braves win 6-5
- PH game-tying RBI double May 18 at Diamondbacks down 2-1 in 7th inning, Braves lose 4-3
- PH 2-run HR May 25 at Pirates tied in 11th inning, Braves win 4-2
Conrad's five RBI in May were his most for any month, but June was his best month of the season. In 14 games, he hit .421 (8-for-19) with a pair of home runs, the first of which was a ninth-inning blast to tie the game June 16, hit off Francisco Rodriguez in Atlanta's "balk-off" win over the Mets. 10 of Conrad's 13 RBI came in high leverage situations.
His other big hits:
- July 21: game-tying home run in the seventh inning against the Rockies, his only home run as a starter
- August 16: 11th-inning PH single that leads to him scoring the game-winning run against the Giants
- September 4: game-tying PH two-run single in seventh inning against the Dodgers
Conrad hit just .196 after the Break, .091 in September with two RBI. The RBI hit against the Dodgers was his only hit of the month; he was 1-for-11. Conrad only started 12 games, but hit .263 with a .326 OBP. He walked more as a pinch-hitter (10 compared to just three in 2010), but also struck out nine more times than last year. Conrad's .210 avg. off the bench was down from 2010 when he hit .224, but his OBP was an improvement over the .262 mark he posted last year. His slugging, however, dropped from .448 to .419. His overall ISO from 2010 (.237) fell off dramatically (.165). In 2010, he hit .378 with RISP (9 XBH); this year, .148 (0 XBH).
All told, Conrad didn't quite have as much late-inning magic in his bat this year as in 2010, but he'll be relied upon again in 2012 to provide a solid pinch-hitting presence. As for Hinske, he's a better hitter than what he showed in 2011 and with him returning next year, the Braves seem to be confident he'll prove this year was an anomaly.