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Braves 2010 Season In Review: Eric Hinske

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Normally, when the Braves sign a veteran free agent, the fans are somewhat guarded, or even skeptical. The player often has to put up a great month or two (Glaus, Saito) in order to win over the fans; those that don't have a great month never win the fans over at all (Melky).

With Eric Hinske, however, I think that waiting period was waived due to awesomeness. There's just something about the guy--maybe it's the fully tattooed back--that inspires confidence. It didn't hurt that he hit a pinch-hit RBI triple in his first at-bat in a Braves uniform, either.

The Braves' offense took off in May at right about the same time that Hinske started playing regularly. He rewarded our confidence by hitting an astonishing .339 / .406 / .679 in May. While he cooled off after that, he was still a reliable platoon starter and pinch-hitting maestro. For the year, he hit .298 / .389 / .596 (with 3 homers) as a pinch-hitter and .316 / .400 / .667 (with 5 homers in 57 AB) overall as a substitute.

Appropriately, Hinske's two best moments came as a pinch-hitter. In the last week of the season, with the Braves desperately clinging to the Wild Card, Hinske hit a 2-run, tie-breaking homer against the Marlins. The Braves would go on to win 3-2, and Hinske would describe that homer as the biggest of his career… though he would hit an even bigger one less than two weeks later.

In game 3 of the NLDS, the Braves trailed 1-0 late after a fierce pitching duel between Tim Hudson and Jonathan Sanchez. In the 8th inning, with a runner on first, Hinske lined a pitch from Sergio Romo just over the right-field wall and just inside the foul pole, putting the Braves up 2-1. (I was there, and the Ted just erupted. It was an incredible moment--easily the best one I've ever witnessed at a baseball game.)

Obviously, some events transpired in the 9th inning that prevented Hinske's homer from attaining the legendary status that it deserved. We shouldn't forget it, though, or Hinske's other contributions to the 2010 Braves. 

Hinske is a free agent now, and while I would love for the Braves to re-sign him, I have no idea if that will happen. If he does move on, I'm sure he'll have no trouble winning favor with the fans of his new club. He may not be a star, but he is a great guy to have on your team.