Every once in a while we run across a scenario in baseball that makes us think. One of those scenarios that had recently happened to me is when a friend asked me if a pinch runner got credit for a run or if the original batter got credit for the run. Initially, I wanted to throw out what I thought was the correct answer, but then I started wondering if there was some type of weird scoring rule I was unaware of for counting runs scored by a pinch runner.
Does a pinch runner get credit for a run? In short, the player who crosses the plate receives credit for the run. When a pinch runner comes into the game they are considered a substitute player and any runs scored by the pinch runner will be counted as a run for the pinch runner.
In retrospect, the answer may seem straightforward, but this is one of those questions that makes you rethink what you know about pinch runner rules in baseball. Why exactly does the pinch runner get the credit and is there an argument to be made for giving credit to the batter?
A Pinch Runner is a Substitute Player
Pinch runners are not used very often so it’s common for fans to wonder – what is a pinch runner?
In baseball, a pinch runner is a substitute player who replaces a current baserunner. Pinch runners are typically fast players who are used late in the game to score a run, but sometimes pinch runners can be used to replace an injured player.
When a pinch runner comes into the game for a player who is already on base, the pinch runner is actually a substitute player. Because the pinch runner is a substitute player, any action he takes on the basepath will be counted as a stat for that pinch runner.
This also means a pinch runner will be credited with the steal if he completes a successful steal attempt. On the other hand, he will be credited with a “CS”, or “Caught Stealing”, if he attempts to steal a base and is thrown out.
If the batter were to get credit for what the pinch runner did on the base, then we would have some pretty upset batters who received a “CS” when they weren’t even on the base path. On that same note, we would have some pretty upset fantasy baseball fans too!
A great way to show how this stat is counted is by looking through the history of baseball and finding an example of a player who was mainly utilized as a pinch runner.
As history has it, the Oakland Athletics had just this type of player during the 1974 and 1975 seasons – Herb Washington. Herb Washington was a former sprinter who the Oakland Athletics used as a “Designated Runner”. His role was specifically to come into the game to be a pinch runner, get steals, and score runs.
Looking through the career stats of Herb Washington, we can see that Herb had a total of 33 runs, 31 stolen bases, and 0 at-bats. Although these stats seem odd, these stats are possible thanks to how the official scoring system is designed in baseball, which is that stats are awarded to the players who are in the game, regardless of how they got into the game.
Should Batters Receive Credit for What Pinch Runners Do?
One might make the argument that batters should receive the run because, after all, the runner is only on base because the batter got on base.
In the MLB, it’s never an easy task to get on base so one could make the argument the original batter should be credited with earning a run.
On the other hand, if a batter is going to get credit for a run then a batter would also get credit for getting caught stealing a base, which wouldn’t make much sense to a lot of people.
One could also argue that a pinch runner would be less incentivized to score because he knows that whatever happens wouldn’t be counted against him.
Because of all the little “what if” scenarios that could occur from counting these runs for the batter instead of the pinch runner, it makes more sense to keep the rule as simple as possible. Which is that the player who is playing will get the stat, regardless of how that player got into the situation of the game.
When Can a Pinch Runner Be Used?
According to section 5.10 of the official MLB rules, “A player, or players, may be substituted during a game at any time the ball is dead. A substitute player shall bat in the replaced player’s position in the team’s batting order”
According to the official MLB rules, a pinch runner can be used at any time the ball is dead. So as long as the team has enough players left on the bench and the ball is dead, they are allowed to use a pinch runner for any unused bench player.
Pinch runners are mainly used in the last inning when the runner on base is either a tying run or a winning run.
In these scenarios, base running is the most important role for that base runner. And because of the way the official scoring is structured, a pinch runner will have the opportunity to add some important numbers to their overall career stats.
Pinch Runners Stay in the Game
Commonly a pinch runner is used late in the game and when the offense needs to score a run, but what happens to the batter that the pinch runner replaced? Does a pinch runner replace a player?
The pinch runner replaces the player who was on base. The pinch runner is considered a substitute for the player who was on base and the pinch runner will remain in the game.
When pinch runners stay in the game, they also have the opportunity to earn additional stats for themselves if they were to bat again.
Although, a lot of times the pinch runner move is a situational play. This means that the manager is not worried about where this player will play in the next inning – the manager is only worried about getting that run across the plate.
Because the goal of this person who is on base is to score a run, a lot of times the manager will replace the batter on base with a runner who does not have similar skillsets for the field.
For example, a pinch runner may be an outfielder, but if he is coming in to run for a catcher then the manager has an issue when the game goes into extra innings. Most likely the manager will replace this pinch runner with a catcher after the inning has ended.
Because of the depth of rosters in the major leagues, managers are able to better utilize players for specific situations.
Does Pinch Running Continue a Player’s Consecutive Game Streak?
Imagine a scenario where a Cal Ripken-like player has a streak going for consecutive games played in a row, but the manager initially sat this player for a game. What would happen if the manager used this player as a substitute runner? Does pinch running continue a player’s streak?
Believe it or not, MLB has a rule specifically for this scenario.
According to section 9.23(c) of the MLB official rules “A consecutive-game playing streak shall be extended if a player plays one half-inning on defense or if the player completes a time at bat by reaching base or being put out. A pinchrunning appearance only shall not extend the streak. If a player is ejected from a game by an umpire before such player can comply with the requirements of this Rule 9.23(c), such player’s streak shall continue”.
According to the MLB official rules, coming into the game only as a pinch runner does not continue a player’s consecutive game streak.
If the player were to come into the game as a pinch runner and continue to play the next half-inning of the game, then he would continue his consecutive game streak.
Or if the player came into the game as a pinch runner and was ejected for some reason, his consecutive game streak would still be alive.
So the best answer to this question comes down to whether or not the player is coming into the game only as a pinch runner. If the player only plays as a pinch runner then his consecutive game streak would officially end.
Baseball may seem to have some quirky rules, but once you dive into the answer of whether or not a pinch runner gets credited with a run then this rule starts to make a lot of sense. When it comes down to it, the player who crosses the plate gets credited with the run.
This simple rule makes it easier for everyone – players, official scorers, and especially for all of those fantasy baseball fans who heavily rely on accurate stats for their fantasy baseball team.