Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eric Hinske: Baseball's Lucky Charm

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Atlanta Braves outfielder Eric Hinske is a career .254 hitter who never batted .280, never slugged 25 home runs, never scored 100 runs and never drove in 85 runs.

Making matters worse, all of his career highs in those categories came in his rookie season, possibly showing he peaked too early.

Stats aside, he couldn’t be more valuable to teams hoping to contend.

After spending the first five and a half seasons of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, the nine-year veteran is making his fourth consecutive playoff appearance for a fourth different team.

Hisnke won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, lost in the World Series in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays, won a second World Series with the New York Yankees last year, and will participate in this year’s tournament as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

He doesn’t just sit the bench and go along for the ride either; the man makes some clutch plays. On September 29, Baseball Tonight host Steve Berthiaume tweeted, “Hinske could be headed to 4th straight post-season with 4th different team. He's type of player you win with and need to win.”

With the Red Sox, Hinske ended the 2006 season with a 10-game hitting streak. He contributed in 2007, most notably in a May 17 game against the Detroit Tigers where he made a diving catch in the field and followed it up with a home run later in the game.

In Tampa, Hinske was a World Series roster injury replacement and took advantage of his chance to play on the big stage again, hitting a home run in Game 4 of the World Series.

In Atlanta he has hit several home runs to win games for the Braves. On July 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies he hit a two run homer in the 11th inning to put the Braves up—for good—6-3. August 5 Hinske hit a home run in the sixth inning off Tim Lincecum, who he will face in Game 1 of the NLDS, to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

And the latest one. September 28. Hinske pinch-hit for reliever Craig Kimbrel and crushed a two-run shot over the right-center field fence for his 11th of the season, his third pinch-hit home run of the season, and a 3-1 lead that would hold to keep the Braves three games up in the Wild Card race, a race where every game proved pivotal.

The 2002 American League Rookie of the Year, Hinske has developed into the epitome of a role player. He understands his job and doesn’t complain about it. When he is called, he delivers. Hinske has scored a run each postseason he’s played in.

He adds power off the bench and is a threat late in games. He can play both corners of both the outfield and the infield. He has experience playing at the highest level and knows what it takes to be not only a winner, but a champion.

Hinske is being called a lucky charm. It seems like he has the Midas Touch, but his attitude in the locker room and his performance on the field are a big reason for his teams’ success.

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