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The Cubs' best off the bench: Bastian's take

@MLBastian
May 19, 2020

CHICAGO -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are

CHICAGO -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

The American League ranked the top five designated hitters in each franchise this week, as part of MLB.com’s all-time by position series each week. So the National League beat reporters are looking at the best utility/bench player or players in each club's history.

Cubs' All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF

Here is Jordan Bastian's ranking of the Top 5 pinch-hitters in Cubs history. Next week: Right-handed starters.

1) Thad Bosley, 1983-86
Looking at his full body of work, Bosley's overall numbers in a pinch-hit role for the Cubs stand out. His .303 average ranks first all-time for Cubs pinch-hitters (min. 100 plate appearances), and he ranks second in both on-base percentage (.410) and OPS (.884), and he's tied for third in slugging (.474). Bosley's six pinch-hit homers and 72 total bases each rank second in Cubs history. In 1985, Bosley also set a single-season pinch-hit mark for Chicago with 33 total bases. One year later, in '86, he posted a .426 OBP as a pinch-hitter -- a single-season record (min. 50 PAs) for the Cubs.

Best pinch-hit moment: On Aug. 12, 1985, Bosley entered as a pinch-hitter for Warren Brusstar in the sixth inning and promptly hit a game-tying, three-run homer off the Expos' Randy St. Claire. Bosley remained in the game in left field, setting up more late heroics. With the Cubs trailing, 7-6, in the eighth, Bosley delivered a go-ahead, two-run homer off Jeff Reardon to power an 8-7 win.

2) Dwight Smith, 1989-93
Bosley was a part of a funk group called Lenny Randle & Ballplayers. Smith, as it happens, was also musically talented. On July 21, 1989, the outfielder sang the national anthem before a game at Wrigley Field. They could hit notes -- and good pitches. Smith slashed .299/.354/.485 as a pinch-hitter for the Cubs, and he ranks first in Cubs history in hits (50), doubles (15) and triples (five) as a pinch-hitter. His .485 slugging ranks second (min. 100 PAs).

Best pinch-hit moment: On July 31, 1989, Smith entered in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for Lloyd McClendon with the Cubs holding a 4-1 lead over the Phillies in the first game of a doubleheader. Smith launched a pinch-hit grand slam off Greg Harris to blow the game open in support of a complete game by Rick Sutcliffe. It's one of 28 pinch-hit slams on record for the Cubs.

3) Glenallen Hill, 1993-94, '98-2000
Hill is most famous for the home run he belted to a rooftop across Waveland Avenue, behind Wrigley Field's left-field wall, on May 11, 2000. The slugger also carved out a nice career as a source of strength off the bench as a pinch-hitter. Hill's nine pinch-hit home runs are the most in Cubs history. He also ranked first in slugging percentage (.545) and OPS (.892) among players with at least 100 career pinch-hit plate appearances for Chicago. His four pinch-hit homers in 1999 are a single-season Cubs record.

Best pinch-hit moment: On Sept. 5, 1993, Anthony Young of the Mets and Mike Morgan of the Cubs locked horns for eight innings. New York carried a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning and handed the ball to closer John Franco. Mark Grace drew a leadoff walk and Hill was summoned as a pinch-hitter for Rick Wilkins two batters later. He proceeded to belt a 2-2 pitch out to left for a pinch-hit blast that sealed a 2-1, walk-off win.

4) Tommy La Stella, 2015-18
Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon loved utilizing La Stella off his bench in key moments, and the infielder responded with a .288/.404/.399 career slash line as a pinch-hitter for Chicago. La Stella hit .312 as a pinch-hitter in 2018, when he set single-season Cubs pinch-hit records for both hits (24) and plate appearances (90). La Stella had 26 walks against 26 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter for the Cubs, and he ranks third in OBP (.404) and hits (44) in team history in that role.

Best pinch-hit moment: On Aug. 30, 2018, La Stella was called off the bench as a pinch-hitter for reliever Brandon Kintzler in the sixth inning. With the Cubs trailing, 4-3, La Stella connected for a two-run homer off Mike Foltynewicz that gave Chicago a 5-4 lead, which held up for the win. As much pinch-hitting as La Stella did, that marked his lone pinch-hit blast for the Cubs.

5) Dom Dallessandro, 1940-47
A number of players could have rounded out this list. Larry Biittner, for example, has the most pinch-hit RBIs (42) in Cubs history. Bob Will piled up the most pinch-hit plate appearances (224), Dave Clark had the most pinch-hit RBIs in one year (22 in 1997) and Willie Smith posted a .995 OPS as a pinch-hitter in '69. Even current Cubs outfielder Ian Happ (five homers and a 1.057 OPS in 66 PAs) has been impressive. But we'll go with Dallessandro, who had more than twice as many walks (38) as strikeouts (14) and turned in a .425 OBP (highest in Cubs history, min. 100 PAs) as a pinch-hitter.

Best pinch-hit moment: On June 21, 1942, the Cubs were holding a slim 3-2 lead over the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. With two outs in the ninth, Chico Hernandez singled and both Hi Bithorn and Stan Hack followed with walks against Dave Koslo. The Giants handed the ball to Bill McGee and the Cubs countered with Dallessandro as a pinch-hitter for Lennie Merullo. Dallessandro made manager Jimmie Wilson's move work by hitting a grand slam to propel the Cubs to a 7-2 win.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.