Cubs' defensive replacements

Many victories have featured late-inning plays by fielders who never batted or were on base.

Some were the final play of the game.

Nobody keeps track of such game-saving plays.

But the Cubs must have had a fair number of them; according to my analysis, since the Modern Era began in 1901, they have had a total of 3,926 players who appeared in games only on defense, while winning their 9,541 games.

35 of those players did it last season, 21 of them in wins and 14 in losses.

2 of them did it in the same win, while 2 more did it in the same loss.



Using tools at, I generated a list of how many times each Cub who was not a pitcher appeared in a game and had no plate appearances

They combined to do so 6,382 times.

Next, I generated a list of how many times each Cub appeared in a game and had no plate appearances but pinch ran.

They combined for 2,456.

6,382 minus 2,456 equals 3,926 who neither batted nor set foot on a base, an average of about 32 per season.


I also subtracted the pinch runner number for each player from all of his games with no PA.

The end result was a list of 696 different players who have been defensive replacements at least once.



One Cub did so far more often than any other: infielder Mick Kelleher, 82 times in 1976-80.

Kelleher appeared in 433 total games during his 5 seasons as a Cub, so in nearly 1 of every 5, he fielded but did not bat or run.

Gary Woods is a distant second, with 61 such games.

Only 2 others had even half Kelleher's total: Hal Jeffcoat, with 58, and Doug Dascenzo, with 46.

The player with the next-highest number may come as a surprise: Albert Almora Jr., with 39.


Here are the top 11 in games as a defensive replacement only, with the seasons in which they had such games after their names:

82: Mick Kelleher, 1976-80

61: Gary Woods, 1982-85

58: Hal Jeffcoat, 1948-55

46: Doug Dascenzo, 1988-92

39: Albert Almora Jr., 2016-20

38: Jose Hernandez, 1994-2003

38: Moe Thacker, 1958-62

37: Manny Trillo, 1975-78 and 1986-88

35: Jose Vizcaino, 1991-93

32: Clyde McCullough, 1941-48 and 1953-56

32: Ray Sanchez, 1991-97


Here are the positions each played in his games, from most games to fewest:

Kelleher: 33 2B, 27 3B, 12 SS

Woods: 47 CF, 7 RF, 5 CF, 2 2B

Jeffcoat: 35 CF, 15 LF, 8 RF

Dascenzo: 30 LF, 8 CF, 8 RF

Almora: 37 CF, 2 LF

Hernandez: 17 SS, 16 3B, 3 LF, 2 2B

Thacker: 38 C

Trillo: 21 3B, 9 3B, 6 1B, 1 SS

Vizcaino: 25 3B, 6 SS, 4 2B

McCullough: 32 C

Sanchez: 21 SS, 10 2B, 1 3B



3 other Cubs were defensive replacements 30 times each: Henry Cotto (all in 1984), Gabby Hartnett (1922-40) and Bobby Sturgeon (1941-47).

No one else had more than 27 such games.


The 11 did it a total of 498 times, roughly 1 of every 8 by all players.

They averaged 45 times; the remaining 685 players, just 5.


109 players, about 1 of every 6, did it at least 10 times.

190, about 1 of every 4, did it exactly once.

Among the 1-timers: Glenn Beckert, Bill Buckner, Starlin Castro, Andre Dawson, Dexter Fowler, Rogers Hornsby, Derrek Lee, Keith Moreland, Bill Nicholson, Ron Santo, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa and Hack Wilson.

131 of the 190 never pinch ran in any games with no plate appearances.

At the other extreme, Otto Vogel pinch ran 19 times and Jose Cardenal, 11 times, while taking appearing on defense just once.



Only 2 current Cubs have been defensive replacements who did not bat or run more than 4 times.

Here is the full list:

15: David Bote

12: Ian Happ

4: Nico Hoerner

2: Nelson Velazquez

1: Yan Gomes, Zach McKinstry, Christopher Morel, Seiya Suzuki and Patrick Wisdom



Just 3 of the 26 Cubs who played at least 1,000 games for the team were defensive replacements more than 8 times.

The full list:

14: Phil Cavarretta

13: Billy Jurges

11: Don Kessinger

8: Shawon Dunston

7: Charlie Grimm, Mark Grace, Stan Hack and Heinie Zimmerman

6: Ryne Sandberg

5: Woody English, Frank Schulte and Billy Williams

4: Johnny Evers and Johnny Kling

3: Anthony Rizzo and Joe Tinker

1: Glenn Beckert, Billy Herman, Bill Nicholson, Ron Santo, Jimmy Sheckard and Sammy Sosa

0: Ernie Banks, Frank Chance, Gabby Hartnett and Aramis Ramirez



Here are how many times Cubs who played fewer than 1,000 games but hit at least 100 home runs were defensive replacements:

19: Javier Baez

18: Jody Davis

8: Wilson Contreras, Leon Durham and Rick Monday

5: Andy Pafko

0: Kris Bryant, Hank Sauer and Kyle Schwarber

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