SAN FRANCISCO -- Travis Ishikawa was once one of those players who hated pinch-hitting. Now, he's the best in the business.
Ishikawa -- 9-for-17 (.529) as a pinch-hitter -- and Nate Schierholtz -- 5-for-10 in the same role -- are the Majors' top two pinch-hitters and a huge reason why the Giants lead all teams with a .333 average (28-for-84) in pinch situations.
"Ninety percent of it is you've go to believe," Ishikawa said of a pinch-hitter's mind-set. "Everybody says pinch-hitting's tough ... and I always believed in the same thing. ... But when your opportunities are limited in the year, you want to make the most of what you've got and that's what I've been trying to do."
Ishikawa and Schierholtz both said luck has a lot to do with pinch-hit success, but there's no question their numbers are a byproduct of their hard work. Because each game and situation is different, the two players can't have a set daily schedule, but have laid out a basic routine.
After getting loose in the middle innings -- usually starting after the pitcher's first turn through the lineup -- Ishikawa and Schierholtz said they like to hit in the cage off the pitching machine. Ishikawa said he tries to put the machine's speed between 85 and 90 mph and move to as close as 25 feet in front of the machine so, once he gets out there, "if the guy's throwing 95 it doesn't look like it's 110; it actually looks like it's 95 or, if I'm feeling good that day, maybe a little slower."
Although the two homegrown players said they still believe they have a future as everyday players in the Majors, Ishikawa said, at least for this season, one of his goals is to dominate in his newfound niche.
"I don't want to say I'm a numbers guy, but before the season, no matter what role they have me at, I want to be the best at it," Ishikawa said of being the league's top pinch-hitter. "If I'm going be the pinch-hitter for the year, then I want to strive to be the best pinch-hitter I can be."