Most pinch-hitting assignments don't last more than 90 seconds. To get ready for those 90 seconds, Dobbs puts in hours of daily behind-the-scenes work.
Some of it is physical, such as those fifth-inning sprints through the clubhouse, and the countless swings he takes in the batting cage.
But the 30-year-old spends just as much time working on the mental nuances of pinch-hitting.
When the clubhouse opened to reporters 3 1/2 hours before Friday's game in St. Louis, Dobbs practically had his nose pressed to the screen of a laptop computer. The Phillies were about to open a series against the Cardinals, so Dobbs reviewed video of every righthanded pitcher on the St. Louis roster.
He watched how those pitchers attacked other lefthanded hitters in certain situations. He watched his own at-bats against some of the Cardinals pitchers. He got an idea of the velocity of their fastballs and how their pitches moved.
He does this before taking batting practice every day. And as a game unfolds, if Dobbs gets a hunch he could face a certain pitcher in the late innings, he'll run up to the clubhouse and watch some more video of that pitcher.
"Sort of a refresher course," he said.
Once the game starts, Dobbs will watch the first few innings, just to get into the flow of the game. After he loosens up, he'll pop into the batting cage behind the dugout to take some swings. Sometimes Ali Modami, the Phillies indefatigable batting-practice pitcher, will flip balls while Dobbs hits them into a net. Other times, Modami will actually throw pitches.
"Does all this help me tremendously? I don't know," said Dobbs, who is 20 for 48 (.417) with 14 RBIs (best in the majors) as a pinch-hitter this season. "Does it translate into hits? I don't know. Ultimately, I have to take a good swing and square the ball up.
"But I do know that it makes me feel prepared, and not feeling prepared is the worst thing that can happen. You need to feel good going into an at-bat. You can't go up there with any doubt. I want to think that preparation is a huge help. That's why I do it."
In this era of modern stadiums and video and scouting technology, there is no excuse for a pinch-hitter not to be ready when called upon.
Most of the new stadiums have batting tunnels that are easily accessible to players during the game, and most teams employ extra batting-practice pitchers.
"For reserve players, some of the resources they have these days are a godsend," said Greg Gross, the Phillies' all-time leader in pinch-hits with 117.
Gross, now the hitting coach for the Phils' triple-A Lehigh Valley club, ranks fifth all-time with 143 pinch-hits in a career that began in 1973 and ended in 1989. On cold nights at Veterans Stadium, Gross would stretch in the sauna. Anything to break a sweat. He occasionally hit balls off a tee in the weight room, but there was no video of individual pitchers.
Gross does not believe that pinch-hitting is any easier in this era of resources.
"Pitchers have just as much information as the hitter does," he said. "It's still extremely hard to do."
Gross said the biggest challenge of pinch-hitting is mental.
"You have to force yourself to stay in the game," he said. "It's a mind-set. The years when I had the most success, I had a manager who would find a way to get me a start now and then so I could get at-bats and stay fresh.
"I think that helps Greg. He can play multiple positions and [manager] Charlie [Manuel] can get him a start now and then to keep him sharp.
"The other thing I think helps Greg is his work ethic. I saw it in spring training. He puts in quality time in the cage. It's not just eyewash. He's a tremendous asset to that team."
First-base coach Davey Lopes agreed.
"Pinch-hitting is an art," he said. "You get one shot, usually late in a game in a critical situation against a tough pitcher. . . . It's a tough job. It's almost like being a field-goal kicker. These guys are specialists. Dobbs is very good at what he does."
Not long ago, Dobbs' career was at a crossroads. He was released by Seattle before the 2007 season. Phils general manager Pat Gillick was the Mariners' GM and later a front-office consultant during Dobbs' time in the organization. Gillick plucked Dobbs off waivers, and it has worked out nicely for everyone.
"Pat being familiar with me and believing in me has been a blessing," Dobbs said.
Dobbs has gotten more starts at third base lately as Pedro Feliz recovers from a back injury. When Feliz returns, Dobbs will move back to more of a utility role.
Dobbs still aspires to be an everyday player. For the season, he is hitting .305, with four homers and 22 RBIs. The day a reserve player loses that desire is the day he needs to retire. But for now, there's nothing wrong with being the most productive pinch-hitter in the majors.
"In this great game, if that's my role, I won't fight it," Dobbs said.
Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.