Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Baseball Post

Josh Hamilton is the 16th player to have a four home run game.

Philip Humber had the 21st official perfect game.

And there have been 15 unassisted triple plays, the most recent one by Eric Bruntlett in 2009.

I've said this before -- there's just nothing like this in other sports. The idea that you could go to a game and see something that is that rare...there's just nothing that anyone cares about in any of the other major team sports like that.

Beyond that, I think it's incredibly cool that these three events are basically equally common (or equally rare).

The unassisted triple play list is fun, because basically anyone can do it. At a glance, it looks to me as if the best player to ever do it was Troy Tulowitzki. It is weird that it happened 7 times from 1909 through 1927, and then another 7 times from 1992 through 2009, but only once in between.

Rocky Colavito is on the four HR game list, and also was in the news this week because he had a pitching win in 1968. Obviously there's a far better match between player quality and that one, and also perfect games, but at appears that almost anyone can do both of them, too (you may have forgotten that Mike Cameron, of all people, did it).

Anyway, I like looking through the lists, and I'll pass along that the MLB site linked above has a bunch of other rare event lists, too. I think the Bobby Witt one-hitter that I mentioned earlier is the most notable thing I've ever seen...I don't think I've ever been to a three HR game, never seen a triple play. I have no memory of seeing anyone hit for the cycle, but I might well have forgotten if I did. I saw a straight steal of home, once...I think I'll stick with the one-hitter.


  1. I've never seen a no-hitter in person, but I was at the game in which Randy Velarde pulled an unassisted triple play against the Yankees. The interesting thing was that, it took about a tenth of a second, seemingly. Line drive, tag, bag -- boom, inning over. It took a few seconds to grasp the magnitude of what had happened. I'm really glad I had my eyes on the field!

  2. It's also interesting that cycles and no-hitters are, in a rough way, about equivalent in rarity, too. I think there's been about a hundred-something of both. But that info is outdated by a few years, and I don't remember how close they actually were. Not wildly different, anyway. Basically you get a couple-three a year, usually.

  3. That was back when I watched Mariners games. x-x

  4. Arlington BigFishMay 12, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    An unassisted triple play is like a thunderbolt: it's over in an instant. The multi-homer games crescendo over the course of the game, as do no-hitters & perfect games. I don't know which is more memorable -- or if the difference is worth pointing out. I was at Righetti's no-hitter vs. the Red Sox on July 4, 1982, & the only thing I remember about it is the final out (Wade Boggs fouling out to the 3rd-baseman, whose name escapes me: Charlie-something?) The most electrifying game I've ever attended that kept up the drama over several innings was Strasburg's Nats debut a couple of years ago. Total fascination with virtually every pitch he threw from start to finish. And complete domination over the Pirates.

    1. You've got your no-hitters mixed up. Righetti ended by striking Boggs out, Charlie Hayes caught a popup to end one of the Yankees' no-hitters of the late 1990s -- or wait, maybe the 1996 World Series.

      I was there for Strasburg's second game ever, in Cleveland, which was also pretty compelling.

    2. Righetti's no-hitter is the first sporting event I have a recollection of. 4th of July party at my parents house in upstate new york, I was 4. Probably 25 Yankees fans in attendance. Against the Red Sox. Obviously left quite an impression on the children.

  5. I saw John Valentin's unassisted triple play, and of course, like all of them, the noteworthy part is how surprised the player is at the end of doing it.
    I also saw Matt Young's no-hitter that wasn't when he lost in Cleveland 1-0 and the Commissioner Fay Vincent said that didn't count in the books because he only pitched eight innings. Losing a no-hitter both on the scoreboard and the record book is quite the anti-feat.

  6. I'm strange, and I admit it. How *likely* is it that a player who hits home runs at a rate comparable to Hamilton's will hit 4 HRs in a game?

    Hamilton has hit 135 HRs in 2649 PA, or about 5% of his PAs are HRs. A player who hits HRs at that rate will hava about a 1-in-150,000 chance of hitting HRs in 4 consecutive PAs. Assume 5 PAs in a game, and that's once every 30,000 games.

    Assume 15 players per year with a 5% frequency of HRs. Since 1920, that's 1,380 player-seasons. At 150 games/season, that's 207,000 player-games. So our *expectation* would be about 7 games with 4 HRs in a game. Of course, some players hit HRs at a higher rate [Ruth (7% of his PAs), McGwire (7.6%)]. Accounting for that would (roughly) double our expectation. So the actual total of 16 seems about right.

    Which leave unexplained Mike Cameron (once in 650,000 games) and Mark Whitten (once in 1,250,000 games).

    1. Addendum: the likelihood (once every X games) of 4 HRs in a 5 PA game at various HR rates:


      I said I am strange. Do you believe me now?

    2. a 4 PA game...Divide games by by 5 for a 5 PA game.

  7. It seems to me that unassisted triple plays are in actuality rarer than the other two. After all, the number of chances for a perfect game to have occurred is equal to the number of games that have been played (there can only be one perfect game per game played). Same goes for the four-HR games, more or less. But theoretically an unassisted triple play could occur in any given half-inning, so there have been 18 times as many chances for it to happen.

    1. Upon further reflection, there are 18 players per game (who could each have a four-HR game). So that's as common as an unassisted triple play. The perfect game is the common one.

  8. "I've said this before -- there's just nothing like this in other sports."

    Because baseball keeps way more stats than any other game? If basketball allowed four point shots and the reverse nerfherder then it would have more records to break too. If they made baseball even slower, more deliberate, and more turn-by-turn then the records could really fly.

    1. Yep. Basically every sport has at least some things like this. Just this year, Messi became the first ever to score five goals in a Champions League game.


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