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August 4, 2003

Aim For The Head

Supercycles

by Keith Woolner

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Apologies for my absence as of late, especially to those adoring fans who actually noticed that I was gone (both of you... Hi Mom! ... ah, who'm I kidding, my mom doesn't read Baseball Prospectus). That said, unlike the majority of AFTH columns, this edition isn't prompted by a reader question, but rather my own interest in a baseball anomaly.

I've been interested in "hitting for the cycle" for some time. Though it's primarily a novelty achievement (having each of the four specific types of hits), it does represent a an admirable feat. It has happened 79 times between 1972 and 2002 by 74 different batters. Five batters managed to do it twice: George Brett, Cesar Cedeno, Frank White, Bob Watson, and Chris Speier.

The novelty aspect of hitting for a cycle has led to interesting situations, such as whether a batter who already has a double, triple, and home run should stop at first on a would-be double to get his name in the footnotes of baseball history. Clearly, a game with two doubles, a triple and a home run is a more valuable accomplishment than a cycle, and so, while acknowledging the uniqueness of hitting for a cycle, I'd like to introduce a term for having a game at least as good as hitting for the cycle.

* Supercycle - A game where the batter has at least four hits, including at least one home run, two hits that are either home runs or triples, and three hits that are either home runs, doubles or triples.
There have been 390 Supercycles bewteen 1972 and 2002. Two-hundred forty-seven different players have hit for a Supercycle, including 58 who've done it twice, 18 who've done it three times, four who've done it four times, and four who've done it five times.

I'll keep the four players who did it four times each as secret until the end of the article. Can you guess who they are? Meanwhile, the players with five Supercycles each are listed below. Of these four, only two of them had one standard cycle as part of them.

(* = hit for the "standard" cycle).


               Date of Supercycle
Player                1st         2nd         3rd         4th         5th
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
C. Ripken Jr.  1983-09-03  1984-05-06* 1985-09-16  1991-04-13  1999-06-13
K. Griffey Jr. 1996-05-24  1997-08-17  1997-09-01  1998-09-07  2000-07-08
J. Gonzalez    1992-08-14  1995-06-30  1996-07-30  1998-08-31  1999-09-24
A. Dawson      1979-04-27  1985-09-24  1987-04-29* 1987-06-02  1994-06-25
Random notes:

  • Cal Ripken Jr. had the most hits in a Supercycle, with six in his 1999 game (three singles, two home runs, and one double)
  • Three of these supercycles had three home runs--Dawson in '85, Gonzalez in '99, and Griffey in '96.
  • Gonzalez '98 had the only supercycle among the five-time club with no singles (two doubles, one triple, and one home run)
  • None of the players with two standard cycles made the list
  • Ripken had the longest gap in the five-time club between his first and last Supercycle.
  • Dawson is the only one to hit Supercycles in three decades.
  • Griffey had the shortest gap in which he hit five Supercycles.
  • Griffey and Dawson are the only two to have two Supercycles in the same season.

Hitting and Walking

A way to make hitting for the cycle an even more exclusive club is to add the fifth common way of reaching base, which brings us to my next new term:

* Pedicycle - A game where the batter earns a base on balls, in additon to hitting for the cycle.
This will be a subset of the 79 cycles mentioned at the top of the article, those in which the batter also walked. What percentage of standard cycles are eliminated when raising the bar to a pedicycle?

Would you believe 89%?

That's right. Only nine times in 31 years has a player walked and hit for the cycle in the same game.


Player              Team         Date of Pedicycle
--------------------------------------------------
Bobby Murcer        Yankees		1972-08-29
Joe Torre           Cardinals		1973-07-27
Lyman Bostock       Twins		1976-07-24
Mike Hegan          Brewers		1976-09-03
George Brett        Royals		1979-05-28
Keith Hernandez     Mets		1985-07-04
Robin Yount         Brewers		1988-06-12
Andujar Cedeno      Astros		1992-08-25     
John Mabry          Cardinals		1996-05-18

Random notes:

  • Each player with a pedicycle had exactly one of each kind of reaching base requried (one walk, one single, one double, one triple, one home run), except for George Brett, who had 2 homers.
  • Andujar Cedeno had his pedicycle in a season where he hit .173/.232/.277 , and only had 2 homers, 2 triples, 13 doubles, 14 walks, and 21 singles all year.
  • The Brewers and Cardinals are the only teams with more than one pedicycle in the past 30 years.

Trivia Answer: The four players with four supercycles each are: Dave Kingman, Joe Carter, Tino Martinez, and Eric Davis. If you guessed all four, go to the head of the class.

And remember: As I hope to be writing a little more frequently again, please feel free to send in your suggestions and questions for a future Aim For The Head column to kwoolner@baseballprospectus.com.

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Keith's other articles. You can contact Keith by clicking here

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