Cycle, Repeat

Baseball events are weird things. Not the individual events -- singles, doubles, etc. -- though those can often be interesting as well. I mean baseball events like hitting four doubles in a game, which has happened 24 times, most recently by the Jays' Alex Rios a little over a week ago. Or hitting three triples in a game, which has happened thirteen times, most recently by Rafael Furcal in 2002. Eight players have hit four homeruns in a game, half of whom played for the Mets at one time or another (though none did so as a Met). A player has stolen at least five bases in a single game seventeen times. Eric Young of the Rockies (1996) and Otis Nixon of the Braves (1991) are the only players to steal six bases in a single game (Young actually stole five bases in a game again with the Cubs in 2000).

I think about this sort of thing a lot, most recently a couple of nights ago when Damion Easley went single, homerun, triple in his first three plate appearances. Many players have come up a hit shy of the cycle (12,262 now and counting); only 132 cycles have been hit since 1956. 127 no-hitters have been thrown over the same span, eleven of them perfect games (120 were single-pitcher no-nos; seven were collective efforts). The Mets, in their 47 seasons, have nine cycles and zero no-hitters. The Astros, who came into existence the same year as the Mets, have had seven cycles and ten no-hitters. Amazingly, three of those no-hitters were *not* shutouts, and one was a loss. There have only been eight non-shutout no-hitters by all teams; that the Astros own 38% of them is astonishing.

But let's bring this back around to cycles. As luck would have it, the Nationals' C[h]ristian Guzman hit for one last night against the Dodgers, who can't beat anyone all of a sudden. As I'm writing this there is no mention of Guzman's feat on the front page of ESPN.com; I had to drill down to the MLB page, where it was the fourth news bullet, behind the results of the Sox/Yankees and Cubs/Phillies as well as news of Josh Beckett's forthcoming visit to Dr. James Andrews. For an event that is approximately as rare as a no-hitter I was a little surprised to see it get so little play. From an opportunity standpoint, a cycle is far more rare -- around nine times so -- than a no-hitter. Every baseball game provides two opportunities for a no-hitter, but no less than 18 chances for a cycle.

So how close did Easley really come? About as close as 27 Mets before him, each of whom also finished a double shy of a cycle. Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes each did so, in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively. Darryl Strawberry did it three times. John Olerud, owner of one of the franchise's nine cycles, also came up a two-bagger short on another occasion.

Seventy-four times a Met has rung up single, double, triple, only to miss out on a cycle by failing to hit a homerun. It has happened five times in 2008 alone: thrice by Jose Reyes (who also did it in 2005 and 2007), and once apiece by Carlos Delgado and David Wright. Lance Johnson did it three times in 1996, all in September. As did Lee Mazzilli, Joel Youngblood and Mookie Wilson. Strawberry did it in 1984.

Only six times has a Met hit a double, triple and homerun in a game but failed to collect a measly single. Remarkably, three of those were by Gregg Jefferies, all within a span of eleven months. Poor Strawberry also missed a cycle by a single.

It should come as no surprise that the triple-less cycle is the most common, having been accomplished 260 times in Met history. Darryl Strawberry is on the list eight times, leaving him a hit shy of a cycle on thirteen different occasions. Triples are the rarest of hits, so it's intuitive that it should be the most common missing hit with respect to cycles. Mike Piazza is tied for the most triple-less cycles in Met history with 12. He is tied with David Wright, who in his five big league seasons has also missed a cycle by a triple on twelve occasions. Beltran has done it nine times; Robin Ventura and Ed Kranepool, like Strawberry, have done it eight times.

None of this means anything, really, though it's great fun to sift through fifty-some-odd seasons worth of baseball data. At the least, it kills some time on a wretched off-day. At the best, it brings a renewed appreciation for the rarity of certain events, provides fodder for a blog post, and, well, kills some time on a wretched off-day.

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