Yesterday, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle. Yep, you can pick your jaw up off the ground now.

The very idea of Molina hitting for a cycle is crazy enough, but it goes further. First, his home run was a grand slam. That’s only the eighth time in baseball history a player has hit for a cycle including a grand slam. Second, he only got four at-bats—he came out for a pinch-runner after legging out his triple. Third, his three extra-base hits were nearly all of what the Rangers produced; a Nelson Cruz double was the fourth and only other XBH for Texas.

I wrote an article a few weeks back about the odds of a cycle. It certainly seems as if the odds of Molina getting a cycle are about as low as it gets. But as it turns out, they aren’t quite that bad. (And now, the odds of Molina hitting for the cycle this year are 100%.)

In the most recent public run of CHONE hitter projections, Sean did just over 1500 players. I used the same process I described in my article to calculate the odds of the cycle for everybody. Ranking all the hitters CHONE projected by “cycle odds,” Molina comes out 845th. Nothing to brag about, but not as bad as you’d expect for one of the slowest players in the game. Below him are guys like Ryan Garko, Edwin Encarnacion, Tony Gwynn, and Chipper Jones.

A player’s chances of hitting for the cycle depend heavily on his likelihood of hitting a triple, but it isn’t just that. Obviously, it helps to be a good hitter (you gotta get four hits!), and you need to have some power. That’s why Gwynn ranks so low—he has a relatively good shot at getting the triple in any given game, but for him, the home run is the challenge. Molina isn’t a great hitter, nor is he a monster power hitter. But he is reasonably good at everything relevant except for the triple.

Bengie’s chances of a cycle in 150 games, given his current skill level, are about 0.42 percent. That’s less than one-eighth the chance of Curtis Granderson. But hey, it’s better than his brother Jose, who isn’t projected to hit any triples. As a result, his chances of hitting for a cycle are a nice, round zero.

Brad Johnson said...

From a theoretical standpoint, does it make sense to say Jose Molina has a 0% chance of hitting for a cycle because he is projected to hit 0 triples in 2010? He has some non-zero chance of hitting a triple after all.

I’m just picking nits here since once you factor in a fraction of a triple per season, the chance of a cycle might as well be zero. But it might make more sense to throw a qualifier in there and say something like “his chances are tough to distinguish from 0% since it’s so unlikely he’ll hit a triple.”

I bring this up only because I’ve had similar comments thrown back in my face in the past.

Jeff Sackmann said...

Brad,

It’s easy to suffer a slow death by qualifiers.

You’re right, of course. Using integer projections for triples is not the most accurate way of projecting cycle odds, since Bengie’s 1 CHONE triple could really be 0.6 or 1.4 … not a big deal if you’re deciding how much he’s worth to your team, but 0.6 triples means less than half the chance of a cycle than 1.4 triples.

Brad Johnson said...

Yea I guess we can’t please everyone. Use too many qualifiers and it seems like we’re not answering anything. Use too few and it’s too easy to refute what we say. Really we just need everyone to understand that a projection is really a range of outcomes shown as the most representative number.

Toffer said...

Coincidentally enough, Tony Gwynn Jr hit a home run today (of the inside the park kind though).

MikeS said...

How many players in the history of baseball have been pulled for a pinch runner immediately after hitting a triple?

Lonnie B said...

Tony Gwynn has now hit TWO inside-the-park home runs this year, and one of the outside-the-park variety.