Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Breaking News: Jesus found to be PED

There is a moment I love that comes from seeing an amazing performance by the away team. It's the moment when fans at the game realize that they are staring into the gaze of history and they stop cheering for the home team and instead start cheering for the accomplishment. In that moment, instead of just cheering for laundry, everyone becomes united as a fan of the sport. We witnessed this two weeks ago when Mariners fans cheered for Philip Humber's perfect game and we saw it again last night as 11,263 Oriole fans game Josh Hamilton a standing ovation as he trotted around the bases for a fourth time.

Last night Josh Hamilton became only the 16th player to hit four home runs in a game. It's a feat rarer than the perfect game which has now been accomplished 21 times. All perfect games are similar, the stat lines read almost identical. Sure Sandy Koufax got 14 Ks while Dallas Braden only got 6, but when all is said and done it's just minor semantics. The goal is to get all the players out, how it's done is a little irrelevant. The four home run game can be much more unique though. The number of at-bats it took to do it, the result of other at-bats, and the influence of the home runs on the game are completely different from game to game.

In order to hit four home runs in a game a player needs to bat at least four times. It sounds obvious, but if you're batting in the cleanup spot or lower in the lineup, you're going to need help from your teammates just to get that fourth at bat. The better your teammates are, the greater your odds are of getting enough at-bats to get the fourth homerun. When Carlos Delgado hit 4 HR in 2003 he had only 4 PA to do it in. Every other player who has accomplished this feat has had at least 5 PA. One wonders what Delgado may have been able to do with another chance to hit. In fact there have even been three occasions where a player has hit 3 HR in a game on only 3 PA. Bo Jackson did it in 1990 but was lifted from the game after the third HR. In 1966 Art Shamsky entered the game for the pitcher in the 8th inning before hitting 3 HR as the game went 13 innings. And in 1951 Del Wilbur hit 3 HR out of the 8th spot in the lineup, but since his 3 solo shots were the only runs scored that game, he never got a chance to try and make history.

Fortunately for Hamilton, he was able to get a 5th PA in to get that final home run. There have been 149 events of players getting 3 HR in 4 PA who were never able to come to the plate a 5th time, although only once did one of those players also have a double (Merv Connors, 1938). Hamilton was able to get that 5th at-bat though tying him for second with Joe Adcock with 18 total bases, one behind Shawn Green's 19 from his 4 HR day, although Shawn Green needed a 6th PA and a single to make it happen. Hamilton also became only the 5th player (Delgado, Green, Adcock, Colavito) in the 4 HR club to get on base in all of his appearances.

In the end, Hamilton was presented with a great opportunity and took full advantage of it, being as perfect as any batter could possibly be. A pitcher's possibilities for perfection are limited to 27 outs (unless we get dueling perfect games) but a batter is only limited by how often he can get up to the plate. We can only compare batters to those who have come before him and Hamilton's performance last night stacks up against any of them. It probably doesn't hurt Hamilton that it's a contract year too.

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