Parker: On the Padres, Cycles, Supercycles and Pseudocycles

From SABR member Bill Parker at Baseball Prospectus on May 30, 2012:

Carlos Quentin was playing just his second game of the season on Tuesday afternoon, in the Padres’ eventual loss to the Cubs. He doubled in the second inning, homered in the fifth, and singled in the seventh, which meant that television and radio announcers were legally bound to declare that Quentin was “a triple short of the cycle.” It’s a phrase that, while true and harmless, also (as has been noted here in detail) has crazily misleading connotations; a hitter with a single, double and homer is a triple short of the cycle in the same way the guy playing Tevye in the community production of Fiddler on the Roof down the street is a Best Actor Oscar short of being Laurence Olivier.

In this case, though, it wasn’t just the announcers taking note of it. It was mentioned on Twitter, and for a brief period was the lead story on the front-and-center scroll at MLB’s website. That’s because in the extremely unlikely event it did happen (which, of course, it didn’t), it would have been the first time in franchise history that a Padres player had hit for the cycle.

That’s pretty astounding, when you look at it. The Padres have been around since 1969; this is their 44th season. In that time, there have been 133 cycles. 3.67% of all baseball teams’ seasons since 1969 (44 out of a total of 1198 team-seasons) have been Padres seasons, so given an equal distribution across the league, we’d expect the Padres to have had five of those 133 cycles (or, more accurately but absurdly, 4.88 of them). They’ve had five fewer than that. All 29 other teams have had at least one cycle, and all but the most-recently-expansion Rays have had at least two. The Diamondbacks have had five cycles in their 15 seasons, and the Rockies have had six in their 20. Six individual players have done it twice since 1969. Six players have done it against the Padres. I counted 11 players who were either former or future Padres, ranging in every way possible from Jody Gerut to Dave Winfield, who hit for the cycle with other clubs. The fact that it’s never once happened for a Padre, while wearing a Padre uniform, is getting to be quite strange.

Meaningless, too, though. Far from alone among the achievements and statistics baseball celebrates, the cycle’s meaning is mostly symbolic.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 30, 2012. Last Updated: May 30, 2012.