May 1, 2012

How rare is it to get 3 home runs and a triple in one game?

It just happened last night for the second time in 50 years. Fred Lynn did it in 1975, and last night, it was Ryan Braun. (At Petco Park, where it's unusually hard "early in the season when the 'marine layer' off the Pacific Ocean envelops the spacious facility in a thick, damp shroud." In fact, Braun was the first person to hit 3 home runs in one game at Petco Park.)

It would be better to get 4 home runs, but it's much more unusual to get 3 home runs and a triple. Triples are much rarer than home runs. And — did you realize? — the triple has become rarer over time:

With the exception of the almost extinct inside-the-park home run, the triple is rarest of hits. This was not always So. For more than fifty years after the founding of the major leagues, the home run was the rarest hit, followed by the triple, double, and single. The logic behind this was obvious: The farther a batter struck the ball, the more bases he could reach. 
Even such changes as overhand pitching and enclosed ballparks did nothing to affect the natural order of hits. From 1901 to 1929 the average distribution was: 76.9 percent for singles, 15.2 percent for doubles, 5.3 percent for triples, and 2.7 percent for homers. In the pre-Ruthian years, there were roughly three to four times as many triples as homers. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of everyday players who ended their careers before 1930 had more three-base hits than home runs. This list includes Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker, George Sisler, and Sam Crawford; the latter holds the career record for triples with 312. 
The heyday of the three-base hit was the nineteen-teens. The newly built concrete-and-steel parks had huge outfields and distant fences, with foul lines often in the 370-foot range and with center-field fences more than 450 feet away. Although a new ball was used after 1910, it was dead by modern standards and often doctored by the pitchers, so outfielders played shallow. Balls hit over their heads or line drives in the gaps (especially in the early innings before the ball got soft) could roll to the deepest part of the park. With pitching dominant and low scores common, the strategy of the times was that it was often worth the risk of stretching a double in order to get one base closer to home.... 
The emergence of the home run in the 1920s was the death knell of the three-base hit. This event was no accident, but a conscious effort by the team owners noting the correlation between the increase in home runs and the rise in attendance. The baseball establishment assisted the triples-to-homer shift in two significant ways. First, the architecture of the ballparks was changed. The outfield fences were moved in, shortening the distance for a home run and reducing the length of outfielders' throws to third. The second alteration was the ball. In the 1920s it was given a more resilient center and many more new balls were used per game. When the "rabbit ball" was introduced in 1930, batting averages and home runs skyrocketed. 
By 1920 the ratio of triples to home runs had dropped from three or four to one to only two to one. By the late 1920s triples and home runs were virtually even. In 1929 home runs surpassed triples for the first time. Over the years the gap has widened. In the late 1940s there were about 2.5 home runs for every triple. A decade later that ratio was more than three to one, and by 1988 there were almost four round trippers for every three-base hit – a level of domination the triple never enjoyed over the homer.
More at the link.

51 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

I once got...no, not going there.

MadisonMan said...

How rare is it? Well, I've never done it!

Scott M said...

And yet, Albert Pujols, late of my St Louis Cardinals, is sitting in Oakland with ZERO FRIGGING HOME RUNS AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

paul a'barge said...

I blame global warming.

EDH said...

Triples are much rarer than home runs. And — did you realize? — the triple has become rarer over time.

Viva Viagra!

Icepick said...

Anyone else thinking of this?

Chip S. said...

No. I'm thinking of this.

rhhardin said...

A home run is to the fence and everything farther, a large number of ways to do it.

A triple is more or less to some small inconvenient spot near the fence and nothing else.

AJ Lynch said...

I think it is cute that Meade has turned you onto baseball.

Patrick said...

rhhardin's reason for the statistic makes a lot of sense. It also accounts for the fact that a triple is more dramatic (all else being equal) than a home run. I would think that there's usually a play at third, so you don't find out til the very end whether the guy makes it. With a homer, it doesn't take long to get over the fence.

Good for Braun. Hope he stays clean this year. He needs to have a good year to keep or repair his reputation. He also needs to have a really good year for the Brewers to compete.

Kit said...

Way to go Braunie!

Jay said...

How rare is it to have 2 drug test samples confirm you're taking PED and then have an arbitrator over turn these test results because the samples sat in a refrigerator over the weekend?

Patrick said...

AJ Lynch, I remember thinking the same thing, and I clicked on the "baseball" tag. A surprising number were in the "pre-Meade" days. I was surprised anyway. This is like the stealth baseball blog.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Clemente had 166 triples, fourth best for players since 1920. I saw quite a few of them in person. It was a magnificent thing to watch. He was a beautiful man.

edutcher said...

To bat 1.000 in a game isn't all that common.

To do what he did is this side of astronomical.

AJ Lynch said...

I think it is cute that Meade has turned you onto baseball.

we can only imagine what Ann has turned Meade onto.

Bob_R said...

Another reason for the lack of triples is the more sophisticated use of statistics that has generally shown that the Earl Weaver "stand around and wait for a three run homer" strategy is superior to the Gene Mauch "small ball" strategy. The risk of making an out at third is usually not balanced by the reward of stretching a double to a triple.

ndspinelli said...

Triples and inside the park homers are the most exciting plays in baseball.

Braun always has a lot of family/friends when he plays in SoCal. He's been getting hammered by fans @ away games and maybe the support gut him out of his funk. That ballpark w/ the marine layer is a bear for hitting taters..no cheap ones, you have to really crush it.

ndspinelli said...

BobR, The basic rule, that I hammered into kids I coached is:

NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OR THIRD OUT @ THIRD!

Curious George said...

"Scott M said...
And yet, Albert Pujols, late of my St Louis Cardinals, is sitting in Oakland with ZERO FRIGGING HOME RUNS AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA."

He's playing for the LA Angels, not Oakland.

Ipso Fatso said...

@David

1969, Clemente up, two outs bottom of the ninth, Bucs down 1-0 to Atlanta, Cecil Upshaw on the mound. Clemente triples into the right field corner. Next up rookie Al Oliver (who would go on to have 2700 hits), he strikes out, game over. One of my favorite Clemente moments and saw it from behind home plate at Forbes. Long Liver Roberto.

Ipso Fatso said...

Correction: Long Live Roberto!!!

dd said...

JUICER!!!! CHEATER!!

Lem said...

This the guy that got his positive drug test thrown out because of a technicality.

ndspinelli said...

paul l'abarge. Maybe you heard the bozo Tim McCarver actually say he thought the great increase in opposite field homers since his playing days[60's/70's] was due to global warming. He said that during last Saturdays afternoon game Brewers v Cards where the were 3 opposite field taters. Joe Buck sarcastically called it "Tim's Inconvenient Truth"..a quick and perfect ball bust. "Brevity is the soul of wit."

traditionalguy said...

Just touching a 95+ mph fastball is a miracle. Solidly hitting 4 for 4 is an act of God with some human involvement.

Michael in ArchDen said...

Barry Bonds says "Hi!"

David said...

Ipso, you know that K just tore Clemente's heart. Amazing competitor.

Forbes was a wreck, but a fun place to watch a ball game. I've been to the new PNC Park, though I don't live in the Burg anymore. Great stadium, sketchy team.

ndspinelli said...

IpsoFacto, I saw Clemente make the best throw I've ever seen. A Met player had the temerity to try and go from first to third on a single. Clemente unleashed his cannon and w/ derision turned around to go to his position as the perfect throw nailed the runner by 10 feet. No fist pumping, no pulling a gun from the holster clown type antics. His casual turning of his back was regal.

Joe said...

Wouldn't the rarest be someone getting a walk, and then stealing all the bases before the next ball is thrown?

Cue Henry.

Partridge said...

The proliferation of home runs came about because it supposedly help raise ticket sales?

Is there anything, in politics or history or now sports that people don't think is controlled by money money money?

Pretty soon we'll be hearing how the Yanks constant superiority only stems from the ability to buy the best.

Sheesh.

lemondog said...

Will he be proclaimed a HEEEEERO?

Donald said...

The bit about "second time in 50 years" made me curious. I wondered who could have done it in 1962. Mays?

Turns out that "50 years" was misleading.

Wes Westrum, 1950.
Pat Seerey, '45.
Lazzeri, '36.
Les Bell, '28.

That's all. Six times in MLB history.
Number of 4-HR games, 15.

lemondog said...

...., the big news around Milwaukee baseball has to be the $105 million extension Doug Melvin and company handed over to Ryan Braun on Thursday. The deal extends Braun’s contract all the way through the 2020 at an average value of $19 million per season with a $10 million signing bonus.

All that money proves that he is a HEEEERO!!!!!! and that was before he hit 3 HR's, etc.,. Time for a pay hike.

Just curious, how much are Brewer tickets?

Alan said...

Talk about rare--on the 19th of last month, the Astros hit three triples in the first inning of their game against the Nats. This was the first time in club history that three triples were hit in one inning. It was only the second time in club history that they'd hit three triples in one game--a history that includes several years of playing with the huge outfield in the Astrodome.

What makes it seem even more rare is because it was accomplished by the Astros, and Lord knows nobody is paying attention to them, anyway. Sigh.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think it is cute that Meade has turned you onto baseball."

You know what's cute? Ryan Braun.

And Meade.

Ann Althouse said...

And Eric Hovde.

And Aaron Rodgers.

All in Wisconsin.

Bill Harshaw said...

Seems to me the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium both had 450+ center fields in the early 1950's.

Donald said...

I decided to take a crack at answering the question in the post title.

"How rare is it?"

A round-number estimate of "How many mlb games have been played, all-time?" is 400,000.

It's been done six times in history, so once every 66,666 games or thereabouts.

There are 18 ballplayers in the starting line-up.

So--about once in 1.2 million opportunities.

Close enough, I think. Tell me if I'm wrong.

Kelly said...

Ah, Freddy Lynn, half of the great Gold Dust Twins. He'd have been a star if he had stayed in Boston. Oh, and he was a cutie patootie, too.

Tom from Virginia said...

I am hoping Big Papi and Ryan Braun are seeing the same nutrition consultant.

Ipso Fatso said...

@David & ndspinelli:

Some other fun Clemente stuff:

Broke Bob Gibson's leg with a line drive.

Took a piece of Don Drysdale's ear off with a line drive, Drysdale then retired. (I heard Drysdale relate that story when he was the White Sox announcer before he died)

Koufax said he hit the hardest ball he ever gave up, a homer to right in Dodger Stadium that hit a light stanchion. He said it was like it was shot out of a cannon. He also said that if the Dodgers had protected him from the draft they would have won 2 to 3 more World Series in the 60s.

He is one of only two guys (the other being Ralph Kiner, another Pirate) to almost hit the Wrigley Field score board with a fly ball. I saw that on tv when it happened (probably 1970). It was a rocket to center and just missed the corner of the score board. Anyway, thanks for brining up my favorite player. And as Bob Prince used to say, We had 'em all the way!!!!

ndspinelli said...

Ipso, Since you're a Pirate fan you'll like this story. When my kids were little I took them to see a Cub/Met game in Chicago. We went to Harry Caray's for dinner after the game. I mentioned to the folks @ our table that sitting just a few tables away was Kiner, Bob Murphy, and their wives. As you probably know Kiner and Murphy did Met games for decades.

A few minutes after I commented my 6 year old daughter said she was going to the bathroom. However, she just walked over to their table and stood staring @ them. Well, Kiner and his table couldn't have been nicer. One of the wives had her sit down and they chatted for a few minutes.

Ipso Fatso said...

@ndspinelli:

Great story, your daughter must be a charmer. Kiner was before my time as a fan. I lived in Pittsburgh from 68 to 72 & then moved to Chicago and have been here ever since. Haven't been to Harry's in a long time. Great food as I recall.

RonF said...

"This event was no accident, but a conscious effort by the team owners noting the correlation between the increase in home runs and the rise in attendance."

This is where I got my "ball in the seat" theory of attendance. Concisely stated, "You can sell any seat you can hit a ball into". If the only balls your team hits are foul pops behind the plate and into the grandstands, those will be the only seats you fill. If your hitters are rocketing home runs into the outfield, the ball park will fill up and you're going to sell those seats too.

Methadras said...

Some serious shit has to go wrong in this day and age for a triple to generally emerge. A home run is a home run. You can't fight back against it. However, a triple can be foiled, but if it isn't handled correctly it can be made to happen. Even that even more elusive infield home run.

JohnnyT1948 said...

I saw Clemente make the best throw I've ever seen. A Met player had the temerity to try and go from first to third on a single. Clemente unleashed his cannon and w/ derision turned around to go to his position as the perfect throw nailed the runner by 10 feet.

Most amazing throw I ever saw was by Rocky Colavito in Cleveland against the Yankees back in the late fifties. Mickey Mantle was on second and Yogi Berra singled to right field. Colavito got it on one hop and fired home. Mantle held up rounding third but Colavito threw about 10 feet over the catcher's head. Mantle started to trot in from third, but the ball hit the concrete at the base of the stands behind home plate and bounced back to the catcher who had turned around at home plate. Mantle was out by about 15 feet...It was beautiful to see for a 10 year old who hated the Yankees and whose favorite player was Rocky Colavito.

ndspinelli said...

Methadras, Commenting while drunk and stupid is never prudent. You can @ least eliminate one of those liabilties.

TomB said...

Why compare 4 hr in a game with 3 hr and a triple? How about 4 triples in a game? Last time was 1897.

TomB said...

oh, and only twice ever

Lyle said...

Stadium effects of the modern era decrease triples, I think. Probably pointing out the obvious. Dead ball era had slower balls rolling around after hit and in much more spacious grounds.