Aaron Hill doesn’t seem to understand the rarity of hitting for the cycle. Sure, it’s not as rare as a perfect game or an unassisted triple play, but it’s still hard to do. The Padres have never had a player hit for the cycle, and they’ve been around since 1969. Yet, Hill hits for the cycle 11 days ago, and just for good measure, he did it again last night.
On June 18th, Hill hit for the first cycle of his career against Seattle. Last night, he picked up his second career cycle – and his second cycle in less than two weeks – against the Milwaukee Brewers. He completed his cycle last night in just six innings, and he became just the fourth players in the history of the game to hit for the cycle twice in a single season. If he hits one more at any point in his career, he will match the all-time record of three. It’s not an easy thing to do folks.
Back in 2010, Jeff Stackman of The Hardball Times wrote a fascinating article about hitting for the cycle. He broke down the odds of a particular player doing so, in this case Curtis Granderson, and he then broke the odds down to hitting a natural cycle (all four hits of the cycle come in order) verse an unnatural cycle. In Granderson’s case, Granderson should hit for a natural cycle once every 263,000 games. He should hit for an unnatural cycle once every 4,400 games. The math can be applied to any player if you determine their probability of getting each hit involved in the cycle, but I think Mr. Stackman proved the rarity with his analysis of Granderson.
So let’s take a closer look at Aaron Hill. Hill has 1,003 hits in his career (his 1000th hit came while completing this improbable second cycle of the season). He has 109 home runs, 16 triples, and 217 doubles. Forget about the singles for a second, and let’s see how often Hill hits a triple. In his career, Hill has 4,087 plate appearance. That means he hits a triple 0.3% of the time he steps to the plate. He hits a double 5.3% of the time he steps to the plate. And he hits a home run 2.7% of the time.
Those aren’t the types of numbers that shout out, “high cycle probability coming through!” But baseball doesn’t care about odds. It doesn’t care about the complete nonsensical outcomes certain players have in a given day. Aaron Hill doesn’t care either.
“You can’t think about it,” he said after the game. “You look for a ball up and hope things work out.”
Hill was traded for by Kevin Towers for Kelly Johnson. At the time, the move didn’t make much sense to most people, but Towers saw something in Hill that he didn’t see in Johnson. He saw plate discipline. The trade has worked out well. In 106 games with the Diamondbacks, Hill is hitting .306/.370/.511.
Check back here in two weeks when Hill becomes the first player to hit three cycles in a single season.
For more on the Diamondbacks, be sure to check out Venom Strikes.