Josh Hamilton’s Four Home Run Game

Last night against the first place Baltimore Orioles (!) Josh Hamilton of the first place Texas Rangers lofted four home runs into the night air of Camden Yards. That this is a major league record should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. It has been accomplished 15 times previously in baseball history, which prompted the announcer for the Houston Astros, with aggressive inanity, to opine that the feat had been done “many times before.” To put Josh’s accomplishment in perspective, one of the rarest feats in baseball is generally conceded to be pitching a perfect game (no opposing player reaches base), which was accomplished for just the twenty-first time last month. So, what Josh did was rarer even than that and indeed considerably rarer than appears at first glance. For while in the more than 100 years of major league baseball, 154-162 games per season for each of 20-30 teams, only 21 perfect games have been pitched and four homers have been hit in a single game only 16 times. But in a game only two players, the starting pitchers, have a chance to pitch a perfect game, whereas 18 players have a chance to hit four homers (each of nine batters per team). That is, the 21 perfect games have been pitched out of a much smaller pool of opportunities than the mere 16 four-homer games. And that, friends, makes the four homer game an order of magnitude rarer than the perfect game. So, the Houston Astros announcer notwithstanding, Josh’s four homers last night comprised baseball history of the most rarefied sort.

For the mathematically inclined, as a rough approximation, taking the current number of teams and games in a season and ignoring the playoffs (that may amount to death of a thousand qualifications, but so be it) there are 2,430 total games per year (162 games per year, 30 teams, 2 teams per game). In 120 years that amounts to 291,600 games. In each game two pitchers have a chance for a perfect game, meaning there have been 583,200 opportunities for a perfect game to be pitched. And there have been 21, so a perfect game is pitched .0036% of the time. But in those same number of games there are 18 opportunities for a player to hit four homers, one for each batter, meaning there have been 5,248,800 chances for that. And it has happened just 16 times, which amounts to .00030% of the time. An entire order of magnitude of rarity for the four-homer game over the perfect game.

Literally, Figuratively

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Another excellent idea…

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As a followup to my diatribe against the foolishness of calling any winning play in the bottom of the last inning a “walkoff,” we have the following. Under the headline, “Josh Hamilton’s walk-off single caps Rangers rally” we read this: Jeff Gray (0-1) walked Kinsler leading off the ninth. Aaron Laffey relieved and Chavez reached […]