Back before the playoffs slammed shut door after door after door, the Diamondbacks hosted the Rockies in the NL wild-card game. Those were eight and a half wild innings, and from a win-expectancy perspective, the single most important event was a triple by Archie Bradley. I wrote it up as a whole post, because I’m a sucker for the rare pitcher triple. Pitchers don’t hit triples. Bradley’s included, this year there were eight of them. Bradley hit one. Jeremy Hellickson hit one. Patrick Corbin hit one. Jake Arrieta hit one. Luis Perdomo hit four.
Four triples. Luis Perdomo, a starting pitcher for the Padres, hit four triples. He had a total of five hits, and the other one was a double. No singles in the bunch. But anyway, back to the triples. He had half of all the pitcher triples in baseball. The Blue Jays just finished with five triples. That’s the whole entire team. The last pitcher to reach four triples in a season was Robin Roberts in 1955. Dontrelle Willis hit three triples in 2007. Mike Hampton hit three triples in 1999. Three is close to four, but three isn’t equal to four. The last team with at least four pitcher triples in a season was the 1977 Pirates. The Royals have three pitcher triples in franchise history. I know they don’t usually bat anymore, but this is 2,268 plate appearances we’re talking about. The Royals have been around a long time. Perdomo just left their pitchers in the dust.
What can we learn about baseball from Luis Perdomo’s four triples? Probably not very much. But this is nevertheless a statistic crying out for exploration. You know what we have to do. We have to go through each of the triples, to see how they could’ve happened.
One point is important to understand: Perdomo is not a good hitter. Over two major-league seasons, he’s batted .119, with 37% strikeouts and a -3 wRC+. He didn’t bat in the minor leagues. Not even once. Perdomo isn’t the worst pitcher-hitter around, but he is pretty normal, by pitcher-hitter standards. Those standards are comically low.
One other point is important to understand: The samples are small, but it looks like Perdomo might be baseball’s fastest pitcher. Even having any measurements requires that pitchers have batted and sprinted, and none of them have really done it enough, but based on the numbers in that Tangotiger tweet, Perdomo is clear of the next-fastest pitcher by more than a foot a second. Perdomo hit a fast triple in the last game of the season. Since we don’t know any better, let’s stick with that average sprint speed of 29.1 ft/sec. Here’s the 2017 leaderboard. That would make Perdomo one of the fastest players overall. He’d be tied with Lorenzo Cain and Derek Fisher. Fisher made the Astros’ playoff roster, mostly to pinch-run.
What we have, then: a bad-hitting pitcher who is fast. Everybody knows their own speed. No one is surprised by how fast they are. Perdomo is presumably aware that his legs are more of a weapon than his bat. So when the ball is hit between the lines, that’s when Perdomo turns it on. Perdomo has the necessary two traits — the speed, and the willingness to use it. So let’s finally watch some triples. How did all four ultimately happen? Here they are, in chronological order.
Triple No. 1
Oh. I mean, on the plus side, this is a stand-up triple, and it goes in the box score. The Padres emerged from this plate appearance in better shape than they’d been in before it. But there is that little quirk about triples: A triple frequently needs a mistake. Some triples are doubles plus mistakes. Some triples are singles plus mistakes. And some triples are outs plus mistakes. Big, honking mistakes, like this mistake made by Keon Broxton.
The only conclusion I can reach is that Broxton lost the ball in the lights at the last second. It’s either that or he’s actually physically repelled by the baseball, which, come to think of it, might explain his issues making contact. I don’t like to blame a player for losing the ball — it happens, almost at random. Those lights are bright. But was this triple “deserved”? Ehh, no one deserves anything. Nothing is owed to you. Things happen that sometimes involve our bodies and then, in time, we die. Luis Perdomo hit a triple. He would hit three more of them.
Triple No. 2
According to Statcast’s catch-probability leaderboard, Keon Broxton finished at nine catches better than average. That ranked him tied for 11th place. Billy Hamilton, meanwhile, finished at 10 catches better than average. That ranked him tied for ninth place. Broxton is a good defensive center fielder, and Hamilton is an even better defensive center fielder, and if you want to play the credit game, then I suppose you could give Perdomo credit for hitting balls past both Broxton and Hamilton anyway. That’s not really how it works, though. Hitting a ball near a defender isn’t like pitching a ball near a hitter. Perdomo didn’t intentionally hit a fly-ball slider. Hamilton, like Broxton above, just biffed it.
This one wasn’t quite so easy to catch. But just from watching the clip, it seems like Hamilton didn’t close at full speed, perhaps aware of the left fielder’s presence. This might’ve been easier to catch otherwise. Whatever. Triple! Stand-up triple. Perdomo didn’t stop running until he had to. He is a good runner.
Triple No. 3
One good way to hit a triple: Have a defender make a mistake. Another good way to hit a triple: Hit a double in the vicinity of San Francisco’s Triples Alley! It’s right there in the name. This is a solid, opposite-field line drive. Hunter Pence wasn’t even that close when the ball hit the ground.
On the other hand, what are we going to say about the route? Pence didn’t seem to give himself that much of a chance. Here’s the Statcast diagram of the whole play, from start to finish. Pence did not take a straight line to where the ball returned to the Earth.
Had Pence run in a line, and had the line been the right one, maybe the ball gets caught. Might be the kind of catch that scrapes up Pence’s elbows, and a full-body dive can hurt a guy, but there’s at least the consideration. In any case, a triple’s a triple. For the third time in a row, Perdomo didn’t even have to slide.
Triple No. 4
The last game of the season, and the weirdest triple yet. You just don’t see very many triples on balls hit down the left-field line. Why would that be? Because the left-field line is closer to third base than the right-field line, and triples are all a matter of timing. Timing and, I guess, opportunity. Perdomo created an opportunity by hitting the ball fair, and the opportunity got a boost when the batted ball bounced past Pablo Sandoval.
And then, just to put it all over the top, Jarrett Parker seemed to take his damn time. Parker, from the looks of things, assumed the double, and nothing more. Didn’t think there was any reason to hurry. Parker figured Perdomo would be happy with two bases. Perdomo decided on three right out of the box.
Said Perdomo: “Right when I hit it, I was thinking about [a triple], because I know I have good speed. Every time I hit the ball, I’m trying to go hard about the box.”
You have to know your opponent. Even when it’s the season’s last game and you play for the worst team in baseball. Perdomo earned every triple just by trying to advance in the first place. He could’ve stayed on second, like many pitchers would. Some of the triples were also in large part a gift, but only a fraction of all triples are “clean.” All I wanted to do was find out how we got here, and I’m satisfied.
After that final triple, one of the Padres’ announcers referred to how Perdomo had come up originally as a young guy as a shortstop. When I heard that, I was actually a little disappointed; I didn’t want to think of Perdomo as having much of a hitting background. It would take some of the fun away. “Former hitter hits four triples” doesn’t make for a compelling exploration. But I can’t…seem…to verify this? I can find no record of Perdomo as a shortstop. The previous major-league Luis Perdomo — who also played for the Padres — wasn’t a shortstop. The Luis Perdomo presently in the minors is an outfielder and a first baseman, but not a shortstop. I don’t know where this information comes from. I certainly don’t want to assume the team’s own broadcast was mistaken about something biographical. Not in game 162 when discussing a guy who’s been around a couple years. I just don’t know what else to think. I don’t think Perdomo used to be a shortstop. I think he’s a pitcher, a regular pitcher, and he hit four triples in one season.
When you watch the clips above, one obvious takeaway is that Perdomo easily could’ve ended up with fewer than four triples. In the interest of balance, though, I’ll also point out that Perdomo easily could’ve ended up with more than four triples. Here’s where his one double settled:
Here’s a diving catch that was made with no backup in place:
And here’s Perdomo getting robbed by none other than Jarrett Parker:
That happened in Perdomo’s first game of the season. Maybe, by the end, Parker just felt guilty.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.