Shohei Ohtani is a fascinating player. He’s perhaps slightly less fascinating this season while he is only hitting and not pitching as well, as he did in his first campaign. Although the fact that pitching can be taken away from him for a season and he can still be a useful baseball player is still pretty incredible. On the season, Ohtani is hitting .281/.350/.512, good for a 131 wRC+ in 137 plate appearances. Last night, Ohtani added the latest interesting wrinkle to his career by hitting for the cycle.
Here’s the first plate appearance of the game, in which Ohtani hit a three-run homer.
While the triple is the most difficult part of the cycle, the home run is the most important in terms of its impact on the field. This was particularly true last night, as Ohtani’s homer put the Angels up 3-0, increasing the team’s win probability by 18% as the biggest play of the game. The next time Ohtani came up, he hit a double.
A homer might have been better, but a double is still a pretty good outcome for an at-bat. While the cycle might be more trivial and fun than any other four-hit day, there have only been 44 single-game efforts with at least 10 total bases this season, the requisite number for a cycle. It’s really the triple that makes a cycle possible, and Ohtani got his by burying a ball in the right field corner, as seen below.
It’s perhaps the triple that causes some to minimize the importance of the cycle given triples are somewhat random, though putting a triple with a single, a double, and a homer in the same game is generally accomplished by good players. The graph below shows every player who has hit for a cycle, per Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, and their career WAR. The names are all jumbled on the side of the graph, but you might be able to pick out a few favorites in that mess. Find the full list here.
The average player who hits for the cycle has put up a very good career, as seen by the average and median in the table. The average and median career wRC+ by players who have hit for the cycle is 112. A cycle is somewhat random, but players who hit them are pretty talented and are somewhere in the middle of very good careers.
A cycle isn’t a cycle without a single, and here’s Ohtani’s:
A few other notes about Ohtani’s cycle, as the 272nd cycle and 245th player to hit one, with data coming from the Play Index:
- At 24 years and 343 days, Ohtani is the 48th-youngest player to hit a cycle.
- In his 135th game, Ohtani was the 27th-fastest to a cycle.
- This was only the 32nd cycle with only four plate appearances.
- This was just the 86th cycle to take place without an out.
- This was only the 34th cycle in which the cyclist’s team scored five runs or fewer.
- Ohtani is just the fifth designated hitter to go for a cycle, joining Travis Hafner, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and John Mayberry
Ohtani is also the 19th player in history to record a cycle and have pitched to a batter at some point in a career. It might not be a surprise that Ohtani is not the inning or pitching WAR leader among players with a cycle, but it might be a surprise that the player ahead of him is not Babe Ruth, as the Sultan of Swat never recorded a cycle despite hitting 136 triples. The table below shows all players with a cycle who have pitched to at least one batter.
George Sisler is perhaps best known for holding the single-season hit record for quite some time before Ichiro Suzuki broke the record in 2004, but he also pitched, amassing most of his innings in his first few seasons in the majors. Stan Musial’s story is an interesting one told here by Derrick Goold. Nearly all of Jimmie Foxx’s innings came in the final season of his career. Basically everybody else is in the position-player-pitching-in-a-blowout situation. Hopefully Ohtani sits atop this leaderboard in the next year or so. Cycles might not have the same on-field importance as a bunch of homers, but they are still impressive, and even in a year when he doesn’t take the mound, Ohtani continues to impress.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.