Hill Becomes First Player in 81 Years to Hit Two Cycles in Same Season
Aaron Hill joined some very rare company when he hit for his second cycle of the 2012 season last night against the Milwaukee Brewers. In fact, it was the second cycle in the past twelve days for the Arizona second baseman, who also hit for the cycle in a June 18 interleague game against the Seattle Mariners.
Hitting for the cycle is extremely rare. Hitting for the cycle twice in the same season, let alone twice in one player’s career, is just plain silly. To put Hill’s accomplishment in perspective, he is only the second player in the past 112 years to hit for two cycles in the same season. The last man to accomplish that feat was Floyd Caves “Babe” Herman for the Dodgers… the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1931. In 2010, statisticians calculated the probability of a cycle occurring in Major League Baseball as one per 17,000 player games, or approximately 2.5 times over the course of a 162 game schedule. At the start of this season, only 293 cycles had occurred since the founding of the first major league, the National League, in 1876. Aaron Hill has almost single-handedly accounted for the number of cycles which could have been statistically expected in the approximately 42,500 total individual player games in MLB this season.
The skill set required to hit for the cycle is truly unique. A hitter must have the contact skills to hit safely in four at bats in the same game, must have the power to hit a homerun and a double, and must have the speed to leg out a triple. Classic power hitters typically lack the contact skills and agility required for a cycle, while good contact hitters often don’t possess the power to drive the ball and collect the three requisite extra-base hits. Hill’s accomplishment on Friday was even more impressive given that he saved the most difficult hit, a triple, for last.
There is, of course, some good fortune required to collect a single, double, triple and homerun in the same game. It certainly helps when you get three at-bats against Randy Wolf and his batting practice fastball, as Hill did last night. Wolf has already allowed a whopping 113 hits this season, and sports a 5.78 ERA. On June 18, Hill also had the good fortune of facing Hector “Long Fly” Noesi in his first three at-bats, who has a 5.50 ERA and is on pace to surrender over 30 round trippers this season. But none of this should take away from the extreme difficulty or rarity of Hill’s accomplishments. We are not likely to see another Major League player accomplish this feat again in our lifetime, if ever.
I cannot finish this discussion about Hill without mentioning how, as a Blue Jays fan, it irks me that Hill rediscovered his game as soon as he was traded away by Toronto last season. Hill murdered the Jays’ offence with his .205 batting average in 2010, and his Omar Vizquel-esque .584 OPS in 2011. In August 2011, he was traded with John McDonald for fellow struggling second baseman Kelly Johnson. There is no doubt that Hill needed a change of scenery last year, but part of me feared that he would rediscover the hitting stroke that allowed him to belt 36 home runs in 2009, the most ever by a Jays’ second baseman. Johnson has been doing his best Aaron Hill impersonation (circa 2010) this season, posting a .695 OPS and playing terrible defence at second. Hill, meanwhile, has been hotter than the Arizona desert, posting and .883 OPS and making many Jays’ fans rue the day that he was shipped out of Toronto. After watching Hill hit for two cycles in less than two weeks, I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, the Blue Jays made the colossal mistake of trading the best second baseman they have had since Roberto Alomar.
…and that’s the Last Word.