Hitting for the cycle is a rare and highly coveted feat in the sport of baseball. This impressive achievement occurs when a batter successfully hits a single, double, triple, and home run all in the same game. The term “cycle” refers to the completion of a sequence or series, and in baseball, it represents the batter’s ability to hit for all four types of hits in a single game.
Hitting for the cycle is a testament to a player’s skill, athleticism, and strategic ability, and is celebrated as one of the greatest accomplishments a batter can achieve in the game of baseball.
- Hitting for the cycle in baseball is when a batter gets one of each possible base hits (single, double, triple, and home run) all in one game.
- This feat must be accomplished in a single game but it is okay if the game goes to extra innings.
- From 1882-2022, hitters have only hit for the cycle 339 times, which means it happens in less than 1% of all games played.
- The first known use of “Hitting for the cycle” was by The Tennessean newspaper back in 1921 when George Sisler set a record with 12 total bases that day.
- In MLB, this accomplishment is difficult because pitchers are fast and smart with strong arms, so getting triples can be tough; however, 29 players have done it more than once, including Joe DiMaggio who did it twice, adding an additional home run both times as well as current stars Christian Yelich and Trea Turner who each have three cycles under their belt respectively.
Understanding the cycle
To understand how a hitting cycle is completed and how difficult it is, there are a few things to understand. First, this feat must be accomplished in a single game, but it is okay if the game goes to extra innings.
Consider this: in MLB, there are 4,860 total regular-season games played per season. Since baseball has been around for over 100 years, you can reasonably assume that there have been close to half a million baseball games played in the last century. So, how many times have players hit the cycle during this time? From 1882-2022, hitters have only hit the cycle 339 times, which means it happens in less than 1% of all games.
The history of the cycle is also something that is studied and debated. Because record keeping was not as organized prior to 1920, many accomplishments are disputed. Some say that Charles Foley of the Boston Red Caps was the first hitter to hit the cycle in 1882, but other historians claim the feat was done six years earlier by George Hall of the Philadelphia Athletics.
At that time, fans and the media lauded the accomplishments, but the term “cycle” was not used. The first known use of the phrase “Hitting for the cycle” was by the local newspaper, The Tennessean, in 1921. At that time, Hall of Famer George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns hit the cycle and set the record for total bases in a game with 12. Below is the newspaper clipping. Because this article is from a regional paper over 100 years old, the quality has been affected, but it is still legible. See below for a little slice of history:
Hitting for the cycle in Major League Baseball
In MLB, Hitting for the cycle is a big deal because of the quality of pitching and competition at that level. Additionally, the hardest part of Hitting for the cycle is getting a triple. The ball must be hit to a place where the fielders need extra time to get the ball, which is hard. Today’s fielders are fast, smart, and have strong arms.
Difficulties aside, this exclusive club has a few VIP members. Of all the players to have hit for the cycle at least once in their career, 29 have done it more than once. This list contains some of the biggest names in baseball history, both yesterday and today:
- Joe DiMaggio – The Yankee Clipper hit the cycle twice (1937 & 1948), but his were different. Each of his cycles had five hits. Not only did he get all necessary four hits for the cycle, but he added an additional home run both times.
- Lou Gehrig – The Iron Horse also hit the cycle twice (1934 & 1937), and the first time he did it, he also won the batting triple crown that year, hitting .363/49/166.
- Current MLB stars Christian Yelich and Trea Turner are the two current players that each hit for the cycle three times, with Yelich completing this feat last season against the Reds.
The impact of Hitting for the cycle
When a hitter hits for the cycle, aside from getting their name added to the history books, there is a significant impact on helping the team win. For example, look at the 2018 playoffs. In Game 3 of the ALDS, Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox became the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game. The final score: Boston won 16-1.
Another impact of Hitting for the cycle is money. An MLB contract almost always contains incentives for players to make more money based on their statistical performances. In some cases, a hitter’s agent will add financial incentives if they hit the cycle.
In 2000, Eric Chavez of the Oakland A’s became the first player to hit for the cycle at the Oakland Coliseum. 48 hours later, Chavez and his agent agreed to a 4-year $12 million contract extension. When you hear that baseball is a game of timing, it doesn’t always mean on the field.
How to improve your chances of Hitting for the cycle
Baseball today is a different game, making Hitting for the cycle much harder. In the past, it was common for pitchers to throw 7-9 innings per game, so hitters would see a pitcher 3-4 times a game and learn their timing. Today, teams have so many specialist pitchers that it is not uncommon for hitters to face a different pitcher in each at-bat of a game. Because of this, hitters will see different deliveries, angles, and pitches all day.
The best way to ensure that you can hit consistently, no matter who is pitching, comes down to basic hitting mechanics. If you are facing a power pitcher, then learning an inside-out swing will work. If you are facing a slower, off-speed pitcher, then you may need to change foot positions in the batter’s box.
However, just because facing confusing pitchers makes the game more difficult for hitters, a positive mindset can fix it. In 2017, JD Martinez of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit four home runs off four different pitchers in one game, each with a unique style. As you watch the video, pay attention to the announcers who said that during an interview, JD told them that he expects good things to happen every time he comes to the plate, no matter what.
Who has hit the most cycles in baseball?
The current MLB record for hitting the most cycles in history is 3. It is a 3-way tie between two current players and one recently retired player:
1. Christian Yelich (2018 – twice, 2022)
2. Trea Turner (2017, 2019, 2021)
3. Adrian Beltre (2008, 2012, 2015) *Retired in 2018
How rare is hitting for the cycle in baseball?
Hitting for the cycle is extremely rare in baseball. From 1882-2022, hitters have only hit the cycle 339 times, which means it happens in less than 1% of all games.
How many players have hit a cycle?
Of the 339 times a hitter has hit the cycle, five players have done it three times, and 24 players have done it twice, which means 305 different hitters have hit the cycle. There will always be a debate because of poor record keeping during the dead ball era (pre-1920), but historians accept this data as accurate.
Did Babe Ruth ever hit for the cycle?
No, Babe Ruth never hit for the cycle, but names can be confusing. At the same time Ruth played for the Yankees, the Chicago Cubs had a player named Babe Herman, who hit for the cycle twice in 1931.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth has a similar name, but that’s it. While Ruth is considered one of the greatest hitters of all time, he never hit the cycle during his 22-year career. While he was feared at the plate, he was not a fast runner at all.
Hitting for the cycle is just as rare as witnessing a no-hitter. They have both happened about the same number of times in baseball history, so if you are lucky enough to see one live, you have witnessed a phenomenon that happens in only 0.14% of all games.
To achieve this feat, hitters need power, speed, situational awareness, and good coaching. To get those things, hitters need to work on different swings and grips and make sure they pay attention to the basepaths. A question for young players out there: When are we going to see your name in the headlines for hitting a cycle? Spring is coming—time to get out and practice that swing.
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