Cycle starter for hire

For reasons (all good) which are too mundane to explain here, I’ve seen more professional baseball games live in the past week than I normally do in an entire year: three major league tilts between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and one minor league contest between the Harrisburg Senators and the Erie Seawolves. And those games reveal that I appear to have acquired an inexplicable and unexpected superpower of sorts. Evidently, my presence at a game dramatically improves the odds that some player will hit for the cycle that day.

For non-baseball people, “hitting for the cycle” means that an individual player has at least one of each of the four possible kinds of hits — a single, a double, a triple, and a home run — during a single game. It’s a relatively rare feat. Simply getting four hits — of any sort — in a single game is an impressive feat, since a player will typically only get four or five turns at bat in any give game, and an average hitter could reasonably be expected (statistically speaking) to only get one hit during a typical game. Spreading those four hits out across the full range of options isn’t something most (any?) hitters can actively aim to do, and so the odds of any given player hitting for the cycle in any given game are very long indeed. (FanGraphs has a lengthy analysis of just how unlikely hitting for the cycle is that suggests an average hitter would manage it roughly once every 23,000 times they came to bat.)

Last Friday, I was in Camden Yards when Cedric Mullins hit for the cycle — which made me extra happy, since he plays for my favorite team, and his hits played a major role in helping them win that night. Five nights later, courtesy of my good friend Greg Seigworth, I was in Harrisburg, PA, when Colt Keith hit for the cycle for the Seawolves (with two extra hits, for good measure). Using FanGraph’s numbers, I should have needed to attend roughly 4000 games to see two different players hit for the cycle. In a normal major league season, a team will play only 81 home games each year. So it would take roughly 50 years of full-time commitment to baseball (assuming I didn’t “cheat” with out-of-town games or minor league games) in order to witness two cycles in person.

I just did it in less than a week.

And so I am hereby offering up my services to any professional baseball team in the US or Canada: pay me a full-time salary, and I will attend all your home games. If you pay for my travel expenses, I’ll even attend some of your away games. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that my newfound superpower will only work for your team — I didn’t have a personal stake in the Harrisburg/Erie game, but I was willing to root for the home team . . . who were on the wrong end of the cycle I witnessed — but the long-terms odds are clearly in your favor. 50% of the games I attend have cycles! 50% of those games have cycles for the home team! I don’t know your team’s batting stats, but I can guarantee you that they do not include a cycle every other game — or even every other season. My rates are negotiable, but fair. My salary won’t even be close to what you’re paying for a second baseman who’s (currently) hitting only .201 and not really making up for that with his defensive skills.

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