Sunday, June 6, 2010

No-Hitters, Cycles, Lies, and Statistics

A quick post about today's fan poll / trivia question during a narrow Rockies win. The question was: which is easier to do, hit for the cycle, or throw a no-hitter?* The answer, as given to us, was the cycle by a narrow margin. 289 times in baseball history a player has hit for the cycle, while there have been 265 no-hitters.

*This isn't the question, but I personally think the no-hitter is obviously the more valuable of the two. It's a lot easier to lose when someone on your team hits for the cycle than when you throw a no-hitter, and, moreover, while it is fairly easy to imagine a day significantly better than 4-4 with one of each type of hit (say, 4-4 with three homers and a double), it's hard to do much better than a no-hitter.

Thing is, the number of each does not answer the question. Had the question been, "which is more frequent?" then we could talk. But "which is easier to do?" is very different. Consider that in any given game there are 2 pitchers - one for each team - that have an opportunity to throw a no-hitter, while there are 18 (or 16, realistically, in the NL) batters who have a chance to hit for the cycle. With that in mind, I would say that it is much much harder to hit for the cycle than to throw a no-hitter. Since the cumulative numbers of each feat are about equivalent, you could in fact say that it's about eight or nine times harder to hit for the cycle than to throw a no-hitter.

The moral of the story is be careful how you use your statistics.

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