From Tom Haudricourt’s twitter feed:
— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 8, 2012
The thing about baseball is that it has such a long history, and has had so many different styles of play over the year, that it’s rare that something is truly unprecedented. Zack Greinke starting three straight games (due to getting ejected early in one game, starting the game before the All-Star Break, and now starting the game after the All-Star Break) may be the first time it’s happened in almost 100 years, but the mere fact it had happened before (probably many times- pitchers before the 20th century often started consecutive days) is a testament to how many things have happened in baseball.
So what hasn’t happened on the Major League Level?
5 HR in a game: Nobody in the Majors has ever hit five home runs in a single game. Some have done it in the minors, the last time being in 1948. But nobody has done it in MLB, and it’s unlikely anyone ever will, barring perhaps a very long extra inning game. After all, it’s hard enough to hit four home runs. To hit five home runs, not only would the batter have to somehow hit four home runs, but also would have to get to the plate after having four home runs and not get immediately intentionally walked or plunked in the back… and keep in mind the rest of the team would have to be hitting pretty well to get a batter up a fifth or sixth time anyway, so they probably wouldn’t even get the chance.
However, there is one possible scenario that could make the 5-HR-in-one-game milestone occur. Let’s say that the winning team, which has the hitter with four dingers already, is winning by an incredibly large margin. It’s possible that, if this were the case, that a position player would be pitching for the losing team to ensure that no pitchers would get hurt doing mop-up duty. The idea of somebody getting baseball history by hitting a home run off, say, Darnell McDonald, isn’t exactly the stuff of legend… but it could happen.
Perfect game with 20+ strikeouts: Such a feat would be unquestionably be the best-pitched game in history. Kerry Wood, who came the closest when he struck out 20 and allowed only two base-runners, ended up getting the best nine-inning game score in history… 105 according to Bill James’ metric. A pitcher who were to throw a perfect game while striking out 20 would get a 107 on the game score. Technically, a completely perfect game- where everybody is struck out- would be even better- with a 114 game score, but this has never happened in professional baseball. Ever. The one person to coming close to pulling this off, Ron Necciai, struck out 27 batters but there were base-runners due to an error, a HBP, a walk and a dropped third strike that allowed the batter to get to first, allowing for a four-K inning.
The odds of there ever being a 20+ K perfect game are infintesimally low. As of this writing, there have been 201,353 games played in MLB since 1876 (the founding of the NL). Only 22 games have been perfect, and only three have had 20+ strikeouts. Now, I’ve never been good with math, but I believe this makes the odds of there ever being a 20+ K perfecto as being about… 66/40,543,030,609. That’s 0.0000001628 percent, or about a one in 614,288,342 (plus change) chance of happening in any specific game. You are over three times as likely to win a large jackpot in Mega Millions as you are to see a perfect game with 20+ strikeouts. You are almost 2,194 times as likely to get struck by lightning.
So, yeah, it’s baseball so you never know, but the odds are very much against it.
80 home runs in a season: If the best that a healthy diet, good genetics and the best stuff modern chemistry has to offer couldn’t get a man to hit 80 home runs, what could? Even if a player were to have the talent and power to do so- Barry Bonds probably did- they’d end up getting intentionally walked far too often for them to have the chance.
A player goes 8-for-8 in a nine-inning game: Twice there have been games where players went 7-for-7. One was by Wilbert Robinson in 1892. The other was by Rennie Stennett in 1975. To go 8-for-8 would require everything to go right, not just for the player, but for their team. It would have to be one of the biggest blowouts in history, and everything would have to be perfect to do it. Like the 5 HR game, it’s entirely likely that this could, in theory, happen, but it would likely mean that position players are pitching by the end. Even then, though, there’s just the mere fact that hitting a baseball in play is hard- after all, a player who is able to hit a ball only 3 out of 10 times is considered one of the best in the game. The odds of a .300 hitter going 8-for-8 are about one in 169,351… this assumes no walks and, of course, that they somehow get to the plate 8 times anyway (it hasn’t happened since 1897), which the odds ludicrously large, possibly even larger than the chances you will see a 20+ K perfecto.
And, hey, it’s baseball, so you never know.