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Three Strikes: Cyclebabble edition

9/3/2008

STRIKE ONE -- CYCLICALITY DEPT.: There's nothing Three Strikes loves more than a big day of cycling (not to be confused with a long day at the Tour de France). So let's reflect on baseball's first two-cycle day since 1920:

Adrian Beltre came to the plate in the eighth inning Monday needing a triple for the cycle. I'm not sure what the odds of that happening were, since I forgot to go to M.I.T. this week. But I do know it was Beltre's 522nd at-bat of the season -- and he had zero triples at the time. So naturally, this being baseball, he tripled. In the last 50 years, only one other player hit for the cycle in September in a season in which he was triple-free at the time. That was noted cycle specialist John Olerud, on Sept. 11, 1997. Olerud, you might recall, hit for the cycle twice in his career -- and both times, his triple was his first in three years. That, folks, is maximizing your cycling opportunities.

Stephen Drew's cycle included a second double, which puts him in a whole different group of cyclists. Just 10 other cycles in the last 50 years have been accomplished by men who had four extra-base hits that night. The only other active player to do it: Drew's Arizona teammate, Eric Byrnes, in 2003.

• Finally, out in Southern California, two cycles in one night is something they'd have a little trouble relating to. Why? Because Beltre and Drew produced more cycles on one night than the Dodgers and Padres have churned out in the last 59 seasons combined. OK, that's not all the Padres' fault, since they've only existed for 40 seasons. But they've never had a cycle. Ever. And the Dodgers have had only one of them since 1949 -- by Wes Parker in 1970. Just so you know how to put that in perspective, 621 different players have gotten at least one hit for the Dodgers since 1950, and 557 have gotten at least one hit for the Padres -- but only one of them hit for the cycle. What's up with that, huh?

STRIKE TWO -- BIG Z DEPT.: Well, those heirs to Wilbur Cooper can rest a little easier tonight. Carlos Zambrano's hitting streak is over, at 13 starts in a row. So Cooper remains the proud owner of the longest hitting streak by any pitcher in the live-ball era (16 consecutive starts in 1924). A few tidbits on Zambrano's streak:

• First off, it lasted longer than Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak -- well, in days, anyway. DiMaggio got a hit in every game he played in between May 15 and July 16, 1941. That's 63 days. Zambrano got a hit in every game he pitched in between June 2 and Aug. 26. That's 86 days. Granted, Zambrano took 66 more days off during his streak, but that's not his fault. Can't argue with the facts, ladies and gentlemen. And those are genuine, authentic, real-life facts.

• Zambrano batted .429 during his streak, with three homers, two doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs. That means that since June 2, he has hit more homers than Ryan Zimmerman, more triples than Ichiro and more doubles than Luis Castillo. Oh, and he has driven in more runs than Frank Thomas.

• Finally, even with the demise of The Streak, Zambrano is still hitting .355 this year, with four homers and 14 RBIs. Not only does that give him a better average, more homers and the same number of RBIs as Andruw Jones, those are numbers matched by only two pitchers since 1900:

Red Ruffing, 1930 (.364, 4 HR, 22 RBIs)

Don Newcombe, 1955 (.359, 7 HR, 23 RBIs)

So what are the chances the home run that wins the World Series for the 2008 Cubs will be hit by Carlos Zambrano? Hey, don't bet against it. He has a higher slugging percentage than Aramis Ramirez.

STRIKE THREE -- BI-LEAGUAL DEPT.: CC Sabathia has done many amazing things this year. But loyal reader Reuben Frank checked in to report the most spectacular feat of them all:

Sabathia is now leading the National League in shutouts (with three). Which is kind of notable, since he's also tied for the American League lead in shutouts (with two).

So I know what you're thinking: Has any pitcher ever led both leagues in shutouts in the same year? Heck, I couldn't find any pitcher who has led both leagues in anything in the same year. If you can, report your findings to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com. Our Sabathiologists are standing by.