What Is a Cycle in Baseball? The Ultimate Guide

A college baseball player looks on after he hits the ball.

There are so many records and feats that can happen in baseball, with some being rarer than others. One of the rarer things that can happen in baseball is someone hitting for the “cycle”.

So, what is the cycle in baseball?

A cycle in baseball is when a player hits a single, double, triple, and home run all in one game, in any order. There have only been 334 cycles in MLB history. Even rarer is the natural cycle, which is when the single is hit first, then the double, the triple, and finally the home run.

This article will go into more detail on what a cycle is, why hitting for the cycle is so hard, and the different variations of the cycle. Finally, we’ll detail the most cycles hit by a player and by each team.

What Is a Cycle in Baseball?

A cycle is when a player gets each of the four hits in one game. In the same game, they would have to hit a single, double, triple, and a home run to earn a cycle. They can do this in any order and it’s known as “hitting for the cycle”.

There are other versions of the cycle, like the natural, reverse, and homerun cycles. These types of cycles require getting the hits in a certain order or getting certain hits all in one game.

How Rare Are Cycles in Baseball?

Cycles are one of the rarest things that can happen in baseball. They usually only happen a few times per season.

While the numbers depend on the hitter and the season, Jeff Sackmann found that the average probability of a player hitting for the cycle is only 0.00590%. If this estimate is correct, there would be only two and a half cycles every season.

But sometimes there aren’t any cycles hit during a season. For example, no one hit a cycle in the MLB between 1896 and 1901, which was the longest time in league history without a cycle.

The opposite is also true though, as there have been many cycles hit in one season, such as in 1933 and 2009. Both of these seasons had eight cycles each.

With that said, postseason cycles are the rarest. There has only been one in MLB history, which was hit by Brock Holt in 2018 while playing for the Boston Red Sox.

Cycles are almost as rare as no-hitters, of which there have only been 314 in MLB history.

How Many Baseball Players Have Hit for the Cycle?

In the MLB, players have hit for the cycle 334 times. But, some players have hit two or even three cycles in their careers.

There have been 24 players with two cycles in their careers and only five with three cycles. So, when you consider the players with multiple cycles, there have only been 300 players who have hit for the cycle in MLB history.

Why Is Hitting for the Cycle So Hard?

An aerial view of the Colorado Rockies Stadium during the National Anthem.

There are a few reasons why hitting for the cycle is so hard. First, some of it’s out of your control. You can hit a home run without anyone interfering, but you can also hit a ball that would normally be a double or triple and get out. 

And, if you are a slower runner, you will have a hard time getting a triple. You might hit the ball well but still, end up with a double or be out if you can’t reach third safely. Even if you hit really well, you might end up with multiple home runs instead of a double or triple.

You also need to have enough at-bats and plate appearances to get all four hits in the cycle. If the other team is pitching well, or you’re at the bottom of the lineup, you might not have enough at-bats to hit a cycle.

Or, if you only get four plate appearances, you will have to hit one of each hit during each at-bat, with any outs or walks meaning you will not be able to hit for the cycle that game.

Which Hit Is the Hardest to Get in the Cycle?

The hardest hit to get in the cycle is the triple. In fact, there would be countless more if triples were easier to hit. There have been about 15,000 times where a player finished a triple short of the cycle.

According to Baseball-Reference, there were only 671 triples hit during the 2021 MLB season. There were 39,484 hits during the season, so only 1.69% were triples. Add this on top of getting a single, a double, and a home run in the same game, and hitting a cycle becomes very difficult.

Tips for Hitting the Cycle

First, you have to have at least four plate apprentices to hit a cycle. If you have less than four, you won’t be able to get all four hits necessary for the cycle.

But, the more plate appearances, the better. If you can have five or six plate appearances, you are more likely to hit for the cycle. Every additional plate appearance you have means a higher chance of hitting for the cycle.

According to FanGraphs, you are five times more likely to hit for a cycle when you have five plate appearances compared to when you have four plate appearances. And, when you have six plate appearances, you are 15 times more likely to hit for the cycle than when you only have four.

So, if you want to have the most plate appearances, you want to be at the top of the lineup. The first batter in the lineup will likely have an extra plate appearance compared to the batter at the end of the order.

You also need to be a fast runner and a good hitter if you want to get all four hits. Many players have the power to hit home runs but not the speed to get a triple and vice versa.

Is Hitting for the Cycle Overrated?

While hitting for the cycle doesn’t mean much other than being a cool feat, hitting for the cycle is not overrated.

Since it’s so rare, many people forget that the cycle exists until it happens again. And, no player is actively trying to hit for the cycle.

For example, it’s unlikely that a player would have a double, a triple, and a home run in one game, then stop at first on their next hit just for the cycle.

If they actually hit a single, then they hit for the cycle, and it’s a cool thing to add to the record books. But, if their fourth hit was a double or a triple, they would go for the extra bases and not stop just for a single.

And, if they hit a second home run instead of a single, they wouldn’t be mad that they scored just because it meant missing out on the cycle.

Since there’s no benefit to the team and a cycle doesn’t make them more likely to win the game, a player would want to sacrifice the cycle for the extra bases.

What Is a Homerun Cycle in Baseball?

A player looks on after he hits a homerun.

A home run cycle is a version of the cycle where the batter hits four home runs in one game, and all four home runs score a different number of runs between one and four.

A home run cycle is difficult because not only does the player have to hit four home runs in one game, but they also have to have the runners on base aligned. For one homerun, there needs to be no one on base, and for the others there needs to be one runner, two runners, and three runners, but they don’t have to be hit in that order.

Arguably the rarest feat in baseball, since it hasn’t happened yet, is the naturally homerun cycle. We will explain the natural cycle in the next section, but the natural home run cycle would mean a player hitting a solo homer, a two-run homer, a three-run homer, and a grand slam in that order, all in one game.

Has Anyone Hit a Homerun Cycle?

Home run cycles have been hit in college baseball before, but only one player in professional baseball history has hit a home run cycle. On July 27, 1998, Tyrone Horne hit a homerun cycle with the Arkansas Travelers, a Double-A team.

Horne’s four home runs all happened by the sixth inning. He hit the two-run homer in the first inning, the grand slam in the second inning, the solo homer in the fifth, and the three-run homer in the sixth.

In the majors, no one has hit the home run cycle. In fact, it’s quite difficult for a player to hit four home runs in a game. It has only been done 18 times in the history of the MLB.

What Is a Natural Cycle in Baseball?

Another version of the cycle is the natural cycle. To hit for the natural cycle, a player still has to hit a single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in one game, but they have to do it in the “natural” order.

So, first, a player would have to hit a single, then hit a double next, then a triple, and finally end the cycle with a home run.

When a player hits for the natural cycle, it doesn’t matter if they have an out or two, as long as all the hits are in order. But it’s unlikely that they would have more than five or six at-bats maximum, so they need to get the first couple of hits pretty quick.

If a player were to hit a natural cycle backward, it’s said that they hit an unnatural or a reverse cycle. They would have to hit a home run, a triple, a double, and finally a single for this to happen.

How Many Players Have Hit for a Natural Cycle?

Like the home run cycle, a natural cycle is even harder to hit than a normal one. Only 17 players have hit a natural cycle in MLB history.

Here are the 17 players and the date they hit for the natural cycle:

PlayerDate of the Natural Cycle
Lon KnightJuly 30, 1883
Pete BrowningAugust 8, 1886
Fred CarrollMay 2, 1887
Bill CollinsOctober 6, 1910
Bob FothergillSeptember 26, 1926
Tony LazzeriJune 3, 1932
Charlie GehringerMay 27, 1939
Leon CulbersonJuly 3, 1943
Jim HickmanAugust 7, 1963
Ken BoyerJune 16, 1964
Billy WilliamsJuly 17, 1966
Tim FoliApril 21, 1976
Bob WatsonSeptember 15, 1979
John MabryMay 18, 1996
Jose ValentinMay 27, 2000
Brad WilkersonJune 24, 2003
Gary Matthews Jr.September 13, 2006

Even fewer players have hit an unnatural/reverse cycle. Here are the 10 players to do so:

PlayerDate of the Natural Cycle
Curry FoleyMay 25, 1882
Bid McPheeAugust 26, 1887
Sam MertesOctober 4, 1904
Gee WalkerApril 20, 1937
Arky VaughanJuly 19, 1939
Jackie RobinsonAugust 29, 1948
Jim FregosiJuly 28, 1964
Luke ScottJuly 28, 2006
Carlos GomezMay 7, 2008
Rajai DavisJuly 2, 2016

Most Cycles by a Franchise

The San Francisco Giants have the most cycles by a franchise with 26. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the second most with 24.

The Boston Red Sox is the American League team with the most cycles at 23.

The most recent team to get their first cycle was the San Diego Padres. The franchise had its first cycle on August 14, 2015, when Matt Kemp hit one against the Colorado Rockies.

The Miami Marlins are the only team that has never had a player hit for the cycle. But, there have been two cycles hit at their ballpark by the opposing teams. And they were historical cycles.

On July 15, 2017, Cody Bellinger became the first rookie to hit for the cycle, which happened at the Marlins ballpark. Then, Freddie Freeman hit his second career cycle at the ballpark on August 18, 2021.

Here’s the full list of each team and how many cycles they’ve had, according to MLB:

TeamCycles in Franchise History
Los Angeles Angels8
Houston Astros8
Oakland Athletics21
Toronto Blue Jays3
Atlanta Braves9
Milwaukee Brewers9
St. Louis Cardinals19
Chicago Cubs11
Arizona Diamondbacks6
Los Angeles Dodgers10
San Francisco Giants26
Cleveland Guardians9
Seattle Mariners4
Miami Marlins0
New York Mets10
Washington Nationals11
Baltimore Orioles10
San Diego Padres3
Philadelphia Phillies8
Pittsburgh Pirates24
Texas Rangers11
Tampa Bay Rays2
Boston Red Sox23
Cincinnati Reds10
Colorado Rockies9
Kansas City Royals6
Detroit Tigers10
Minnesota Twins15
Chicago White Sox6
New York Yankees15

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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