Saturday, April 2, 2011


Even Jim Rice never managed to hit into three DPs
in a single game
, Albert...
Blame Albert Pujols for this one. The great Cardinals slugger hit into three double plays on Opening Day, becoming the 99th known player to do so (Joe Torre gets honorable mention here, as he's the only known person to hit into four twin killings in the same game.)

Reading about all that at the BB-Ref blog had the usual dubious effect on my brain, and I started wondering about other variations of this less-than-coveted feat.

"I wonder," I wondered, "how often has it happened that two players on the same team have hit into two double plays in the same game?" Sort of a baseball variation on In-n-Out Burger's "double double" (and I'm sure Tim Lincecum gets my drift).

Well, you can get almost anything you want at Sean Forman's digital restaurant, so I put on the trench coat and cranked into PI mode (that's Play Index, for those of you who've been stuck in a sand trap for the past three-quarters of a decade).

So it turns out that there are fewer "double doubles" than "single triples." (This is starting to sound like poker played with a pinochle deck, which is one way to sure that everyone will overbid the way people keep doing whenever Carl Pavano becomes a free agent.)

The actual number of times that two teammates have each hit into two double plays in the same game? Forty-four. At least as we currently know it: the Retrosheet records seem to cover double plays comprehensively back to 1939, with only the NL represented from 1933-38. Given the incidence of "double doubles" that we see in the fully reconstructed decades, however, it's unlikely that there are many more than 60-65 in the course of baseball history.

The entire list (at right) is rather impressive in terms of who's on it. There is no case where two Hall of Famers have teamed to "double up," but there are some highly enshrined types on the list--Billy Herman, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk are front and center here.

Thanks to BR, we can also track the won-loss records of the teams associated with these big leaguers. By "won-loss" record, I mean the record in the game. It turns out that for these 44 games where two players put the kibosh on run scoring, the team can win only 16 of them.

That 16-28 record translates out to a .364 WPCT, which means the the "double double" play simulates a seasonal won-loss record of 59-103. That's not too good, of course: but when you think about it, it's actually quite a bit higher than you'd first suspect. (After all, we are talking about having your team hit into at least four double plays in one game. That's a lot of rally killing.)

No, Dave Philley did not win a team MVP
award for combining with Billy Gardner to bang
into four double plays in a single game.
When you read down the list, you'll discover that there is only one player who has managed to appear on this list more than once. That man is Dave Philley, a journeyman outfielder who used to hold the single-season record for most pinch-hits (24, set in 1961). In 1956, Dave was a regular for the Baltimore Orioles, who at that point in time were just a couple of years past the indelible legacy (yeah, right...) of being the St. Louis Browns.

What makes this feat more remarkable is that Philley hit into those two double plays in the only two plate appearances he had for the game in question. That's really taking the bull by the horns and maxing out one's potential...

...And, of course, it led me to consider how many hitters had managed to hit into two double plays in a game despite having just the two plate appearances needed to do so.

It turns out that out of the 6,413 times that a player has hit into two double plays in the same game, 85 of these occurred when players had only the bare minimum number of plate appearances. Twenty-two of these were pitchers. One Hall of Famer did it: Carl Yastrzemski.

Perfect form, front foot--and the result for Jimmy:
another perfect 6-4-3!!
So who had the most "double doubles"? How could it be anyone other than Jim Rice: now, really. I mean, who else is it gonna be? Yaz has the most "double doubles" of any left-handed batter--but he played in a thousand more games than Rice--a guy who really knew how to take you out of an inning with a single swing of the bat.

The two "jackpot" events that I was hoping to find in the BB-REF files were as follows:

--Two teammates on both teams each hitting into two double plays in the same game;
--Three teammates on the same team hitting into two DPs.

Alas, neither of these events have ever happened--at least as far as we know: as noted, the data here are still incomplete.

So there is still something to strive for, guys!

Let's leave off by looking at one final anomalous performance combination. How many players have hit into two double plays in a game and have hit two homers in that same game?

Greg Goossen, back when he still had a
chance to be 30, with some vaguely
familiar guy who was born 30...
If you said eleven, you are disgustingly correct. And you might not be surprised to discover that when players hit two homers in the same game that they hit into two double plays, we see a different game outcome. Instead of teams playing .430 ball with a 2 DP day from someone, they win nearly twice as often when the 2 DPs are accompanied by two dingers.

There are some big names on this list (above, in those three queasy shades of green);  but possibly the one that's most unexpected is that of Greg Goossen, the man immortalized by Casey Stengel during his daze as the manager of the New York Mets ("Ya got Goossen there, he's 20 years old and in ten years he has a chance to be 30").

Goossen recently passed away at age 65, before any of us got the chance to know that he shares a very unusual record with the likes of Mark McGwire, Dave Winfield, Frank Howard, and Ernie Lombardi. RIP, Greg.