Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Grand Slams in One Game vs. Perfect Games

Yesterday, Josh Willingham of the Washington Nationals hit two grandslams in one game, becoming the 13th player to ever do this. It was just 4 days after Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game. So I wondered which event is rarer. To see all of the occurrences of these events, you can to to the following Baseball Almanac sites:

Two Grand Slams in One Game

Perfect Games

The first player to hit 2 grand slams in one game was Tony Lazzeri, in 1936. Maybe it is not surprising no one did it before 1920, in the dead ball era, when HRs were rare. So I use 1920 as the starting point for the comparison between these two rare events. I only include regular season games, so Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series will not count. And I also include all games where a pitcher had 9 perfect innings from the start of the game, regardless of what happened after the 9th inning. So I include Harvey Haddix's 1959 game and Pedro Martinez's 1995 game. After all, it was not their fault their teammates could not score just one run for them. They did match what these other pitchers did.

Using the data from the Baseball Almanac site, that leaves 15 perfect games since 1920. That is two more than games when a player hit 2 grandslams. There were about 149,000 major league games played from 1920-2008. So prior to this year, a perfect game happened once every 10,642 games. Two grandslams in one game happened once every 12,416 games.

Looking at the Baseball Almanac sites, you can see that in 1968, 1995, 1998 and 1999 both events occurred. So 2009 is the 5th year that both happened. But this time it was only 4 days apart. In those other years the two events were always atleast a month apart.


Devon said...

That is fascinating! I hadn't thought of comparing these before. It raises a few questions tho...

If you include Haddix & Martinez since they matched the feat & it wasn't their fault, you should think of the fact that they were in the NL and therefore...they were batters in those games too. So, they did have some control over the runs scored for their team. Maybe that should disqualify them in this list?

Also, on the same reasoning... what about pitchers like Jonathan Sanchez, who tosses a perfect game a few weeks ago but it was spoiled by a teammates error? You shouldn't penalize him for the mistake of his teammate, if you're going to include Haddix & Martinez for the same reason that their teammates kept them from being official perfect games.

BTW, there were more HR's from 1892-1896 (2,392) than 1920-1924 (2,288). In fact, 1894 saw 627 HR's. So maybe you should start from 1925?

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You raise some good points. On the error issue, I would have to find all of the games where a pitcher had a no-hitter but also would have had a perfect game if not for errors. This got discussed on the SABR list recently and there are about 11 games (including 2 where the errors were made by the pitchers themselves). 7 were between 1920 and 2008. So that would make the two grand slams in one game much rarer.

On HRs, it looks like you are comparing the NL from 1892-1896 to the NL of 1920-24. Using the Lee Sinins complete Baseball Encylopedia, the NL from 1920-24 had a HR% of 1.07. The HR% from 1892-96 was .82%. The NL from 1892-96 had .596 HRs per game while it was .746 from 1920-24. In some of those years from 1982-1896, there were 12 teams in the league so alot of games got played. So I think it is still okay to say that the HR era starts in 1920. Using either HRs per AB or per game, the latter period had a rate that was about 30% higher.

Using the Lee Sinins complete Baseball Encylopedia, I see that there were 4,498 HRs from 1920-24. The HR% for both leagues was 1.06% from 1920-24. In HRs per game it was .733.