Saturday, April 06, 2019

Probably Wants to Sit By Himself on the Team Bus Today

Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins hit for the cycle last night. It was only the 280th time in history a batter had a single, double, triple and home run in a single game. Polanco had another single for good measure for a perfect five for five night at the plate.

We can assume the Twins' celebration of this feat was somewhat muted by the game's final score, which was Phillies 10 - Twins 4.

How could this happen? Cursory research, the only kind that gets done here, does not reveal how many of those 280 games were won by the teams whose players hit for the cycle, but logic says it has to be a very high percentage, and those lost must have been slugfests of the 13-11 variety. A cycle is 10 total bases (Polanco had 11). His OBP for the game was 1.000, his slugging percentage 2.200. How could such prowess fail to push one whole bunch of other Twins to home plate?

Polanco's own box score line tells the story. He scored but one run and drove in but one. That is, except for his solo homer, Polanco's slugging produced exactly nothing for the Twins.

This was of course not his fault. The other Twins went a sizzling 6 for 33 against Philadelphia pitching which for at least one guy was no mystery. They didn't get on base before Polanco came up, and they didn't do anything to advance him around the bases, either. Seldom has the old dugout adage "pick him up" been so thoroughly stood on its head. There was a 2004 Red Sox-Mariners game where Ichiro had four singles, stole second four times, and had no runs scored nor RBI, but that's the closest case I can remember.

What does Polanco's night of personal grandeur and massive frustration tell us? It's a simple lesson which is forgotten millions of times a day by otherwise well-informed fans and commentators. Baseball is primarily a game of Individual performance. "Primarily" and "wholly" are not synonyms.

The cruelest thing of all about Polanco's performance is that baseball being baseball, he's very likely to end an inning with a strikeout with the bases loaded in his next game.


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