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Triples come and triples go

Posted by Andy on May 12, 2011

Through yesterday's games, Jose Reyes led the majors with 6 triples. Those came in 36 games, a pace of 27 for a full 162-game schedule.

It's not likely that Reyes is gonna get 27 triples, though. Nobody's even hit as many as 25 triples in a season since 1925:

Rk Player Year 3B
1 Kiki Cuyler 1925 26
2 Tom Long 1915 25
3 Sam Crawford 1914 26
4 Shoeless Joe Jackson 1912 26
5 Chief Wilson 1912 36
6 Larry Doyle 1911 25
7 Sam Crawford 1903 25
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2011.

Even 20 triples rarely happens:

Rk Player Year 3B
1 Jimmy Rollins 2007 20
2 Curtis Granderson 2007 23
3 Cristian Guzman 2000 20
4 Lance Johnson 1996 21
5 Willie Wilson 1985 21
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2011.

But it's far less rare for a guy to have 6 triples in his team's first 36 games. Since 1919 it's been done a total of 107 times (I had to do a couple of different searches but there are 104 guys here who did it and another 3 here.)

Imagine that...107 times a guy had 6 triples in his team's first 36 games, but not a single one of those guys kept that pace up for the entire season.

67 Responses to “Triples come and triples go”

  1. Mets Maven Says:

    It's not at all hard to imagine. One can select almost any statistical leader over the first 36 games and show that it's almost impossible to maintain throughout a season. There are three guys right now with 6 wins in the AL. Do you expect any of them to finish the season with 27 wins?

  2. Andy Says:

    I agree it's not hard to imagine. But it applies mainly to rarer stats, such as triples and wins. It applies a lot less to more common events like hits and RBI.

  3. Larry R. Says:

    George Brett had 20 triples in 1979.

  4. Jeff H Says:

    Granderson's 2007 was fun to watch.

  5. Mets Maven Says:

    Statistical flukes are far more common when you're dealing with small numbers. But even with large numbers, such as hits, it's hard to maintain a leading pace over 162 games. Right now, Andre Ethier is on a pace to accumulate 226 hits this season. In the last 10 years, only Ichiro has had that many hits in a season. I'll wager that when the season is over, nobody not named Ichiro will have rung up 226 hits.

  6. Andy Says:

    #5 I agree, but note that on a percentage basis, there's less of a statistical oddity already with hits.

  7. ctorg Says:

    #6 - Yes, because the sample size is much larger. Like you said, hits are a much more common event so things even out a lot faster.

  8. Hartvig Says:

    Tuffy Rhodes lead all of major league baseball in home runs, batting average and on-base percentage for a few days in 1994

  9. Spartan Bill Says:

    @8 He was projected to have 486 HR's that year, but for one reason or another fell short of that.

  10. rkt210 Says:

    None of the closers who earned a save on Opening Day will finish with 162...

  11. John Autin Says:

    Granderson is already one of just 9 players (by my count) whose resume includes both a 20-triple season and a 30-HR season. (Hornsby, Gehrig, Bottomley, Goslin, Musial, Mays, Brett, Rollins.)

    He's currently on pace to join Willie Mays as the only ones with both a 50-HR season and a 20-triple season.

    Interesting that Granderson's 12 HRs so far are twice his total of doubles (4) and triples (2). His doubles total has free-fallen since a high of 38 in 2007; he's on pace for his second straight year with less than 20 doubles.

  12. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @9/Bill Says: "@8 He was projected to have 486 HR's that year, but for one reason or another fell short of that."

    Bill, I think the reason is "there were another 161 games left in the season, and Rhodes (or anyone else) is not going to hit three HR's in all of them (or any more of them)..."

  13. Spartan Bill Says:

    @12 Gee thanks for clearing that up. I never realized that.

  14. John Autin Says:

    All 6 of Reyes's triples this year have come at home. The Mets as a team have just 2 other triples, both at home. The new park has a very salutary effect on triples, with Triples Park Factors of 1.20 in 2009, 1.31 last year and 3.28 in the early going this year.

    P.S. Returning to one of my favorite "don't believe what you hear" themes:
    The Mets have hit 21 HRs at home (19 games), just 7 on the road (17 games). This brings their running total for the new park to 133 HRs at home, 117 away.

    David Wright, often cited as the Met most affected by the dimensions of the new park, has the exact same HR% at home and away since the new park opened -- 3.5% of AB. His batting average is 1 point higher at home, his slugging average 8 points higher. Both Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis have an equal number of HRs home and away since 2009. Jason Bay never hits a HR any more, but when he does, it's more often at home (4 to 3).

  15. Andrew Says:

    My favorite flukey triples season, of course, is Nomar Garciaparra's 2003. He hit 8 triples between May 31 and June 15, bringing his season total to 12. At that point, he was on pace to hit 31 triples. But, as it turned out, he only hit 1 more the rest of the season and didn't even lead the league in that category (Cristian Guzman hit 14).

    @11: Doubles can be a little bit flukey, too. Carlos Beltran's went from 44 to 14 and back up to 36 between 2002 and 2004. Frank Thomas only managed 11 doubles in his 39-homer renaissance season with Oakland in 2006. The next season, he was back up to 30 doubles.

  16. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Once in college I went to bed with three women at the same time.
    And it never happened again.

  17. Hartvig Says:

    Bill @ 13 You gave me a good laugh anyway. I think Lawrence might need to look up the hyperbolic irony in the dictionary.

  18. Mets Maven Says:

    @16 That counts as a home run ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Yes, but later, when I was in the circus, I actually Passed Up a similar opportunity with an acrobat, a contortionist, and an aerialist. Which, when I think about it now, is the equivalent of a second baseman losing the ability to throw to first.
    Serious mental issues.
    So, the two combined equate to a non-plate appearance. When I really beat myself up I call it a 2003 Alfonso Soriano vs Pedro Martinez plate appearance.

  20. Travis Says:

    Shane Victorino has 5 triples and an inside the park home run. That's sort of like 6 triples.

  21. Pageup Says:

    Looking at career triples of players retired after 1960, getting a 100 is quite a feat, Musial had 177, Clemente 166, Wilson had 147, Brock 141, Mays 140, Davis 138, Brett 137, Rose 135, Yount 126, Finley 124, Johnson 117, Lofton 116, Molitor 114, Raines 113, Carew 112, Crawford 106 & counting, Samuel 102, and Damon 101, and that's it, just 18. Probably easier to get 500 doubles?

  22. Pageup Says:

    oh yeah, @ 16 that's two grand slams in the same inning

  23. Thomas Court Says:

    Of course the size of current ball parks has much to do with the decline in triples. But a triple is also something that you have to "want" right out of the batters box. I think we all know players (Crawford, Damon, Jeter) that are thinking triple the moment they know that a ball is in the gap. It is a hustle stat; and it is not as sexy as a home run or even a stolen base (if you want to pick a stat that also relies on speed). There is a reason Rickey Henderson only finished with 66 of them in his career - tied for 432nd place all time. Tim McCarver had 57 triples despite only 61 career stolen bases. This is a crazy comparison to hand pick - but I did it anyways. I just think that a lot of players immediately settle for a double. When Lance Johnson was putting up some nice triple numbers in the 1990s they (ESPN?) did a feature on precisely the kind of mentality that goes into getting one.

    Of course, a player could hit 40 home runs - and then refuse to touch home plate after each one giving himself 40 triples in a season. Probably not a good idea.

  24. Timmy P Says:

    Ryne Sandberg 1984 -19 3b, 19 HR along with 36 doubles and 32 SB and an MVP year. Ryno and Joe Morgan 2 best second basemen in history but can't decide who's first.

  25. Timmy P Says:

    Let's not forget the king of triples, Wahoo Sam Crawford. Sam and I were both born and raised in Wahoo Nebraska before moving away. Sam had to be voted in by the veterans committee, and that was a crime! A real crime! Must have been some early ancestors to the BS statisticians and many a pompous sportswriter back then.

  26. Johnny Twisto Says:

    think we all know players (Crawford, Damon, Jeter) that are thinking triple the moment they know that a ball is in the gap. It is a hustle stat

    Interesting you mention Jeter. Tim McCarver has mentioned more than once that players don't get triples anymore because they don't hustle. At the same time, he has always had a man-crush on Jeter, and Jeter does indeed bust it every time. And yet Jeter, who hustles, who was fast for most of his career, and who is a fine baserunner, has only 61 triples in his career. 4 per 162 games. Of course Timmy Mac never noticed that little disconnect.

    I won't argue that a lot of players don't go 100% every time. I'm sure that costs some guys a handful of triples. But triples are down because smaller parks are not conducive to them.

  27. Richard Deegan Says:

    @21 You left off one guy who could really fly around the bases, Vada Pinson (127). His stats in the 1958 Spinks Guide (albeit Class C) knocked me out when I was a bit younger. 40 2B, 20 3B 20 HR/.367

  28. Jimbo Says:

    Smaller parks suck. Extra base hits are so much more exciting than home runs. I wish all parks had either

    a) bigger dimensions or

    b) higher walls

    or some combination of both. I'd much rather see more extra base hits, and more great plays by outfielders, than watch the ball disappear and everything stop while some guys jog around.

  29. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    @23 - Wow, you found a way to give Tim McCarver a nod over Rickey Henderson. Makes me mad, but that's actually kind of impressive.

    @28 - Agreed, 100%. Would love to design a park with 500 foot power alleys and an in-play bleacher section on pillars about 440 feet into the gap.

  30. Neil L. Says:

    @16 @18
    Voomo, you definitely got past first base. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Why do baseball phrases infiltrate, well....... everything?

  31. John Autin Says:

    Timmy P, you are so right about Sam Crawford. Why his induction took so long is a real puzzler. But at least they got him in while he still had some time to enjoy it; he was already 77, but lived to 88.

  32. John Autin Says:

    @30, Neil -- Might as well ask why time begins on Opening Day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. MichaelPat Says:

    Is it a lack of hustle, or is it a hesitancy to turn a double into an outfield assist?

    How many guys get thrown out at third trying to stretch a double? Are there stats on that?

  34. John Autin Says:

    Speaking of "triples" ... Carlos Beltran went deep 3 times in Coors Field today. It was just the 8th 3-HR game in Mets history, and all 8 have come on the road. Since 1962, the Mets and the Twins are the only franchises without a 3-HR game by a player at home.

    There were only three 3-HR games in the 45-year history of Shea Stadium -- by Dick Allen, Pete Rose (!) and Dave Kingman (as a visiting Cub in '79). 41-year-old Stan Musial had the only 3-HR outburst in a Mets game at the Polo Grounds. Nobody has "tripled up" yet at the new park.

  35. Jimbo Says:


    Fenway Park has the closest dimensions to what i would like to see more of. The green monster is great. I wish more parks had that. And the deep center/right center is fantastic.

    SBC park would be my 2nd favourite.

  36. John Autin Says:

    #33, MichaelPat -- Good point, but can't both be factors?

    As to stats on trying to stretch a hit: I'm sure someone keeps them, but I haven't found them on B-R. B-R does have "outs on bases," which includes all baserunner outs except for CS, pickoffs and force plays.

    Here's a link to the 2010 MLB baserunning stats; outs on bases are abbreviated OOB.

  37. John Autin Says:

    B-R has "outs on bases" stats going back to 1950. Here's a 10-year-at-a-time snapshot of the per-team average and the spread (most to least):

    Year ... Avg ... Spread
    1950 ... 65.2 ... 61
    1960 ... 71.9 ... 36
    1970 ... 70.2 ... 37
    1980 ... 72.1 ... 32
    1990 ... 61.7 ... 42
    2000 ... 60.6 ... 45
    2010 ... 53.5 ... 22

    In 2010, no team made more than 66 outs on bases. Can we infer from that a general disinclination to take chances on the basepaths? I'm not sure. Other factors surely play a role. One, strikeout rates are at an all-time high, which probably reduces the opportunities to take a baserunning risk. Two, there may be a cultural lag time in responding to the downward trend in HRs and scoring; players may still be operating under the conditions of 5 years ago, when the reward/risk ratio for basepath daring was pretty low. Probably other factors are in play as well.

  38. Pageup Says:

    thanks, i didn't forget Pinson, i forgot to list him!

    i love those 20, 20, 20 seasons like Granderson & Brett had one, Mays did too, Musial came close 3x, 48-20-13, 50-20-16, and 46-18-39

  39. Pageup Says:

    all time Musial's 3rd in 2Bs, 19th in 3Bs, 28th in HRs, the guy was outrageous

  40. Timmy P Says:

    @31 Great points on Wahoo Sam. I've read where he and Cobb did not get along, but can't see how that would hurt him with sportswriters, Cobb was a jerk, that use to spit racial insults through his false teeth. Sam went to play in the PCL after a great career in the majors, maybe that lead to some hard feelings. Sam was a bit of a recluse, and never promoted himself. I love that he insisted being inducted as Wahoo Sam Crawford, after his, and my boyhood hometown!

  41. John Autin Says:

    Hey, if you only get to have one MLB player from your hometown, it's nice to have one of the all-time greats!

  42. John Autin Says:

    Cool game in Baltimore tonight: Zach Britton and Jason Vargas (SEA) matched zeroes for 9 innings. M's scored once in the top of the 12th, but Baltimore won it in the bottom half on J.J. Hardy's 2-run single; the scoring chance was set up by consecutive HBP from Brandon League. Britton allowed 3 hits and 0 walks, and got strikes on 76 of his 108 pitches.

    It was only the 2nd time since 2003 that 2 opposing pitchers each went 9+ innings without allowing a run in the game. The last such game was July 10, 2010, the epic duel between Roy Halladay and Travis Wood, who both went 9 scoreless, with Wood taking a perfecto into the 9th, finishing with a 1-hitter.

  43. John Autin Says:

    Followup @42 -- At 23 years 141 days, Britton is the 8th-youngest pitcher in the last 3 seasons to throw 9 shutout innings. Jhoulys Chacin is the youngest to do it this year, at 23 yrs. 98 days on April 15.

    On a side note ... In the last 40 years, the only pitcher with a game of 9+ scoreless innings before his 20th birthday was Dwight Gooden, with 4 such games in 1984. The last before him was Bert Blyleven in 1970.

  44. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I've never understood why Brandon League isn't more successful. His stuff always looked really good to me.

    Checking his splits, it's interesting to see he's faced the Yankees a fair amount more than any other team (those would be most of the games I've seen him), and performed quite well against them.

  45. Thomas Court Says:

    @26 and 29

    I have never thought of Jeter as a triples guy... but I was just saying that the ones he gets are because he is hustling out of the box.

    Here is another interesting note on Jeter and Rickey Henderson. Jeter is about to break the Yankees team record for stolen bases. He now has 325 - only one behind Henderson's 326. Henderson only played for NY for 5 seasons... and not even full seasons. He played 596 games (119.2 games a year) and yet still managed to steal a team record number of bases.

  46. Albanate Says:

    Reyes should have a seventh triple. He was called out at third once, but the replays showed he was safe.

  47. Richard Chester Says:

    Jeff Heath, Wildfire Schulte, Jim Bottomley and Jimmy Rollins also had 20, 20, 20 seasons.

  48. MikeD Says:

    @14, JA, I wonder if it's possible that playing in a tougher park for HRs starts to cause some players to change their swings, bad habits that get carried over on the road? Not all players, but maybe some are more likely to fall into the trap. Not sure there's anyway to quantify it, but it'll be interesting to see if Bay hits more HRs again once he is no longer a Met.

  49. Johnny Twisto Says:

    MikeD, I do think it's possible for players to get a road "hangover." But it's hard to imagine, if Citifield was such a terrible park in which to hit, that their players would actually be hitting more HR there than on the road because they try to adjust so much.

    It should be noted that while the Mets have hit more HR at home than away, per JA's #14, their pitchers have allowed more HR on the road: 186 to 146 at home. So overall, there have been substantially more HR hit on the road than at Citi in Mets games. But so what? If your park is that extreme, you should be able to take advantage of it.

  50. MikeD Says:

    @26, JT, the list of things McCarver has said that should be ignored is too long to list. I always had more of a problem with McCarver than Morgan.

    Regarding triples, it certainly helps to be in the right kind of batter (a lefty, or a switch hitter like Cristian Guzman or Jimmy Rollins), hit in the right kind of park (wide expanses, or years ago play on fast turf as Willie Wilson and George Brett did) and be fast. Brett, while not slow, is probably one of the more "unusual" 20 triple guys of recent times, but he was a lefty, had the turf and always seemed to bust it out of the box.

    Jeter, while always having good speed, bats on the wrong side of the plate and has not played in a home park(s) that reward triples. At his best, he's an opposite field hitter, right field and down the line. More of a doubles guy than triples, but to McCarver's probable point, it's unlikely Jeter left any potential triples in the batter's box, any more than Brett did.

    As for Reyes, he certainly has the speed, the park and is a switch hitter to eclipse 20 triples. He's come close in the past, hitting 19 in 2008, probably his last fully healthy season before this year, and leading the league with 17 two other seasons. Rumors, however, have him as perhaps the most likely to be traded, so he may lose his park, yet that's probably the least important. His home-road splits on triples are basically even.

  51. MikeD Says:

    @49, JT. Valid point. The best teams should be able to build teams that take advantage of their home park, turning it into a strength. The Red Sox do this, probably better now than they ever have. The Yankees throughout their history have always made sure to have lefthanded power at the plate, and lefthanded starters in the rotation. I think the current management the Mets put in place will do a good job of constructing the right type of team if they are given enough time.

    Related though, I do seem to remember a study (and I can't remember if if was Bill James, or perhaps even Rob Neyer, perhaps when he was working with James) that suggested it wasn't a good idea to build a ballpark that's so extreme that building a team that takes advantage of the home park places a team at a disadvantage on the road. That said, I am no suggesting CitiField is in anyway so extreme that this will cause a problem.

  52. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    97 triples at home
    40 on the road

    14 at home
    6 on the road

    27 at home
    30 on the road

    Rickey Henderson:
    Hey, I knew his middle name was Henley. But on his b-r page he has Two middle names: Nelson Henley. Is his name really "Nelson"? or is somebody making a joke?

    "Rickey Nelson"

  53. Mets Maven Says:

    Regarding Sam Crawford

    It's interesting to see how the criteria for greatness have changed over the years. In the early HOF voting, there was a clear preference for defense over offense. Take a look at the 1937 voting. Roger Bresnahan, Rabbit Maranville, and Ray Schalk, all who made the Hall, received far more support than Crawford, Heilmann, and some other great outfielders who eventually got in. Perhaps more revealingly, Crawford and Heilmann also received less votes than Johnny Kling and Lou Criger, catchers whose offensive numbers make Bresnahan and Schalk look like Ruth and Gehrig.

  54. Douglastheduke Says:

    The other day Ryan Franklin gave up two triples in one inning.

  55. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Triples seem to be back in a big way.
    Search Query for 85 Triples for first 9 years.
    In 4 years, 3 players reached 85
    Jose Reyes 2011 - 89
    Carl Crawford 2010 - 105
    Jimmy Rollins 2008 - 90
    Then 30 years...
    George Brett - 1981 - 89
    Then 13 Years
    lou Brock - 1969 - 85
    Then 10 years
    Willie Mays- 1960 - 91
    Then 11 years...
    Stan Musial - 1950 - 115

    So 4 players in over 60 years, now 3 player in 4 years.

  56. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @40/ Timmy P Says: "@31 Great points on Wahoo Sam. I've read where he and Cobb did not get along, but can't see how that would hurt him with sportswriters, Cobb was a jerk, that use to spit racial insults through his false teeth..."

    Timmy P., actually Cobb campaigned to the Veteran's Committee for Crawford to be inducted. Cobb was a big-time jerk, but he also did a lot of good things for a lot of people (scholarships to local Georgia kids, helped former teamates, etc...).

    Crawford should've been elected by the writers, I never understood why he and Home Run Baker weren't voted in, or the Vets took so long to select them.

    @52/ Henderson's Mom liked Rickey Nelson (the 50s teen idol), so that's why that is his middle name.

  57. John Autin Says:

    Mets Maven -- Good points about early HOF voting.

    I can't agree with the Kling-Schalk comment, though. There ain't a man alive nor dead who ever made Ray Schalk look like a good hitter. And Johnny Kling was one of the best-hitting catchers of his the 19-oughts, a decade when Bresnahan was the only catcher who managed a combined OPS+ better than 100. (Kling was at 100 even.)

    Kling was a more productive hitter than Schalk even on the raw numbers, with a 20-point edge in OPS and more runs and RBI per 162 G. The OPS+ isn't even close -- 100 for Kling, 83 for Schalk.

    As for the HOF -- I wouldn't vote for Kling, but some HOF support is to be expected for the starting catcher of one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history. The Cubs of 1906-10 won 4 pennants and had a staggering .693 W% (equivalent to 112-50 in the modern schedule). Kling missed the '09 season, which was the only year in that span that the Cubs didn't cop the flag. In their 4 pennant seasons, Kling had a combined 122 OPS+.

    Like most catchers of his day, Kling didn't last terribly long. But he caught more games in that decade (921) than anybody else, and considering the performance of the pitchers he caught, he must have had some value as a catcher.

  58. - How do local news channels decide which news stories to show from CNN and BBC? Says:

    [...] Triples come and triples go ยป Baseball-Reference Blog ยป Blog Archive [...]

  59. John Autin Says:

    @50. MikeD -- I used to keep notes on the dumb things McCarver would say during a broadcast. Thank goodness I let go of that.

    I heard just a snippet of him on a game a week or two back, and he said something so mind-boggling that it actually made me concerned for his mental faculties; though, again, I've (gladly) forgotten exactly what it was.

  60. Timmy P Says:

    @56 I did read that also, after Cobb's death they found letters he'd written on Crawford's behalf. Cobb, like most of us tend to mellow with age no doubt about it, but there seems to be no shortage of testimony that when he played he was a real SOB. Crawford and Cobb did have a real feud going for several years after retirement, it's kind of funny to hear the insults they gave each other. Most centered around the others fielding, those boys took their glove work serious.
    @53 Mets Maven - great points on early hall voting. I had noticed that some of Crawford's and Cobb's contemporaries that did make it to the hall were a little light on offense.

  61. Timmy Patrick Says:

    It looks like Neil has made an attempt to ban me from posting here. Neil can not handle someone with an opposing point of view and so takes the easiest route in dealing with them. I deal with that kind of personality everyday in the real world, and they are quite predictable. It's because Neil said there are dozens, meaning at least 24, ball players in AAA that are better than Juan Pierre. That is flat out, plain STUPID. Baseball is a business and if there were 24 guys capable of 2431 career hits they would be playing now. Neil was insulted and has requested I be banned.

  62. Neil Paine Says:

    OK, I'm just going to go ahead and copy-paste what I wrote in the other thread:

    "Nobody 'cried a river' and nobody was intentionally blocked from commenting. We had a server error that apparently lost 2 comments in the last several hours. I'll try to recover them in WordPress; I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

  63. Richard Chester Says:

    Sam Crawford is one of two players since 1901 (3000 PA min.) whose number of triples was greater than 10% of his career hit total. He hit 287 triples among his 2821 hits for a mark of 10.17%.The other guy is Buck Freeman with 10.24%.

  64. Neil Paine Says:

    Unfortunately, it looks like 2 comments this afternoon were permanently lost -- I can't find them under moderated, spam, or even trash comments. If your comments were not registering this afternoon, I'm afraid you'll have to recreate them from scratch.

    EDIT: OK, it looks like Andy removed the comments manually -- although typically moderated comments would still appear in the WordPress dashboard, and that's not the case here, plus I did receive a server error message.

    2nd EDIT: Andy actually approved the comments. Back to the server error theory then.

  65. Timmy Patrick Says:

    @63 Richard - That is an amazing stat. Sam Crawford could have played in this day and age and still been a great player.

  66. Nash Bruce Says:

    I love baseball, but this comment might not be considered to be directly related to same..........or maybe it was!! But I just gotta say, that for whatever reason, I am glad that Voomo Zanzibar's comment(#16) was not deleted, for whatever reason/non-reason, and I have to respond............
    Dude, you are my hero!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)))))))))))

  67. Richard Chester Says:

    Odd fact: Chief Wilson hit a ML record 36 triples in 1912 but his second highest total is only 14