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Scooter Gennett Is Somehow Not The Most Random Player To Hit Four HRs

Before this week, Ryan “Scooter” Gennett was best known for being the first MLB player nicknamed after a “Muppet Babies” character. But that all changed Tuesday night, when the Cincinnati second baseman became just the 17th player in MLB history (and the 15th of the modern era) to crush four home runs in a game. If you were to draw up a list of players most likely to hit four homers last night, Gennett would have been near the bottom — probably somewhere between Cameron Rupp and Cory Spangenberg.

Before his huge game, Gennett’s career was pretty nondescript. The second baseman had 38 career home runs to his name, and his lifetime weighted runs created plus (wRC+ estimates how many runs a player generates per plate appearance compared with the league average) is still just 99, slightly below league average.1 There was little to suggest he was about to become the first player in MLB history to record 5 hits, 4 HR and 10 RBI in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.

Remarkably, Scooter is not the first lightweight to slug four homers in a game. Although the four-homer club contains such all-time greats as Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig, it also includes the likes of Mark Whiten and Pat Seerey. So where does Scooter rank among the club’s most unexpected members? Here are some pertinent career stats for each player through the end of the season that contained their big game:

CAREER STATS THROUGH SEASON
YEAR PLAYER TEAM POS PA ISO WRC+ BATTING RUNS
1932 Lou Gehrig Yankees 1B 5470 .297 176 +568.4
1961 Willie Mays Giants CF 5957 .269 155 +407.9
1936 Chuck Klein Phillies OF 5333 .252 147 +328.4
2003 Carlos Delgado Blue Jays 1B 5467 .275 140 +283.7
2002 Shawn Green Dodgers RF 4866 .236 124 +154.3
2012 Josh Hamilton Rangers CF 3151 .246 135 +132.0
1986 Bob Horner Braves 1B 3966 .229 128 +123.9
1976 Mike Schmidt Phillies 3B 2548 .248 139 +113.5
1959 Rocky Colavito Indians RF 2175 .262 143 +111.1
2002 Mike Cameron Mariners CF 3497 .185 105 +20.6
1948 Pat Seerey White Sox OF 2087 .188 108 +20.4
1954 Joe Adcock Braves 1B 2426 .166 106 +18.2
1950 Gil Hodges Dodgers 1B 1944 .172 106 +15.7
2017 Scooter Gennett Reds 2B 1759 .150 99 -1.5
1993 Mark Whiten Cardinals RF 1756 .139 96 -8.9
Scooter joins (mostly) elite company

Includes career stats through the end of the season (or, for 2017, through June 6) in which the player hit 4 home runs in a game.

Source: FanGraphs

By practically all measures, Whiten, the former St. Louis Cardinal, had the most unimpressive track record of any player at the time of his four-homer game. But Gennett isn’t too far off — he has the second-fewest batting runs above average, the second-lowest isolated power and second-worst wRC+. By contrast, most of the four-HR club’s members were either superstars squarely in their primes (Gehrig, Mays), up-and-comers who already had great rate stats (Mike Schmidt, Rocky Colavito) or at least solid veterans (Carlos Delgado, Chuck Klein).

Gennett is the baseball equivalent of Devin Booker scoring 70 points in an NBA game, or Nick Foles tossing seven touchdown passes in the NFL. Part of why we watch sports is that in any given game there’s the chance that a mediocre middle infielder might explode for one of the best offensive performances ever.

And in a 2017 season that’s tracking for the most home runs ever, perhaps more of these types of games are to come.

Footnotes

  1. wRC+ is scaled so that 100 is average each season.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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