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|
|2003||Carlos Delgado||Blue Jays||1B||5467||.275||140||+283.7|
|1948||Pat Seerey||White Sox||OF||2087||.188||108||+20.4|
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.