There is a game in my Steam library I have become smitten with. It’s called Out of the Park 18 and it’s a pretty extensive baseball management simulator. I’ve dabbled with the game’s various mechanics for a couple of months now but recently, as one of the ways I’ve been breaking up days of job hunting, I’ve started to take the game more seriously.
For my first serious save file, I chose to be the manager of the Minnesota Twins. The game allows you to be the GM (controlling the franchise as a whole), manager (controlling the major league team) or you can do both roles. Because I hadn’t done a serious playthrough of the game, manager seemed simplest.
So let’s introduce the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2017 season. In 2016, the Twins finished with a record of 59-103, the worst record in the MLB since 2013 (the Astros went 51-111). For me, that meant my rookie season would carry fairly low expectations.
I have no control over the roster, only the lineups and pitchers so I simulate spring training and get right into the season.
April 7th, 2017- Minnesota Twins @ Chicago White Sox
My Twins are on the road at the White Sox for the second series of the season after a 2-1 loss to the Royals at home. The game begins at 9:10pm EST with a fastball from Miguel Gonzalez and goes scoreless for three innings. Max Kepler doubled in the top of the 4th and was run in by an Eddie Rosario double two batters later. Chicago ties the game in the bottom 4th and two half innings later, I’m staring at no outs and runners on first and second for Chicago. Given how this game likes to simulate, I assumed that Chicago was about to start scoring runs until I quit the game. Adalberto Mejia pitches a weak slider to Avisail Garcia who hits a line drive towards third base. The runners are moving, looking to at least advance on a single and load the bases.
Then something happens. The little icon at third, Miguel Sano, catches the ball and starts sprinting away from third. He intercepts the icon moving between second and third before stopping at second base. One pitch, three outs. Garcia caught, Cabrera tagged and Abreu forced out. Miguel Sano, a two-year major league veteran, has just completed an unassisted triple play. Disheartened, Chicago goes on to lose 6-2.
A rare gem
There are many rare feats in baseball- the immaculate inning (9 pitches, 9 strikes), the no-hitter (9 innings, no hits) and of course, the perfect game (9 innings, no bases conceded). Even a triple play is considered to be fairly rare. But there is one play that is rarer than them all- the unassisted triple play. This is a triple play (three outs from a single pitch) performed by a single player. Before we continue, allow me to tell you how rare an unassisted triple play is- between 1876 (the official inception of professional baseball in America) and August of 2017, there have been 713 triple plays, 296 no-hitters, 84 immaculate innings, 23 perfect games. There have only been 15 unassisted triple plays.
Given the number of MLB games played from 1876-2016, an unassisted triple play (UTP) occurs once every 14,225 games (or once every 6 seasons from a purely statistical standpoint). The average MLB career lasts 5.6 years or 907 games, meaning that the purely statistical probability of playing in a game in which a UTP occurs is 0.064 (one in 15.625 careers). The purely statistical probability of fielding a UTP depends on your position. Given how a baseball field is laid out, I think it is safe to say that outfielders (LF, CF and RF) cannot field a UTP because they would never be able to reach the infield in time. The pitcher theoretically could but to be honestly, that would be the most insane thing to happen in baseball and the same applies to the catcher (the only possible way a catcher could even do it would be to catch a fair or foul tip, force or tag out a runner coming home from third and then make it to third to run or tag out the runner approaching from second). So that leaves us with the three basemen and the shortshop. The existing fifteen UTPs tell us that in a game with a UTP, the probability of the position that completes the play is as follows: First baseman- 0.13; Second baseman- 0.33; Shortstop- 0.53. There have been no MLB UTPs by a third baseman but for the sake of this piece, let’s include my Sano UTP. That gives a third baseman the probability of 0.063. So before we move on, we now know that a third baseman making a UTP is about as likely as a UTP occurring in the first place.
This means that the probability of a third baseman making an unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball is 0.004032 or once every 248 unassisted triple plays. If a UTP occurs every 14,225 games; the math says that the 248th UTP would occur during the 3468 MLB season.
But Miguel Sano, a third baseman, made the play four games into the 2017 season. For arguably the league’s worst team.
If you liked this piece, I recommend you check out my similar pieces, such as seeing if the 2016 Browns improved by going back and kidnapping football legends of the past