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Remembering Chad Moeller's Cycle

There must have been something in the Milwaukee clubhouse water during the last week of April 2004.  First, the Brewers pulled off an unlikely upset against St. Louis, prompting an event now known as Saenzday.  Second, the Brewers' starting catcher came down with the flu.  Finally, that same catcher, acquired as a throw-in piece to complete a trade, had one of the more unlikely nights ever seen at a ballpark.  On April 27, 2004, Chad Moeller hit for the cycle.

A native of Upland, California, Chad Moeller was drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees in the 25th round, eleven picks after the Dodgers selected future All-Star Paul Lo Duca.  Moeller did not sign, however, and instead played college baseball at the University of Southern California. In three seasons with the Trojans, he hit .308 with eight home runs and 69 RBI in 152 games.  In 1996, he was named a 1st-team all-Pac-10 player and an NCBWA third-team All-American.  He also shared a locker room with future Brewers teammate Geoff Jenkins.

In June 1996, Moeller was drafted in the 7th round by the Minnesota Twins.  Solid minor league numbers kept him moving up the ladder until he made his major league debut on June 20, 2000.  He struggled at the major league level, hitting .211/.261/.273 in 48 games.  Just days before the 2001 season began, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for infielder Hanley Frias.  Frias never appeared in a major league game for the Twins.  Moeller, however, did appear for the Diamondbacks, earning midseason callups in 2001 and 2002 after hitting well at AAA Tucson.  By 2003, he was in the majors to stay, splitting time with fellow backstop Rod Barajas.  Moeller hit .268/.335/.435 for the Diamondbacks that season.  However, he was once again rewarded for reaching a higher level by being traded to another team.

Once regarded as the feather in GM Doug Melvin's cap, the trade of All-Star first baseman Richie Sexson netted the Brewers no fewer than six members of the 2004 Milwaukee roster.  Moeller joined the Crew along with Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Jorge de la Rosa, Lyle Overbay, and Junior Spivey.  Unfortunately, Moeller never fulfilled the promise he showed in Arizona, hitting just .204 in three seasons of diminishing playing time before becoming a free agent after the 2006 campaign.  Since that time, he has bounced in and out of the majors, playing for four different organizations.  He currently dons the tools of ignorance for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' AAA club.

But enough with the biographical details, what about the game?  Chad Moeller entered the game, his 202nd game and 167th start, a career .250/.325/.384 hitter.  Through a strange twist of fate, he had rapped out exactly one triple in each of his four previous seasons.  In 2004, he was 8 for 40 with just two extra base hits (a double and a home run).  As previously mentioned, he was also sick.

In the second inning, with the Brewers already down two runs thanks to a Ken Griffey Jr. double, Moeller hit a 2-0 pitch from Reds starter Cory Lidle over the fence in right-center to trim the lead in half.  He followed that shot with a double in the 4th and a bases-loaded triple in the fifth that put the Brewers up 6-3.  Of course, given the state of the Brewers franchise back then, that lead wouldn't last.  Moeller picked up the single he needed for the cycle in the seventh, but the Brewers still trailed heading into the bottom of the ninth.  With the cycle already in the books, Moeller reached on a throwing error by Reds 3B Brandon Larson.  Bill Hall followed with a walk-off home run and the celebration was on in Milwaukee.

On that night, Chad Moeller became the fifth Brewer to hit for the cycle, joining Mike Hegan, Charlie Moore, Robin Yount, and Paul Molitor.  He also joined Minnesota's Gary Ward as one of only two players to hit for the cycle in Milwaukee.*  Moeller also became just the fourth player in fifty years to reach via error during his cycle game, joining Frank White, Scott Cooper, and John Olerud in that esoteric club (Mark Ellis would also join in 2007).  Moeller modestly compared himself to Molitor and Yount after the game: "I'm not even in the same zip code as those guys, but for this one, little, silly stat I am."

*Since 1901.  Abner Dalrymple hit for the cycle as a member of the 1891 Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association.

Follow the jump to see more little, silly stats related to Chad Moeller's cycle!

First, it should be noted that the fact a player hit for the cycle in a given game has only minimal impact on his numbers for an entire season.  Chances are, his plate apparances in the cycle game will total no more than 2% of his season numbers.  For that reason, looking at full-season numbers for cycle-hitters carries the tint of hindsight.  Still, it does say something about how unlikely that one day was in that season.

With that in mind, there are five interesting full-season numbers to look at when it comes to cycle-hitters.  First, batting average.  You can't get four hits in a game without hitting the ball, so the lower the batting average, the less likely a cycle was.  Second, slugging average.  You can't get a cycle without extra-base hits.  Third and fourth, the number of triples and home runs, respectively.  Finally, though this has no bearing on a cycle whatsoever, the number of stolen bases.  Triples are probably a better measure of raw speed than stolen bases, but it is safe to say a guy with zero steals is not the most fleet of foot.

Here is how Chad Moeller's 2004 stacked up against other cycle-hitters in terms of batting average:

  1. Andujar Cedeno, 1992, .173
  2. Chad Moeller, 2004, .208
  3. Sam Barkley, 1888, .216
  4. Chris Speier, 1988, .216
  5. Dave Kingman, 1972, .225
  6. Jim Hickman, 1963, .229
  7. John Mayberry, 1977, .230
  8. Carlton Fisk, 1984, .231
  9. Randy Hundley, 1966, .236
  10. Lee Walls, 1957, .237
  11. Mike Blowers, 1998, .237

In slugging average, Moeller did just a little bit better:

  1. Andujar Cedeno, 1992, .277
  2. Bill Collins, 1910, .291
  3. Chad Moeller, 2004, .303
  4. Sam Barkley, 1888, .309
  5. Otis Clymer, 1908, .313
  6. Ivan DeJesus, 1980, .325
  7. Jeff Frye, 2001, .326
  8. Chris Speier, 1978, .329
  9. Chris Speier, 1988, .333
  10. Cesar Tovar, 1972, .334

As mentioned above, Moeller had an interesting streak of one triple per season going into 2004.  That streak would continue through 2005, giving him a place on the list of players whose sole triple for the season came during a cycle game:

  1. Jim King, 1964
  2. Jim Ray Hart, 1970
  3. Tim Foli, 1976
  4. John Mayberry, 1977
  5. Carlton Fisk, 1984
  6. Chris Speier, 1988
  7. John Olerud, 1997
  8. Jeff Frye, 2001 (last triple of his career)
  9. John Olerud, 2001
  10. David Bell, 2004
  11. Chad Moeller, 2004
  12. Adrian Beltre, 2008 (last triple, as of today, in his career)
  13. Melky Cabrera, 2009

Part of the reason Chad Moeller struggled to slug .300 in 2004 was he hit only five home runs that season.  Since 1920, these are the players who hit four or fewer HR in their cycle seasons outside of their cycle games:

  1. Gary Ward, 1980, 1 (played in only 13 games that season as a September call-up)
  2. Cesar Tovar, 1972, 2
  3. Jack Brohamer, 1977, 2
  4. Charlie Moore, 1980, 2
  5. Andujar Cedeno, 1992, 2
  6. Jeff Frye, 2001, 2 (last HR of his career in the same game he hit his last triple)
  7. Bob Fothergill, 1926, 3
  8. Lou Brock, 1975, 3
  9. Ivan DeJesus, 1980, 3
  10. Albert Hall, 1987, 3
  11. Don Mueller, 1954, 4
  12. Rod Carew, 1970, 4
  13. Lyman Bostock, 1976, 4
  14. Mike Phillips, 1976, 4
  15. Alex Ochoa, 1996, 4
  16. Max "Scoops" Carey, 1925, 5
  17. Ski Melillo, 1929, 5
  18. Mike Hegan, 1976, 5
  19. Chris Speier, 1978, 5
  20. Tony Phillips, 1986, 5
  21. Tony Fernandez, 1995, 5
  22. Chad Moeller, 2004, 5

Finally, Chad Moeller finds himself on a list of just twelve players who hit for the cycle without stealing a base in the same season:

  1. Cy Williams, 1927
  2. Mickey Cochrane, 1932
  3. Jim Hickman, 1964
  4. Jim Ray Hart, 1970
  5. Mike Hegan, 1976
  6. Jack Brohamer, 1977
  7. Gary Ward, 1980
  8. John Olerud, 1997
  9. Gregg Colbrunn, 2002
  10. Chad Moeller, 2004
  11. Eric Valent, 2004
  12. Daryle Ward, 2004

Looking at the names to appear on each list, it becomes clear that Chad Moeller's 2004 cycle was exceedingly unlikely.  For that reason alone, it is more memorable than any hit by power-speed guys who are threats for cycles every single night.