Major League Baseball (MLB) is often referred to as America’s National Pastime. It is also a treasure for statisticians and data geeks alike. Indeed, baseball statistics carefully logged from over 218,000 games spanning 150 years, are available free of charge to anybody. In fact, many baseball teams hire “quants” to parse through and reconcile the raw data to obtain an edge against the competition. Probability and Statistics professors incorporate the data into their course offerings. Sports writers and everyday fans use it to compare players over multiple generations and help decide who reaches the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Some of our readers do not like baseball; we do not care for it much ourselves. However, a cool thing about baseball is one need not be a fan to marvel at the sheer magnitude of meticulously recorded statistics and how they are applied across various disciplines for learning and fun.
To make this trivia more relevant for non-fans, we have refrained from mentioning too many specific players. Instead, we focused on interesting facts and data points. Answers are provided below, along with fascinating supplemental information.
1) In baseball, what does “hit for a cycle” mean?
A) Smashing 4 home runs in one game.
B) Hitting a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game.
C) Walking 4 times in the same game.
D) Hitting a home run in 4 consecutive games.
2) What is a “no-hitter,” and can a pitcher toss a no-hitter and lose the game?
A) When a pitcher does not allow any batter on the opposing team to reach a base, no.
B) When a pitcher does not allow any batter on the opposing team to get a hit, yes.
C) When a pitcher does not allow any batter on the opposing team to reach base, yes.
D) When a pitcher does not allow any batter on the opposing team to get a hit, no.
3) Has a major league pitcher ever struck out all 27 batters in a nine-inning regulation game? If not, what are the most batters a pitcher has struck out in one game?
A) No, 21
C) No, 20
D) No, 15
4) How old was the youngest person to ever play in a MLB game?
5) What are the most consecutive MLB games played by a National League player?
6) What is the rarest MLB feat?
B) Home Run Cycle
C) Perfect Game
D) Unassisted Triple Play
7) What is the longest game in MLB History?
A) Over 8 hours
B) > 7 Hours and < 6.5 hours
C) > 5 hours and < 5.5 hours
D) > 4 hours and < 5 hours
8) How many different types of pitches exist in MLB?
9) What is the average attendance for a regular season MLB baseball game?
10) What is the average salary in MLB?
1) (B) In baseball, a cycle is when a batter hits a single, double, triple and home run (in no particular order) in the same game. Cycles are very rare. Since 1882, only 339 cycles have ever been hit. The mathematical odds of hitting for a cycle are .0059%. A “natural cycle” is when a player hits a single, double, triple and home run in chronological order. In millions of at bats (potential occurrences) this has happened only 14 times in MLB history. A “home run cycle” is when a batter hits 4 home runs in a game with zero, one, two and three men on base. This feat has never been accomplished. In fact, only 18 players have ever hit 4 home runs in one game with any combination of men on base.
2) (B) A “no-hitter” is when a pitcher does not allow any batter on the opposing team to get a hit. Like the cycle, no-hitters are very rare. Only 317 have ever been thrown. Almost all no-hitters result in a win for the pitcher. However, while exceedingly rare, it is possible for pitcher to hurl a no-hitter and lose the game. This is feasible because walks and fielding errors – which are not counted as hits – can produce runs for the opposing team. A “perfect game” is when a pitcher does not allow an opposing player to reach base by hit, walk, or a fielding error. In over 218,000 games, only 23 pitchers have ever thrown a perfect game. No pitcher has ever thrown more than one perfect game. A pitcher who throws a perfect game from beginning to end cannot lose the game. (On a few occasions, a pitcher was throwing a perfect game but was removed for before it ended, which resulted in a loss). Note: A baseball game that is not tied concludes after 9 innings (or 8.5 innings if the home team, which always bats last, is ahead after 8.5 innings). If the game is tied after 9 innings, “extra innings” are played until a winner is determined.
3) (C) A pitcher has never managed to strike out all 27 batters in a game. In fact, no pitcher has ever struck out more than 20 batters in a 9-inning game. On four occasions, pitchers have struck out 20 batters (Roger Clemens accomplished this feat twice). In 1962, Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators struck out 21 batters in 16 innings of work.
4) (D) Today players must be 18 years old to compete at the Major League level (the minimum is 17 for international players.) Decades ago, no such rules existed. In 1944, a 15-year-old named Joe Nuxhall pitched in a game for the Cincinnati Reds making him the youngest person to ever play in an MLB game.
5) (C) Each MLB team plays 162 games in a baseball season. Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 consecutive baseball games over 16 seasons, a record that many experts say will never be broken. Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig who played in 2,130 games in a row, a record that stood for 50 years. MLB consists of 15 teams in The American league and 15 teams in the National League. The winner of each respective league faces each other in the World Series. Ripken Jr and Gehrig were in MLB’s American League division. The record for consecutive games played in the National League is 1,207, by Steve Garvey.
6) (D) No hitters are rare, perfect games even rarer. But the unassisted triple play - when a defensive player gets all three outs by himself in one play – is the rarest feat in baseball. It has only happened 15 times in MLB history. The last unassisted triple play occurred in 2009. A home run cycle has never been accomplished.
7) (A) In 1984, the Chicago White Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers in an extra inning game that lasted over 8 hours. The longest 9-inning game was in 2006 when the New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 14 to 11 in a contest that lasted just shy of 5 hours.
8) (D) According to MLB.com there are 13 types of pitches. The more common pitches include the Fastball, Slider, and Curveball. Rare pitches include the Knuckleball, Screwball, and Eephus. Click on each hyperlink to learn more.
9) (C) According to Statista, the average attendance for regular season MLB games is ~28,000 fans, down from ~30,000 in the decade leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2008, ~115,000 people attended an exhibition game between the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The largest attendance at a World Series game was 92,500 in game 5 of the ’59 Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Whitesox.
10) (C) The average MLB salary is $4,100,000 per year. The median MLB salary is 1,550,000 per year. The minimum MLB salary is $700,000 per year.