Jody Gerut: The most improbable cycle?
By Editorial Staff
Greetings and salutations, Brewer fans, and welcome to Reviewing the Brew, where we focus on any and all things related to Wisconsin’s MLB franchise. My name is Dave McGrath, and I’ll be your guide here at RtB. I’ll post a more thorough introduction about myself on an upcoming off-day, but you can know that I am a UW-Madison graduate that has worked as a sports journalist since 2004, covering the Badger football, men’s basketball and hockey teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Brewers.
Anyway, as any Brewer fan knows, there is a LOT of ground to cover with this team, from lineups, managerial decisions… heck, Jeff Suppan will probably have an entire series dedicated to him. And I hope to get to all hot topics in due time.
However, to kick off my contributions to this blog, I’ve decided that a look at a more positive aspect of the squad, that being Jody Gerut hitting for the sixth cycle in team history on Saturday against Arizona.
Now, when I first heard that, I thought to myself: “Jody Gerut??? That has to be the most unlikely candidate to hit for the cycle ever.”
That thought prompted me to take a look back at the six cycles the Brew Crew has enjoyed.
Mike Hegan, 1976
Charlie Moore, 1980
Robin Yount, 1988
Paul Molitor, 1991
Chad Moeller, 2003
That list prompted me to rethink that initial thought. So let’s have a little history lesson and review each one and the circumstances surrounding it and we’ll determine if Jody truly was the most unlikely Brewer to hit for the cycle.
Before we get to far, let me note that I will be heavily utilizing Baseball-Reference’s player linker. So any player I list that has played since 2006 will have his name also function as a link to his BR page, unless I state an exception.
And here is an exception: The players who hit for the cycle here will have their name link to the game recap of their glorious day.
Alright, let’s start with the old. You’re up, Hegan:
Mike Hegan, Sept. 3, 1976 at Detroit Tigers
Hegan had two stints for the Brewers, for about 1.3 years in 1970 and 71 and then returning for the final three and a half years of his career 74-77, playing mostly as a first baseman in his first stay and then splitting time at first, DH and outfield the second time around. He wasn’t swift, with only 18 triples and 28 steals.
He only had one season with over 333 PAs, and he was an average-to-below average player when he did play, not hitting for much power (just 53 homers in over 2400 PAs) or average, making him seem a deplorable example of a corner infielder. However, he was able to do one thing exceptionally well, that made his deficiencies tolerable for role player: he could draw a walk (12.7 percent walk rate for his career). His career slashes of .242/.341/.371 with a wOBA of .326 pretty much tell the story.
However, he was the only All-Star for the Seattle Pilots’ inaugural and final season of 1969, and held the AL record for consecutive errorless games at 1B at 178, until Kevin Youkilis broke it in 2007.
Hegan’s fateful day actually is particularly interesting when you consider the opposing pitcher. Sept. 3, 1976 actually turned out to probably be the worst start of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s memorable Rookie of the Year season, as he was touched up for 9 runs, 7 earned in just 3 2/3 innings. Hegan had a double in his first AB, batting fifth (for who knows what reason) for the Crew that day, driving in two runs in what was the most important hit of the games, as it pertains to the victory, adding 15 percent to the Brewer’s winning probability that day.
Hegan was not a good with the bat (beyond not swinging it, and drawing walks, of course), particularly when it came to hitting triples or home runs, with only 71 combined in his career. The first Brewer to accomplish the feat truly might be the least likely… on scale of 1-10 Jody Gerut‘s, with one being George Brett (who hit for two in his career) and 10 being Ben Sheets, I’d rate Hegan a seven, particularly surprising when you factor in that his career was really winding down by the time he roughed up “The Bird.”
Charlie Moore, Oct. 1, 1980 at California Angels
Moore is probably a much more memorable Brewer to fans who know their history, as he was the team’s starting or backup catcher from 1973 to 1986, logging 4357 PAs of .262/.320/.355 performance, good for a .296 wOBA, which is even worse than Hegan, but for a catcher who threw out about 38 percent of base stealers is more than acceptable. Still, in over 2,000 more PAs, Moore had eight (!) more triples and homers combined. Yikes.
His career day came batting ninth (much better than Hegan) for the Crew against starter Ed Halicki in the 160th game of the season.
He got his chance to get the cycle in the 8th inning and made it count with a double to centerfield. I can’t find any more info on the feat itself, so I don’t know if he legged out that double, but regardless, the chances of this defensive catcher hitting for the cycle were particularly awful, and clearly eclipse Hegan. This would have to register as an 8.5 on the Gerut scale.
Robin Yount, June 12, 1988 at Chicago White Sox
A Hall-of-Famer with 20 seasons of .285/.342/.430 with a .344 wOBA, mostly at SS. Amazing, really. While 1988 didn’t rival either of Yount’s two MVP seasons (1982, 1989) or his MVP-caliber 1983 season, it was probably his fourth-best season, posting a .371 wOBA.
It was at that point the third ever cycle for the Brew Crew, but without question the most unsurprising. It would be more surprising if Yount had never hit for the cycle. One Gerut.
Paul Molitor, May 15, 1991 at Minnesota Twins
By 1991, Molitor was predominantly a DH who occasionally played 1B. A career .306/.369/.448 with a .366 wOBA, “The Ignitor” was well on his way to the Hall of Fame as the ultimate contact hitter, not walking very often, but rarely striking out as well. With the exception of Molitor’s 1987 season, ’91 was probably his best season, highlighted by his cycle against his future team, almost 19 years ago to the day.
With Yount, Molitor is the best player in team history and even better equipped to hit for the cycle, as he had tons of speed and was a strong triples hitter, averaging seven per 162 games over his career. If Yount gets one Gerut, Molitor gets a half-Gerut.
Chad Moeller, April 27, 2004 vs. Cincinnati Reds
Playing 10 seasons, but only accumulating 1524 PAs, Chad Moeller made his hay in the majors as a backup catcher, playing in over 78 games only once: in 2004 when he shared the backstop job with Gary Bennett, but was the predominant starter. Like most career backup catchers, Moeller was an offensive liability posting a career slash line of .226/.288/.351 with a .277 wOBA, which is pretty bad. Unlike Moore however, only 24.2 percent of runners were caught by Moeller, making him slightly below average in that respect. But I’m sure that baseball purists will attest that he “called a great game” or “handled the pitching staff well.” Ugh. Fact was, he was probably below average overall, more so than Mr. Moore, making his cycle even more surprising.
Moeller his seven triples and just 29 homers in 1,524 PAs, which is a worst rate we’ve come across yet on this list. Making the feat even more improbable is that the Moeller was sick on the day he accomplished it, fighting off chills and aches.
He actually reached base a fifth way in the 9th inning too, reaching on error.
If Moore qualified as a 8.5 on the probability scale, Moeller is at least a nine as there are some pitchers who can boast better hitting numbers. For example: Mike Hampton’s career slash line: .246/.294/.356.
Jody Gerut, May 8 at Arizona Diamondbacks
So, that leaves us with ‘ol Jody. After breaking into the league with the Indians in 2003, he spent the next two years as the primary starter for Cleveland, logging time at all three outfield positions, with slightly above average defense. His rookie year of .279/.336/.494 with 22 homers was pretty promising, but declining power rates the following year (11 homers, an ISO drop from .215 to .154) made him less of a valuable commodity, and ever since he has been something of a roving fourth OF, logging time with the Cubs, Pirates, Padres and now Brewers, even spending all of 08 in the minors.
With a career wOBA of .329 he’s slightly below average for a corner outfielder, but definitely above replacement level. I don’t think you can say that about Chad Moeller at any point in his career.
At age 32, he probably has shown what he really is, and that is a capable bench outfielder. He seems to me to be just below MLB average, so we’ll have to give ‘ol Jody a five on the Gerut scale.
So there you have it, Gerut’s cycle isn’t the most unlikely in the Brewers’ history; it’s actually the third most likely. Now that is a result I wasn’t expecting.
Meanwhile, Chad Moeller clearly qualifies as the most surprising of the Brewers’ cyclists. That he was able to hit one at all, with just seven triples in 10 seasons speaks to the unusual and chancy nature of the cycle.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say its more luck than skill, but there is clearly a large element of luck involved.
Until next time, Slainte!