Last night the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton became only the 16th player in MLB history to hit four home runs in one game. This is a feat that many compare to pitching a perfect game and the debate over which is more impressive rages on. In my opinion, the four homer game is much more impressive than the perfect game and I have some numbers to back it up.
There have been 16 four homer games in MLB history and 21 perfect games making both feats very rare. By just looking at the those numbers the four homer game is more impressive but if we dig a little deeper we will see just how extraordinary it is. At the beginning of every baseball game there are only two players who are eligible to pitch a perfect game (the two starting pitchers). However, there are 18 players (excluding substitutions) who could hit four home runs. Hitters have 9 times as many chances to complete their feat as their pitching counterparts but have done so five fewer times in history.
No-hitters and three homer games can be compared too. There have been 274 no-hitters in MLB history and 491 three homer games. So three homer games happen a lot more than no-hitters but don’t forget that batters still have 9 times as many chances to accomplish their feat than the pitchers do.
What’s interesting about both the four home run game and the perfect games is that more often than not the feats are accomplished by players not in or not headed to Cooperstown. Of the 16 players who have hit four homers in a game only 5 are in the Hall of Fame (Ed Delanty, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt). Of the 21 pitchers who have pitched a perfect game only 5 are in the Hall of Fame (Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, and Catfish Hunter) and one will be there soon (Randy Johnson).
Both rare feats are great accomplishments for the players who are lucky enough to complete them. But statistically the four home run game is much more rare than the perfect game so is therefore much more impressive.