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Panda’s (Historically?) Big Boned Cycle

Pablo Sandoval hit for the cycle during the Giants’ 8-5 victory over the Rockies last night, ably and entertainingly broken down by Jeff Sullivan here. It has been quite a journey for Kung Fu Panda, who went from exciting young Giants third baseman to bench player during San Francisco’s run to the World Championship in 2010. Criticized by the organization for his weight, he came into 2011 slimmed-down and has returned to his impressive pre-2010 performance level. What makes the timing of the cycle so interesting is that it comes so soon after reports surfaced that he has gained back much of the weight he lost during the off-season. Sandoval is a big guy, but is he the biggest-boned player to hit for a cycle since the beginning of FanGraph’s play-by-play data (1974)?

Although hitting for the cycle tends to be overrated, on a visceral level I still find it exciting. It is even more entertaining when it is accomplished by a “hoss” like Sandoval. Getting an idea of how big Sandoval is at the moment is difficult not only because his weight has fluctuated a great deal over the last year or so, but because reported heights and weights in general are so often and obviously off. I’m pretty sure determining hit location is easier than getting an accurate public number for an athlete’s weight. With that difficulty acknowledged, I’ll simply be using the measurements for Sandoval and other players available to me in the database: 71 inches (5-11), 262 pounds.

How should we compare this to other recent “cyclists?” I could just do straight pounds, but there are some pretty heavy guys who aren’t really your stereotypical “big guys.” I decided to go with pounds per inch (lbs/in). Sandoval’s lbs/in is an impressive 3.69. Have any of the other cyclists since 1974 been as curvy as Panda? Here are the contenders:

Vladimir Guerrero, 6-3, 235, 3.13 lbs/in, September 14, 2003. Near the end of his last season with the Expos (themselves in their penultimate season), Vlad hit for the cycle against the Mets. I didn’t think he was that big back then, but who knows when the weight measurement was taken. If Vlad hit for the cycle this season (there’s still time!), it might be the most shocking thing to happen since, well, keep reading. But hey, great signing by the Orioles. I bet they get something good back for him at the deadline.

Travis Hafner, 6-3, 240, 3.20 lbs/in, August 14 2003. Bringing up pre-2007 Pronk just seems cruel to Cleveland fans, so I’ll just stop here. Great nickname, though.

Daryle Ward, 6-2, 240, 3.24 lbs/in, May 26, 2004. I hope the Pirates’ inspiring run to 70 wins this season doesn’t overshadow this classic moment from their somewhat-recent history. No list of random baseball happenings is really complete without Daryle Ward making an appearance. He seemingly shows up somewhere every season. Maybe Sandoval hit his chunky cycle as a tribute to Ward, who was released by the Diamondbacks from their Double-A affiliate this week.

Bengie Molina, 5-10/233, 3.33 lbs/in, July 16, 2010. I was hoping to make a super-duper clever joke about “Giants,” but this actually happened after Molina got traded to the Rangers. Honestly, for me and probably for anyone who has ever seen Molina move, this was far more shocking that Sandoval’s cycle. Maybe only Prince Fielder or Billy Butler hitting for the cycle, would really compete for the “um, what?” factor. I’m sure this is the real reason Molina retired — go out on top, baby.

Each of these entries has its angle, but even Molina, at 3.33 lbs/in, can’t compare with Sandoval’s 3.69. Less than a year ago, Sandoval was getting benched in the playoffs for the likes of Juan Uribe and Zombie Edgar Renteria less than a year ago. Today, he is the most voluptuous guy to hit for the cycle in at least 37 years. We are all witnesses.