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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BPro: Albert: Was Joe DiMaggio Streaky?

Since the distinction between game-level streakiness and at-bat-level streakiness can be confusing, let me explain in terms of coin flipping. Suppose you flip a coin 500 times. I simulated this process on a computer and found some interesting streaky patterns. I had a streaky of eight consecutive heads, six occurrences of six consecutive heads, and so on. Should I be excited by these clusters? Of course not—I’m just observing some streaky patterns that are a by-product of chance. A coin is truly consistent in that the chance of heads is always 50 percent and outcomes of different flips are independent.

Let’s move to the hitting outcomes of a baseball player like Joe DiMaggio. We observe his sequence of individual hits and outs during the 1941 season, but unlike the coin, we don’t really know DiMaggio’s true hitting behavior. There are two possibilities. Maybe DiMaggio is truly consistent (like the coin) and the chance that he gets a hit does not change across the season. Or maybe DiMaggio is truly streaky—this would mean that during part of the season, he’s hot and hitting with a higher-than-average probability, and other times, he’s cold and hitting with a lower probability. By the way, baseball players and managers believe in hot and cold hitting, and managers make decisions about lineups on the basis of these beliefs about hot and cold.

Until recently, we had access only to DiMaggio’s game-to-game hitting data for the 1941 season. But this summer Retrosheet made available play-by-play data for some early seasons, including 1941. We now can look more carefully at DiMaggio’s sequence of hit/out data for each of his at-bats. We can use this 1941 data to see if DiMaggio’s pattern of hitting is any different from that of a truly consistent hitter with a constant chance of hitting throughout the season.

...What do we see? Since DiMaggio’s actual streakiness value is in the middle of this distribution, we conclude that the amount of streakiness in his sequence of hits and outs is similar to what we would predict if he was truly a consistent hitter. So there is little evidence to suggest that DiMaggio was truly a streaky hitter during the 1941 season.

Am I saying that DiMaggio’s Great Streak is not remarkable? No. He was a great hitter in the 1941 season, and his greatness led to this game-by-game hitting accomplishment. (In fact, if one does a similar analysis on a game-by-game basis, DiMaggio appears very streaky.) But if one looks at his sequence of hits and outs at an at-bat level, there is little evidence to suggest that his hitting ability changed during the season.

Thanks to Los.

Repoz Posted: September 24, 2013 at 05:40 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
Tags: history, sabermetrics

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1. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: September 24, 2013 at 06:47 AM (#4549069)
I've never understood the fascination with hitting streaks. They are somewhat interesting, but offer almost no indication as to the calibre of the hitter. Joe's 56-gamer is the most overhyped feat in baseball history, by orders of magnitude.
2.  Posted: September 24, 2013 at 07:07 AM (#4549077)
Overhyped in terms of the necessary luck that was involved (what if Dan Daniel had never been born, or if Tommy Henrich was less self-sacrificing?), but not overhyped otherwise.
3. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: September 24, 2013 at 07:22 AM (#4549079)
I just mean people talk about it as if its more impressive than hitting .400 over a 56 game streak, or hitting 45 homers in a season. It was a by product of luck and the fact that Joe didn't walk a whole hell of as lot. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big DiMaggio fan, but the 56-game hitting streak, IMO, is one of the least notable achievements of his career.
4.  Posted: September 24, 2013 at 07:28 AM (#4549081)
cold

I give that a 6 on a scale of 1-10 on a ray imitation

5. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: September 24, 2013 at 07:35 AM (#4549087)
Haha, I was going to start my first post with "At the expense of sounding like Ray". I think its cool, and if this was 1941 I'd have checked the box scores everyday, but I don't find it any more notable to a season or a career than say, an errorless games streak. Nobody talks about Darren Lewis. If I have two CFs and I need to pick a Silver Slugger, and one hits .340/.410/.590 with 36 homers and a 56 game hitting streak, and the other hits .340/.410/.596 with 36 homers, I'm picking that second guy. Hitting streaks are about sentimentality, and I've never been sentimental.
6.  Posted: September 24, 2013 at 07:59 AM (#4549098)
Oh for crying out loud everybody just enjoy baseball.
7. Howie Menckel Posted: September 24, 2013 at 08:36 AM (#4549128)

didn't rtfa, but didn't DiMaggio have a 71-game hitting streak in the minors?
that said, not the most fascinating topic in baseball anyway...
8.  Posted: September 24, 2013 at 08:45 AM (#4549141)
didn't rtfa, but didn't DiMaggio have a 71-game hitting streak in the minors?

Actually it was "only" 61 games, but then at that point Dimaggio was only 18 years old, and Dan Daniels was halfway across the continent.

What you may be thinking about is that if Ken Keltner hadn't made those two great plays to end his 56-game streak, he would've made it up to 74 games, since beginning the day after the Keltner game he hit safely in his next 17.
9. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 24, 2013 at 09:49 AM (#4549200)
cold

I give that a 6 on a scale of 1-10 on a ray imitation

It would rise to an 7 if you use the word "silly".
10. SoSH U at work Posted: September 24, 2013 at 09:49 AM (#4549202)
Few things would be more exciting to me than a real run at Joe's record. I remember when Pete got up to 44, and it was pretty damn riveting. When every game holds the potential for the thing to end or carry on for another day, one game closer to 56, well that's pretty hard to beat.

How valuable it is kind of misses the point, as far as I'm concerned.

11. Cblau Posted: September 24, 2013 at 10:05 AM (#4549222)
Sure, what could be more exciting than statistics? They are the point of baseball, after all.
12. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: September 24, 2013 at 10:08 AM (#4549225)
I feel a streak is pretty exciting while its happening, but once its over, not so much. Sorry to come across as a Raybot, but that's me.
13. SoSH U at work Posted: September 24, 2013 at 10:10 AM (#4549227)
I feel a streak is pretty exciting while its happening, but once its over, not so much.

I think most baseball loses its excitement once its over. (-:
14. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: September 24, 2013 at 10:29 AM (#4549245)
Statistics last forever! It may have something to do with how my memory works. I can remember obscure facts forever, but I have little ability to associate events or facts with a point in time or a date. I have no idea what I wore three days ago for instance, let alone what the date was when team A beat team B for the pennant.
15. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: September 24, 2013 at 10:35 AM (#4549258)
Molitor's hitting streak in '87 was pretty fun when I was 10. I would imagine thst a similar streak would be just as fun now, even though I'm in my mid 30s.

As a side note, I think Jim should change the motto to "Get off my lawn!" after some of the bellyaching I've seen the last couple of days over Rivera's retirement tour, the expanded wild card, and hitting streaks.
16. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: September 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM (#4549336)
How valuable it is kind of misses the point, as far as I'm concerned.

Sure, I can see that. Everyone loves streaks, it gives us something to follow and latch on to. At the same time, it really is an accomplishment more valued than it deserves. It's definitely more of a "baseball is fun" accomplishment than anything else.

DiMaggio put up 408/463/717/1.181 during his 56 game streak. Interestingly enough, Ted Williams put up a 406/553/735/1.287 for the entire year.

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