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Friday, August 12, 2011

Posnanski: Why Hitting Streaks Matter (Sort Of)

Yeah, just to give Waldling another chance to say…“Who’s Heinie Manush?”

Which brings us to: Hit streaks. Obviously hit streaks are on the mind these days because Dan Uggla is doing something so utterly unlikely that we can’t help but be drawn to it (or repelled by it, I suppose). Uggla was well on his way to the lowest batting average in the history of the National League when he began this hitting streak. And the streak is at 31 games now, more than halfway to the magic number, 25 games away from Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

In my mind, Joe DiMaggio invented the hit streak in 1941 It is probably his enduring contribution to baseball. Every single time you hear an announcer say that Neifi Perez is on a modest six-game hitting streak, every time you read a story about a player having a nine-game hitting streak snapped, every time people on radio discuss how much longer a player can keep a hit streak alive … I think thats ALL because of DiMaggio. If that had been Tuck Stainback hitting in 56 straight games, I suspect it would be an interesting but relatively obscure baseball quirk. And I suspect hit streaks on the whole might be viewed as interesting but otherwise pointless statistical blarney.*

*Who has there record for most consecutive games with a double? Do you know?

Repoz Posted: August 12, 2011 at 10:50 PM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, miami, projections, sabermetrics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3898925)
*Who has there record for most consecutive games with a double? Do you know?

Better trivia examples might be:

who held the record before DiMaggio? How long was it? Who's currently #4 on the list?

I do assume that Poz must be overstating a bit -- long hit streaks must have drawn attention before or nobody would have noticed DiMaggio's. But he's right in general. I recall the national network news running an update on Molitor's hit streak and he didn't even make it to 40. No way that happens unless the record is held by an icon like DiMaggio.
   2. Tim McCarver's Orange Marmalade Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:38 PM (#3898929)
"In my mind, Joe DiMaggio invented the hit streak in 1941 It is probably his enduring contribution to baseball."

That's a shame for DiMaggio, if true. Like Ripkin, DiMaggio's career was a lot more than "the streak".
   3.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:39 PM (#3898931)
I can honestly think of few things in sports that interest me less.

At least with, like, hitting for the cycle you know that the guy had an extraordinary game.
   4. CrosbyBird Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:52 PM (#3898935)
This is sort of the way I want the hitting streak to be broken. Uggla is having a slightly below-average offensive season and it would be great to have a lousy hitter break the record. I'd like first to separate the hitting streak from value, but also, I think the story is much better. What will Dan Uggla really ever be famous for when the curtain falls on his career? DiMaggio would be remembered for being great without the streak, so let someone else seize a little bit of fame for it.
   5. Sweatpants Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:54 PM (#3898938)
I mentioned above that if it had been Tuck Stainback who hit in 56 straight games, we probably would not view hit streaks the same way. Well, you could counter that Tuck Stainback could not hit in 56 straight games. And you would probably be right, though Uggla’s 31-game hitting streak opens up almost any possibility.
I agree that Uggla's not anywhere near the list of players most likely to reel off a hitting streak like this. Saying that Uggla's streak "opens up almost any possibility" is overstating it a bit, though. Uggla's not a batting average-oriented player, but he hit .287 last season. If you asked me before the season whether it was more likely for Uggla to head into the All-Star break with a batting average below .200 or for him him to hit in 31 straight, I'd probably have chosen the hitting streak. I think that the awful first half was flukier than the streak.
   6. spike Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:58 PM (#3898940)
it would be great to have a lousy hitter break the record

I am far from his biggest fan despite his recent sterling contribution to my favorite team, but a 115 career OPS+, even including this years early struggle does not get you into the conversation about lousy hitters.

/if I misread your comment, and you were referring to a generic lousy hitter breaking the record, my apologies.
   7. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:01 AM (#3898943)
If you don't love a good hitting streak, you probably aren't a baseball fan.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:03 AM (#3898944)
I am far from his biggest fan despite his recent sterling contribution to my favorite team, but a 115 career OPS+, even including this years early struggle does not get you into the conversation about lousy hitters.

I assume he meant "lousy" hitter for average. He ain't got a 115 OPS+ because of his 258 BA.

From a probability standpoint, Uggla hitting in 57 straight would make Bonds' late 30s and Bautista's transformation look like everyday occurrences in comparison.
   9. spike Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:05 AM (#3898947)
Oh, and right on cue, Uggla parks one for 32.

/and I see the man's point now, thanks for that.
   10.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:16 AM (#3898950)
I think he'd be remembered for that all star game where he made 26 errora
   11. Morty Causa Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:22 AM (#3898954)
If you don't love a good hitting streak, you probably aren't a baseball fan.


If you confuse love with infatuation, you probably need to do some growing up.
   12.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:41 AM (#3898959)
I like actual hitting streaks, like getting a hit in 10 straight PA's. That's cool.
   13. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:54 AM (#3898968)
That's a shame for DiMaggio, if true. Like Ripkin, DiMaggio's career was a lot more than "the streak

Yeah. He also had the whole music thing with Art Garfunkle. And he banged Monroe (which sounds like it was not that exclusive a club.)
   14. Dan Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:55 AM (#3898969)
I'd be much more interested in seeing on-base streaks tracked than hitting streaks. Having an 0-2 with 2 BB shouldn't be considered a bad day (unless the 2 outs came in the biggest situations, etc, but you get the point). But a day like that means the end of a hitting streak.
   15. Gaelan Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:57 AM (#3898971)
The interesting thing about this streak is it puts to bed forever the nonsense that there is no such thing as a hot hitter. This kills the random variation explanation for everything meme forever. The reign of lazy, sloppy, thought is over.
   16. NTNgod Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:01 AM (#3898974)
That's a shame for DiMaggio, if true. Like Ripkin, DiMaggio's career was a lot more than "the streak"

>>Yeah. He also had the whole music thing with Art Garfunkle. And he banged Monroe (which sounds like it was not that exclusive a club.)

His achievements as a commercial spokesperson, too.
   17. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:13 AM (#3898982)
The reign of lazy, sloppy, thought is over.

Is this your way of telling us you're dying?
   18.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:19 AM (#3898986)
I'm sure you know this at some level, perhaps buried underneath 3 layers of smug self-gratification, but the point about the "hot hitter" thing is about predictability. Uggla, over his next 10 games, is more likely to put up numbers similar to his career average than numbers similar to his streak average.
   19. flournoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:30 AM (#3898990)
I'd like first to separate the hitting streak from value


Good luck with that.

Uggla pre-streak: .173 / .241 / .327
Uggla during streak: .355 / .409 / .685

Plus two more home runs today.
   20. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:30 AM (#3898991)
Is this your way of telling us you're dying?


I'm a hard-working, careful thinker and this made me laugh.
   21. NTNgod Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:38 AM (#3898992)
Plus two more home runs today.

Considering Zambrano appears to have thought he was pitching in the HR derby, how impressive is that, really?
   22. Bourbon Samurai Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:56 AM (#3899002)
Hit streaks are awesome. I particularly enjoy an unlikely candidate like Uggla going on a rampage.

When was the last guy to hit 40? Did Molitor do it?
   23. NTNgod Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:00 AM (#3899005)
Molitor? No - 39 games.

Damn Rick Manning.
   24. flournoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:01 AM (#3899006)
I think Pete Rose was the last 40+ guy.
   25. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:11 AM (#3899015)
Molitor? No - 39 games.

Damn Rick Manning.


I took this to mean that Rick Manning was the last to hit in 40, and I thought, "That's more unlikely than Uggla at 32."
   26. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:19 AM (#3899024)
The interesting thing about this streak is it puts to bed forever the nonsense that there is no such thing as a hot hitter. This kills the random variation explanation for everything meme forever. The reign of lazy, sloppy, thought is over.

The hilarious thing is that you can easily make the statistical case that nobody having put up a better streak than DiMaggio's, is a huge statistical outlier. Yes, the probability of anyone doing it is extremely low. But number of years of baseball * teams * batters per team * opportunities to start a new streak per season, is a really large number...


FWIW, the simulations I've seen, which obviously tke in more than just the hitting side, put us rght around where we should be. That is over the course of baseball history, somebody was about as likely to put up a streak better than DiMaggio's as not, with the fact that nobody else really has come close being somewhat of an outlier.
   27. McCoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:22 AM (#3899030)
Well, it generally takes some favorable calls to get a high hit game streak. Joe Dimaggio and Dan Uggla are no exception to this view.
   28. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:24 AM (#3899031)
One time my friend Damen and I signed up for the two Little Leagues in our area and ended up on the same teams. We figured out we'd play 56 games that summer. He said he was going to tie DiMaggio. He got a hit in his first at bat of the first game and pointed at me, in the on-deck circle, and said "55 more, baby!" He had an oh-for in our next game and was killed a couple of years later.

Think about that, Uggla.
   29. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:28 AM (#3899034)
[self plagiarism at it's finest]from primer dugout today, I wrote: "In honor of Uggla's ongoing hitting streak, I was looking for the WORST overall season by any player who had a hitting streak of 31 games or more in that season--the worst I found was Ken Landreaux in 1980. The streak ended on May 30th and he was at 356/409/475. For the remainder of the year, he hit 238/291/384."

Landreaux ended the season at 281/334/417 for an OPS+ of 99. Stangely, Uggla's season so far, although at 224/289/428 is at OPS 96+, not so far behind Landreaux
   30. McCoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:36 AM (#3899039)
You didn't look up Willy Taveras then

2006: .278/.333/.338 for a 74 OPS+

He hit .349/.404/.426 during the 30 game streak and hit .258/.307/.312 and .244/.323/.302 before and after the streak.
   31. bjhanke Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:38 AM (#3899040)
The most amusing thing about Joe D's streak, at least to me, is that Heinz (yeah, the ketchup company) offered him something like $10,000 (a very large amount at the time) if he could get to 57, which he missed by one. Which "proves", of course, that Joe D. was not "clutch."

Brock Hanke
   32. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:42 AM (#3899043)
You didn't look up Willy Taveras then

I cut it off at 31, but I agree that Taveras is more impressive (if that's the right word)
   33. bunyon Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:26 AM (#3899086)
The thing about Uggla that is infuriating is that, while on vacation, my wife asked me about the Braves and how they were leading the wild card. After complaining about the wild card for a bit I expressed the thought that they might be near the top of the division if not for injuries and "that damned Dan Uggla who can't hit a lick."

Two weeks later she produced a sports page that had him at a 25 (or so) game hitting streak and asked me, innocently, if that was the guy I meant. grrrrr.
   34. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:26 AM (#3899087)
I was looking at Uggla's gamelogs the other day, and noticed that he improved his batting average in each of the first 27 games of his streak (finally ending it when he started game 28 at .220 and went 1/5). This seems virtually certain to be the longest such streak in baseball history... but I'm not sure how to construct a PI search to confirm this.
   35. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:35 AM (#3899090)
Better trivia examples might be:

who held the record before DiMaggio? How long was it? Who's currently #4 on the list?


No. 1 - Wee Willie.

No. 2 - 45, I believe, one better than Pete.

No. 3 - Molitor 39.

Edit: Wrong on No. 3
   36. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:42 AM (#3899096)
Some other 19th century guy had a 40-gamer at one point, I think... Bill Dahlen, maybe?
   37. CrosbyBird Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:46 AM (#3899098)
Uggla pre-streak: .173 / .241 / .327
Uggla during streak: .355 / .409 / .685


Nobody cares about partial season results. I'm rooting for 1-for-4 and 1-for-5 nights, followed by a monstrous collapse after he passes DiMaggio. I want to see Uggla end the season with something like a .250 BA and a 60-game hitting streak.
   38. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:47 AM (#3899100)
Some other 19th century guy had a 40-gamer at one point, I think... Bill Dahlen, maybe?


Dahlen's No. 4 at 42, followed by Sisler (41) and Cobb (40).
   39. spike Posted: August 13, 2011 at 05:54 AM (#3899153)
I'm rooting for 1-for-4 and 1-for-5 nights, followed by a monstrous collapse after he passes DiMaggio. I want to see Uggla end the season with something like a .250 BA

That will require a lot more than 1-4 nights followed by a monstrous collapse. Assuming he's got about 150 more AB's this year, it's going to take another 50 hits or so to get there.
   40. CrosbyBird Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:25 PM (#3899202)
That will require a lot more than 1-4 nights followed by a monstrous collapse. Assuming he's got about 150 more AB's this year, it's going to take another 50 hits or so to get there.

His current BA is .224. and he's got 442 AB already. Let's say he ends the season with 600 AB for easy math (156 AB in 47 games is actually a little low for a guy who walks as infrequently as Uggla). For a .250 BA, he would need to finish the season 51-for-156, or a .327 BA the rest of the way. Since he's hitting .355 over the streak, it takes only a little slump at the end to make that happen. (Unless you're saying he'll likely be worse than a .250 hitter... that would be something that would be an even better story.)

22 of his 32 games during this streak are 1-fors, and he's also got a 2-for-8 in there. If he goes .355 over his next 28 games (let's say 108 AB to make the match easy again), he'll get 38 more hits and be 137-for-550 on the season, which would be a .249 BA.
   41. Brian White Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:35 PM (#3899207)
I'm rooting for 1-for-4 and 1-for-5 nights, followed by a monstrous collapse after he passes DiMaggio. I want to see Uggla end the season with something like a .250 BA


If Dan Uggla went 1 for 4 each of the next 26 games to pass DiMaggio, then went 0 for 4 in the remaining 17 games, he'd end up with a 58 game hit streak and a .194 batting average.
   42. flournoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 03:52 PM (#3899260)
.370/.426/.740 now during the streak. His OPS+ is over 100.
   43. flournoy Posted: August 13, 2011 at 11:37 PM (#3899388)
33
   44. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 14, 2011 at 02:08 AM (#3899437)
Also, if this post is accurate (and I have no reason to think it's not), Uggla has now tied the record for most HR during a hitting streak.
   45. NTNgod Posted: August 14, 2011 at 02:13 AM (#3899438)
Also, if this post is accurate (and I have no reason to think it's not), Uggla has now tied the record for most HR during a hitting streak.

Hmm... that shows him tied for third-most?
   46. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: August 14, 2011 at 02:26 AM (#3899445)
Hmm... that shows him tied for third-most?


He's hit 3 HR since that list was made, one tonight, and 2 yesterday.
   47. NTNgod Posted: August 14, 2011 at 02:30 AM (#3899449)
Ah! Gotcha.

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