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Respecting the Streak
2006-04-11 05:25
by Mike Carminati
I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.
— Crash Davis in "Bull Durham"

Jimmy Rollins just ended his 38-game hitting streak and, after one hitless game, started another streak that now stands at four games after his 3-for-4 showing last night. It was the second longest streak since Pete Rose's historic 44-game hitting streak in 1978 as well as the second longest multi-year streak (after Wee Willie Keeler's 45-gamer that started in the last game of the 1896 season).

Oddly, when I tried to look up the complete list of 30-game hitting streaks, I got wildly divergent lists. I cobbled together what I believe is a complete list from three main sources (1, 2, and 3):

56—Joe DiMaggio, 1941
52—Denny Lyons, 1887 (inc. walks as hits)
45—Willie Keeler, 1896-97 (last game of 1896 plus first 44 of 1897)
44—Pete Rose, 1978
42—Bill Dahlen, 1894
41—George Sisler, 1922
40—Ty Cobb, 1911
39—Paul Molitor, 1987
38—Jimmy Rollins, 2005-06
37—Tommy Holmes, 1945
36—Billy Hamilton, 1894
35—Luis Castillo, 2002
35—Ty Cobb, 1917
35—Fred Clarke, 1895
34—Benito Santiago, 1987
34—Dom DiMaggio, 1949
34—George McQuinn, 1938
34—George Sisler, 1925
33—George Davis, 1893
33—Heinie Manush, 1933
33—Hal Chase, 1907
33—Rogers Hornsby, 1922
31—Vladimir Guerrero, 1999
31—Ken Landreaux, 1980
31—Rico Carty, 1970
31—Willie Davis, 1969
31—Sam Rice, 1924
31—Nap Lajoie, 1906
31—Ed Delahanty, 1899
30—Albert Pujols, 2003
30—Luis Gonzalez, 1999
30—Eric Davis, 1998
30—Sandy Alomar Jr., 1997
30—Nomar Garciaparra, 1997
30—Jerome Walton, 1989
30—George Brett, 1980
30—Ron LeFlore, 1976
30—Stan Musial, 1950
30—Goose Goslin, 1934
30—Tris Speaker, 1912
30—Elmer Smith, 1898
30—Cal McVey, 1876

The one entry on the list that you never see is Denny Lyons' 52-game streak in 1887. That year the National League counted walks as hits. Lyons kept the streak going a few times without registering what we consider a hit today. MLB decided to reset the stats from 1887 to reflect our current definition for hits. However, the fact remains that Lyons had a 52-game streak according to the rules in play at the time.

You'll note that Rollins comes in ninth in terms of longest hitting streaks all time.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the player stats for all of those registering a thirty game streak or longer. Given their stats we can then determine the odds that each player would have hit the streak that he did.

I established the statistics involved in deriving the odds in a post from a few years ago. I have changed it slightly to ignore those plate appearances in which the batter had no chance to get a hit (i.e., times hit by a pitch and intentional walks).

For each, I list the odds that the batter will get a hit in any given plate appearance, in any given game, for a stretch of games as long as their streak, and for a stretch as long as their streak over their season(s):

NameYrStreakGABHBAOBPSLUGOPSOdds (1 PA)Odds(1g)Single Streak OddsStreak Odds
Ed Delahanty189931146581238.410.464.5821.04637.13%86.97%1.317%152.82%
Willie Keeler1896-97452551108449.405.448.518.96637.26%88.95%0.515%108.76%
Rogers Hornsby192233154623250.401.459.7221.18135.56%86.55%0.850%103.76%
George Sisler192241142586246.420.467.5941.06137.79%88.65%0.716%73.00%
Ty Cobb191140146591248.420.467.6211.08838.39%88.27%0.680%72.78%
Billy Hamilton189436129544220.404.523.5281.05032.84%87.35%0.767%72.12%
Denny Lyons188752137570209.415.421.523.94341.49%91.05%0.765%65.76%
Cal McVey18763063308107.347.352.406.75734.52%87.55%1.850%62.92%
George Brett198030117449175.390.454.6641.11835.14%84.16%0.567%49.90%
Tris Speaker191230153580222.383.464.5671.03133.18%82.85%0.354%43.86%
George Sisler192534150649224.345.371.479.85132.56%83.58%0.225%26.29%
Nap Lajoie190631152602214.355.392.465.85732.97%81.88%0.204%24.84%
George Davis189333133549195.355.410.554.96432.99%83.12%0.224%22.65%
Ty Cobb191735152588225.383.444.5701.01433.83%83.58%0.188%22.19%
Heinie Manush193333153658221.336.372.459.83131.48%82.35%0.165%19.97%
Sam Rice192431154646216.334.382.443.82530.51%81.24%0.159%19.76%
Albert Pujols200330157591212.359.439.6671.10631.98%80.35%0.141%18.07%
Nomar Garciaparra199730153684209.306.342.534.87528.79%80.03%0.125%15.53%
Luis Gonzalez199930153614206.336.403.549.95230.29%79.89%0.119%14.73%
Fred Clarke189535132550191.347.396.425.82132.54%82.63%0.126%12.33%
Elmer Smith189830123486166.342.425.432.85829.59%79.81%0.115%10.85%
Stan Musial195030146555192.346.437.5961.03429.91%79.04%0.086%10.08%
Tommy Holmes194537154636224.352.420.577.99731.59%82.59%0.084%9.96%
Rico Carty197031136478175.366.454.5841.03731.70%78.73%0.060%6.38%
Ron LeFlore197630135544172.316.376.410.78628.71%77.73%0.052%5.53%
Goose Goslin193430151614187.305.373.453.82627.34%76.46%0.032%3.89%
George McQuinn193834148602195.324.384.477.86128.97%78.90%0.032%3.64%
Bill Dahlen189442121502179.357.444.5661.01030.97%82.97%0.039%3.15%
Vladimir Guerrero199931160610193.316.378.600.97829.56%76.07%0.021%2.70%
Paul Molitor198739118465164.353.438.5661.00330.48%80.94%0.026%2.10%
Dom DiMaggio194934145605186.307.404.420.82426.42%77.45%0.017%1.89%
Sandy Alomar199730125451146.324.354.545.90030.74%75.23%0.020%1.88%
Willie Davis196931129498155.311.356.456.81129.19%75.85%0.019%1.88%
Jerome Walton198930116475139.293.335.385.72127.36%75.34%0.020%1.78%
Luis Castillo200235146606185.305.364.361.72627.95%77.37%0.013%1.41%
Eric Davis199830131452148.327.388.582.97029.42%73.76%0.011%1.11%
Jimmy Rollins2005-0638164701204.291.339.432.77127.35%76.62%0.004%0.51%
Hal Chase190733125498143.287.315.357.67227.13%73.67%0.004%0.39%
Benito Santiago198734146546164.300.324.467.79129.03%73.47%0.003%0.32%
Ken Landreaux198031129484136.281.334.417.75125.66%70.43%0.002%0.19%
Pete Rose197844159655198.302.362.421.78327.50%76.69%0.001%0.10%
Joe DiMaggio194156139541193.357.440.6431.08331.28%81.08%0.001%0.07%

So basically, the most likely was Big Ed's 31-game streak in 1899, and the least likely was DiMaggio's 56-gamer.

But isn't that a function of the length of the streak. It's just harder to get a hit for 25 more games, right? Well, I put that theory to the test. I projected each hitter's odds of recording a 56-game streak. Who had the best chance?:

NameYrStreak56-G Streak?
Denny Lyons18875243.09684%
Willie Keeler1896-974528.44247%
George Sisler19224110.21876%
Ty Cobb1911408.40896%
Billy Hamilton1894363.79457%
Ed Delahanty1899313.65115%
Rogers Hornsby1922333.03636%
Cal McVey1876300.46631%
Ty Cobb1917350.42242%
George Sisler1925340.41270%
George Brett1980300.39728%
Tris Speaker1912300.26023%
George Davis1893330.24919%
Tommy Holmes1945370.22060%
Bill Dahlen1894420.19053%
Heinie Manush1933330.18601%
Fred Clarke1895350.17617%
Nap Lajoie1906310.13345%
Sam Rice1924310.08748%
Joe DiMaggio1941560.06679%
Albert Pujols2003300.04875%
Paul Molitor1987390.04546%
Nomar Garciaparra1997300.03747%
Luis Gonzalez1999300.03394%
Elmer Smith1898300.02232%
Stan Musial1950300.01731%
George McQuinn1938340.01600%
Rico Carty1970310.01233%
Ron LeFlore1976300.00596%
Dom DiMaggio1949340.00550%
Luis Castillo2002350.00525%
Pete Rose1978440.00365%
Jimmy Rollins2005-06380.00363%
Goose Goslin1934300.00286%
Vladimir Guerrero1999310.00233%
Willie Davis1969310.00140%
Sandy Alomar1997300.00084%
Jerome Walton1989300.00079%
Eric Davis1998300.00030%
Benito Santiago1987340.00029%
Hal Chase1907330.00026%
Ken Landreaux1980310.00002%

So DiMaggio was just the twentieth most likely to record a 56-game streak. That's about half way down the list and miles away from Lyons' 43% likelihood.

That made me wonder who in baseball history had the best shot to record a 56-game hitting streak in any single season. I ran the numbers and—surprise!—most of the players are from 1887 when walks were counted as hits. For each, I translated the 56-game probability to its "one in X" equivalent:

Tip O'Neill1887124517225.485.490.6911.180436.376% 0.23
Pete Browning1887134547220.457.464.5471.011189.340% 0.53
Bob Caruthers188798364130.456.463.5471.01077.212% 1.30
Dan Brouthers1887123500169.420.426.562.98865.519% 1.53
Denny Lyons1887137570209.415.421.523.94343.097% 2.32
Hugh Duffy1894125539237.440.502.6941.19635.251% 2.84
Sam Thompson1887127545203.407.416.571.98730.632% 3.26
Cap Anson1887122472164.421.422.517.93929.667% 3.37
Willie Keeler1897129564239.424.464.5391.00327.054% 3.70
Paul Radford1887128486129.397.403.342.74524.994% 4.00
Oyster Burns1887140551188.409.414.519.93323.647% 4.23
Ross Barnes187360322137.425.456.5841.04022.598% 4.43
Yank Robinson1887125430131.427.445.405.85022.268% 4.49
Reddy Mack1887128478147.410.415.395.81121.244% 4.71
Ross Barnes187666322138.429.462.5901.05220.385% 4.91
Nap Lajoie1901131544232.426.463.6431.10617.500% 5.71
King Kelly1887116484156.391.393.488.88017.273% 5.79
Jesse Burkett1896133586240.410.461.5411.00216.465% 6.07
Fred Dunlap1884101449185.412.448.6211.06913.717% 7.29
Arlie Latham1887136627198.362.366.413.77912.741% 7.85
George Sisler1922142586246.420.467.5941.06110.219% 9.79
Sam Thompson1895119538211.392.430.6541.0859.780% 10.22
Sam Thompson189499437178.407.458.6861.1458.629% 11.59
Ty Cobb1911146591248.420.467.6211.0888.409% 11.89
George Wright187359325126.388.402.523.9257.596% 13.16

Yeah, that Tip O'Neill was a shirker. He should have had at least a couple of 56-game streaks.

I started the data at 1900 to filter out those 1887 anomalies:

Nap Lajoie1901131544232.426.463.6431.10617.500% 6
George Sisler1922142586246.420.467.5941.06110.219% 10
Ty Cobb1911146591248.420.467.6211.0888.409% 12
George Sisler1920154631257.407.449.6321.0825.980% 17
Al Simmons1925153654253.387.419.5991.0184.580% 22
Bill Terry1930154633254.401.452.6191.0714.126% 24
Lefty O'Doul1929154638254.398.465.6221.0873.700% 27
Ichiro Suzuki2004161704262.372.414.455.8693.346% 30
Rogers Hornsby1922154623250.401.459.7221.1813.036% 33
Ty Cobb1912140553226.409.456.5841.0402.990% 33
Chuck Klein1930156648250.386.436.6871.1232.287% 44
Joe Jackson1911147571233.408.468.5901.0582.171% 46
Harry Heilmann1921149602237.394.444.6061.0511.961% 51
Rogers Hornsby1924143536227.424.507.6961.2031.819% 55
Babe Herman1930153614241.393.455.6781.1321.565% 64
Jesse Burkett1901142601226.376.440.509.9491.555% 64
Heinie Manush1928154638241.378.414.575.9891.385% 72
Freddie Lindstrom1930148609231.379.425.575.9991.215% 82
Rod Carew1977155616239.388.449.5701.0191.178% 85
Al Simmons1931128513200.390.444.6411.0851.153% 87
George Sisler1921138582216.371.411.560.9711.121% 89
Jack Tobin1921150671236.352.395.487.8821.108% 90
Ichiro Suzuki2001157692242.350.381.457.8380.946% 106
Rogers Hornsby1921154592235.397.458.6391.0970.943% 106
Joe Medwick1937156633237.374.414.6411.0560.870% 115

And just to put it in perspective, I looked at the most likely to get a 56-game hitting streak since 1941. Here's the list up to DiMaggio:

Ichiro Suzuki2004161704262.372.414.455.8693.346% 30
Rod Carew1977155616239.388.449.5701.0191.178% 85
Ichiro Suzuki2001157692242.350.381.457.8380.946% 106
Darin Erstad2000157676240.355.409.541.9510.701% 143
Kirby Puckett1988158657234.356.375.545.9200.474% 211
Ralph Garr1974143606214.353.383.503.8860.474% 211
Tony Gwynn1997149592220.372.409.547.9570.433% 231
Tony Gwynn1994110419165.394.454.5681.0220.426% 235
Stan Musial1948155611230.376.450.7021.1520.423% 236
Wade Boggs1985161653240.368.450.478.9280.414% 242
George Brett1980117449175.390.454.6641.1180.397% 252
Don Mattingly1986162677238.352.394.573.9670.337% 297
Tony Gwynn1995135535197.368.404.484.8880.300% 333
Stan Musial1946156624228.365.434.5871.0210.287% 348
Alex Rodriguez1996146601215.358.414.6311.0450.276% 362
Hank Aaron1959154629223.355.401.6361.0370.252% 396
Andres Galarraga1993120470174.370.403.6021.0050.243% 412
Tommy Holmes1945154636224.352.420.577.9970.221% 453
Joe Torre1971161634230.363.421.555.9760.219% 456
Cecil Travis1941152608218.359.410.520.9300.195% 512
Cecil Cooper1980153622219.352.387.539.9260.195% 512
Roberto Clemente1967147585209.357.400.554.9540.185% 541
Pete Rose1973160680230.338.401.437.8380.170% 588
Willie McGee1985152612216.353.384.503.8870.169% 593
Dale Mitchell1948141608204.336.383.431.8140.162% 617
Richie Ashburn1951154643221.344.393.426.8190.156% 642
Willie Wilson1980161705230.326.357.421.7780.154% 648
Matty Alou1969162698231.331.369.411.7800.154% 650
Rod Carew1974153599218.364.433.446.8790.152% 659
Tommy Davis1962163665230.346.374.535.9100.150% 667
Tony Gwynn1993122489175.358.398.497.8950.148% 677
Mickey Rivers1980147630210.333.353.437.7890.146% 683
Lance Johnson1996160682227.333.362.479.8410.142% 704
Ralph Garr1971154639219.343.372.441.8130.141% 711
Nomar Garciaparra2000140529197.372.434.5991.0330.137% 728
Harvey Kuenn1959139561198.353.402.501.9030.132% 758
Dante Bichette1995139579197.340.364.620.9840.127% 786
Felipe Alou1966154666218.327.361.533.8940.127% 790
Willie Wilson1982136585194.332.365.431.7960.121% 826
Tony Gwynn1987157589218.370.447.511.9580.113% 887
Nomar Garciaparra1999135532190.357.418.6031.0220.106% 945
Mickey Vernon1946148587207.353.403.508.9100.103% 972
Pete Rose1968149626210.335.391.470.8610.102% 980
Stan Musial1943157617220.357.425.562.9880.102% 983
Paul Molitor1996161660225.341.390.468.8580.100% 1,003
Richie Ashburn1958152615215.350.440.441.8810.097% 1,030
Bill Madlock1975130514182.354.402.479.8810.088% 1,141
Pete Rose1969156627218.348.428.512.9400.088% 1,142
Don Mueller1954153619212.342.363.444.8070.087% 1,150
Roberto Clemente1961146572201.351.390.559.9490.083% 1,202
Kirby Puckett1986161680223.328.366.537.9030.080% 1,244
Kenny Lofton1994112459160.349.412.536.9480.080% 1,247
Michael Young2005159668221.331.385.513.8990.073% 1,364
George Kell1950157641218.340.403.484.8860.069% 1,456
Derek Jeter1999158627219.349.438.552.9890.069% 1,460
Ivan Rodriguez1999144600199.332.356.558.9140.068% 1,463
Wade Boggs1986149580207.357.453.486.9390.067% 1,487
Joe DiMaggio1941139541193.357.440.6431.0830.067% 1,497

So what does this tell us? Well, mainly it says that DiMaggio's streak may have been one of the least likely events to ever occur in the game. But I think it says that DiMaggio's streak is not unattainable. Ichiro two seasons ago had the best shot since 1941 to break it. But as we saw when we compared streaks of various length, extending a long streak to an historic one is a difficult or at least unlikely thing. And it doesn't get any easier when the media start hounding you to answer whether you'll get a hit the next day while you have a towel wrapped around your midsection.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone top the historic 56-game figure. I say we go back to counting walks as hits to move the process along.

2006-04-11 10:52:10
1.   rbj
Of course Joe D. lost a couple of prime years to military service, and Ted Williams lost 5 years. That might explain their low/nonexistent standings.

Also interesting to note that basically every number from 45-30 (excepting 43) is a streak, but above that there is only 56 (& 52). No one is doing "one more game more than the last guy", a la the 100 yard, er, meter dash falls by a tenth of a second each time.

2006-04-11 14:21:25
2.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
the fact remains that Lyons had a 52-game streak according to the rules in play at the time...

Uh... I think there is a difference between the record keeping rules and the rules of play. Unless I am misreading this, a walk didn't give the defense a chance to record an out, and didn't give the offense to advance runners except vby force of one base, regardless of how it was measured. Hence, the rules of play did not change, just the counting did.

I think what you are saying is that because you can't tell the difference between walks and hits in the records, you'll view a streak that includes a game with walks but no hits during that time period the same way as a streak that includes only games with hits.

That's funky to me.

And to 1- the probabilities shown there are based upon single season achievements. What Joe D. and Ted Williams lost to military service was the opportunity to be on the list more than once, not anything about the relative positions on that list, given their achievements for those given seasons.

2006-04-11 16:55:51
3.   Mike Carminati
Actually modern record keeping split the walks and the hits up. I put them back together to calculate the hit streak potential for 1887 batters. Check BaseballReference and Lyons is only batting .367. That's by the non-1887 definition of a hit.

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