If you have any ideas for topics, please email me. Thanks,Stan!
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Two Major League Baseball batting records were in play on Saturday, August 27th. As a side note this was the date 49 years ago that I married my lovely wife, Tara. Since I do not know the record for the longest marriage, I will return to something I do know about: baseball records. The two players connected with these records are the Yankee rookie catcher Gary Sanchez and the Red Sox veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Wouldn’t you know it the 2 players come from the 2 teams that have always been bitter rivals. Pedroia entered Saturday’s games with 11 consecutive hits in 11 at-bats while Sanchez entered Saturday with 10 home runs in 22 games this season.

Pedroia started his hitting streak on Thursday when in his last three at-bats against the Rays he had 3 hits. He followed that performance on Friday against KC with a 4-for-4 game and a walk. Going into Saturday’s game against KC he had a steak of seven straight hits in seven at-bats and a streak of eight times reaching base successfully in eight plate appearances. In his first four plate appearances on Saturday he got four more hits which extended his hitting streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats and his on-base streak to 12 in 12 plate appearances. However, both streaks ended when he bounced into a double play in his last at-bat on Saturday. The last player to have 11 consecutive hits in 11 at-bats was the Yankee Bernie Williams who accomplished this streak in 2012. The Major League record for most consecutive at–bats with a hit is 12 and is shared by Johnny King (1902 Cubs), Pinky Higgins (1938 Red Sox) and Walt Dropo (1952 Tigers). The modern era Major League record for most consecutive times reaching base successfully is 16 held by a Red Sox player you might have heard of named Ted Williams in 1957. The breakdown of his 16 successes include 2 singles, 4 home runs, 9 walks and 1 HBP. The all-time record is 17 held by Frank Ward in 1893.

In Chapter 16 of my book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Baseball with Statistics,” I presented two mathematical formulas, one developed by Michael Freiman and the other developed by me, which use any player’s batting statistics to assign a probability of that player duplicating any batting streak. The mathematics used comes from the area of mathematics called probability. If interested, please read my Chapter 16 to see what these two formulas look like and the logic used to develop them.

Using my formula, the probability of Pedroia having 11 hits in 11 at-bats was .0012 (this equates to 12 times in 10,000 seasons); his probability of having 12 hits in 12 at-bats was .0004 (this equates to 4 times in 10,000 seasons. The probability of Pedroia reaching base 12 times in 12 plate appearances was .0033 (this equates to 33 times in 10,000 seasons); the probability of Pedroia reaching base 16 times in 16 plate appearances was .0001 (this equates to 1 time in 10,000 seasons).

How does this compare to the actual record-holders? Walt Dropo’s probability of setting his record of 12 consecutive hits in 12 at-bats was .0001 (this equates to 1 time in 10,000 seasons); while Pinky Higgins’s probability of 12 hits in 12 at-bats was .0002 (this equates to 2 in 10,000 seasons). Ted Williams’ probability of his record of reaching base 16 consecutive times was .0083 (this equates to 83 times in 10,000 seasons). The very small probabilities associated with all the record holders achieving their records shows that chance and luck is a very big factor in attaining these records. The year Walt Dropo set his record his batting average was a very mediocre .279.

As for Gary Sanchez, with his home run Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles, he became the fastest player to reach 11 career home runs, doing so in just 23 games. My next blog will discuss all the other batting records approached by Sanchez in his rookie year.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In 2016, 2 record batting streaks have been in the news. The 2 batting streaks are Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ 84-game getting on-base streak. DiMaggio’s streak means he got a hit in 56 consecutive games; whereas, Williams’ streak means in 84 consecutive games he reached base with either a hit, a base-on-balls or a hit-by-pitch. The 2 players toying with these 2 streaks in 2016 were Jackie Bradley Jr. and Marcell Ozuna. Bradley’s hitting streak ended at 29 consecutive games. Ozuna’s on-base streak ended at 36 consecutive games. How does one compare different batting streaks to choose which one is the most impressive? Most impressive means harder to achieve.

In an article by Herm Krabbenhoft which appeared in the Baseball Research Journal, he compares DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak to Williams’ 84-game on-base streak. Krabbenhoft gives his answer in terms of approachability. He states, “Since DiMaggio achieved his streak in 1941, the closest any major league player has come to it was the 44-game hitting streak by Pete Rose in 1978. Forty-four is 78.6% of the way to 56. Since Williams achieved his 84-game streak in 1949, the closest any player has come to it were the 58 consecutive game on-base streak by Duke Snider in 1954 and Barry Bonds in 2003. Fifty-eight is 69% of the way to 84. So, with the above approachability considerations in mind, it can be argued that Teddy Ballgame’s 84 game on-base safely streak may be the greatest batting achievement of all.” Since Krabbenhoft’s article was published in 2004, Orlando Cabrera recorded a consecutive game on-base streak of 63 games in 2006. Sixty-three is 75% of the way to 84. This blows a hole in the approachability argument.

As a sabermetrician, I give my answer using probability theory. Which player DiMaggio or Williams, based on their statistics for that year, had the smallest probability of achieving their streak? Using the number of games played, number of plate appearances and number of successes of any player combined with the length of the streak, I created a probability formula which gives the probability of any player, based on their season’s batting statistics, duplicating any batting streak. The development of my probability formula for different batting streaks can be found in two books. In my book, Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball, published by John Hopkins Press I devote the entire Chapter 16 to comparing different batting streaks. My research on streaks was also published as Chapter 4 in the book Mathematics and Sports, published by the Mathematical Association of America. 

Applying my probability formula to both players’ streaks, here are the results.For the year 1941, the probability of Joe DiMaggio achieving his 56-game hitting streak was 0.0001 or 0.01%. For the year 1949, the probability of Ted Williams achieving his 84-game on-base streak was 0.0944 or 9.44%. For every 10,000 seasons, we would have expected DiMaggio in 1941 to accomplish his streak once while we would have expected Williams in 1949 to accomplish his streak 944 times. Ted Williams himself said, “I believe there isn’t a record on the books that will be tougher to break than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.”

Based on the probabilities calculated above, I agree with Williams that DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is the more impressive.What about the probabilities associated with the 2016 streaks of Bradley and Ozuna? As for Bradley’s 29-game hitting streak his probability was 0.00281 or 0.281%.

Ozuna probability of a 36-game on-base streak was 0.0125 or 1.25%. Bradley’s streak is the more impressive one.

If you are wondering why Williams’ 84-game streak had such a high probability of occurring in 1949 the lengthy answer is in my book.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In my last blog posting I talked about the book, What I Learned from Jackie Robinson, written by the great Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. If you have not read this posting I know you will be inspired by how he used what he learned from Jackie Robinson to raise his son Jimmy who was born with Down’s syndrome. This new blog posting will look at a second book written by Erskine titled, Tales from the Dodger Dugout. Carl Erskine pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the L.A. Dodgers from 1948 until 1959. He was a pitching mainstay on Dodger teams that won 6 National League Pennants and the 1955 World Series. Some of his notable teammates included Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Clem Labine, Billy Cox, Joe Black, and Don Newcombe. Roger Khan immortalized the Dodgers of the 50s with his 1972 book, The Boys of Summer. The early 50s was a time in New York when there were three teams, the Yankees, NY Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers. Each team had a great centerfielder, Mantle for the Yankees, Mays for the Giants and Snider for the Dodgers. The big question was: Who was the best centerfielder in NY? Of course, being a diehard Yankee fan, you know what my answer was.

Below is pictured Snider, DiMaggio, Mays and Mantle walking in from centerfield on July 16,1977, at Shea Stadium on Old-Timers Day.Centerfielders

I have chosen facts from Carl’s book that are related to my past blog postings. I wrote a blog posting about Dale Long, the left-handed power hitting first baseman for the Pirates in the 1950s. The reason for my blog about Dale Long was his grandson, also named Dale Long, was a student in one of my biostatistics classes at Quinnipiac University. Dale Long was also featured in my book, Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball, because of his record setting 8 consecutive games with a home run. Later, this record was tied by Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. However, what I did not know was that it was Carl who gave up the 8th home run in game number 8. In writing a blog about the Dodgers and Giants moving to Los Angeles in 1957 I failed to mention that it was Carl who pitched and won the opening day game in front of 78,000 fans in LA on April 18, 1958, the first game for the Dodgers as the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 and Carl pitched 8 innings giving up 4 earned runs.

Still in another blog posting I wrote about, “The Shot Heard Around the World,” the Bobby Thomson 1951 playoff home run that gave the NY Giants the 1951 NL pennant. The Giants won playoff game 2. In the deciding 3rd playoff game with Bobby Thomson at the plate representing the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodger manager Charlie Dressen called the bullpen coach where Ralph Branca and Carl Erskine were both warming up. The bullpen coach said they are both ready but Erskine is bouncing his curveball. Dressen chose to bring Branca in to face Thomson. On Branca’s second pitch Thomson delivered a three-run home run to win the game and the pennant for the Giants. Whenever Carl was asked what his best pitch was he said, “The curveball I bounced in the Polo Grounds bullpen.” In his book there is a picture of Carl with Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson. These four pitchers totaled 10 no-hitters (Koufax 4, Feller 3, Carl 2, and Gibson 1). Carl writes, “The only distinction I can claim that the other three cannot---- I’m not in the Hall of Fame.” Carl’s 1956 no-hitter was the first nationally televised no-hitter. He also set the record for most strike outs 14 in a World Series game in 1953. This record was later broken by Koufax and then by Gibson at 17.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The following is a letter I just received from Mr. W. This letter details how 2 men, one a retired baseball player, the other a teacher/coach, along with their wives dedicated a large part of their lives to helping mentally and physically challenged children and adults.This is a follow-up to my previous blog and here is a photo of the night I met Mr. W.Whitey

Hi Stanley

I am hesitant to claim credit for helping those less fortunate. For me it is simply treating others the way I would want to be treated. A mutual friend and I had worked at a camp sponsored by the Salvation Army. The camp was in Wisconsin and the campers were teenagers from the inner city of Chicago. My friend, also a teacher/coach was the camp director and hired me to be the water front director.Through this experience he recommended me to Carl. I first met Carl Erskine when he was doing a "Baseball Camp" at Anderson University. He had just retired in 1960 after playing for the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers. He contacted me and asked if I would serve as an instructor and be the "Dean" at the camp and live in the college dormitory with the campers for the week they were on campus. I had played baseball at Anderson University and was a young teacher and coach in our community. I was also a life guard for the Anderson Country Club Swimming pool. Through that position I knew many of the community leaders and had taught their children to swim. These were members that had connections with leaders in our State Legislature. This opened opportunities for Carl to seek funding for a community workshop. It was called "The Hopewell Center", a workshop for mentally challenged young adults. Many businesses in our community provided work opportunities for the clients. Much of the work involved sorting, packaging, and assembly line projects.The clients were paid for their services and it was a savings for the companies that provided the work opportunities. Carl Erskine was the leader of this project and I was just a tag along.

Carl and I also worked together to secure funding to assist high school athletes to attend the camps sponsored by the "Fellowship of Christian Athletes". We took approximately 40 high schoolers each summer to camps at Estes Park, CO, Black Mountain, NC and Lake Geneva, WI. Again Carl could approach the leaders at General Motors Factories in Anderson, IN for financial help. He was never turned down. I always chaperoned these trips and took care of details.

When my wife and I retired to Naples, FL we heard about a group called "Foundation for Developmentally Disabled." This group had a bowling league for its clients. I was asked to be a lane captain and soon after was asked to be the coordinator for this group. My wife and I accepted this responsibility and have been doing this for 11 years. We have expanded the group and now have bowlers at 2 locations. They bowl every week for the entire year. We have a banquet for them each September at the Spanish Wells County Club in Bonita Springs. The Lions Club in Bonita Springs provides the funding to support this banquet and special recognition for each bowler. We now have expanded this group to include clients from both Collier and Lee Counties. We presently have 107 bowlers each week. This group is even larger when the part time residents return from the North for the winter months.

If you want information on starting a bowling group for the developmentally disabled email pellis415@gmail.com .

Stan, I have rambled long enough although it has brought back many fond memories. Our son, Dennis, is the one that has motivated us to help those less fortunate. He is a very special young man and he and his special friends have brought much joy to our lives.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

It was a sunny late spring day in Naples, FL when walking with my wife Tara we came upon a gentleman riding his bike. He stopped to say hello and of course the topic of baseball came up. He mentioned he was friends with a famous ballplayer in Anderson, IN. He asked if I ever heard the name Carl Erskine. I said I saw him play in the 1950s. For those of you who never have heard of him, Carl pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and LA. Dodgers from 1948 to 1959. For his 12-season career, he posted a 122-78 (.610) record with 981 strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA in 1718 innings pitched. His prime years were from 1952 through 1957 when he appeared in 11 World Series games (1949-52-53-55-56) and made the NL All-Star team in 1954. He pitched 2 no-hitters, one in 1952 and one in 1956. ANYONE who remembers the Brooklyn Dodgers remembers Carl Erskine, the right-hander with the overhand curveball, who in 1953 had a 20-6 record striking out 14 Yankees in a World Series game.

I will refer to the gentleman I met that day as Mr. W. Mr. W. told me he had a book written by his friend Carl Erskine that I should read. He hopped on his bicycle,went home and retrieved the book and gave it to me. In the inside flap was a note from Carl Erskine to him stating how much he appreciated the years they spent together. Mr. W. told me how and why they connected up with each other. After retiring from baseball, Carl Erskine returned to his home in Anderson, IN. In 1960 his wife Betty gave birth to their 4th child a son named Jimmy, born with Down’s syndrome. What brought these 2 men together was Mr. W. also has a mentally challenged son.  The 2 men worked together to set up programs including swimming, bowling and even baseball for all the mentally challenged children in Anderson, IN. Today, in Naples, FL Mr. W. continues helping with programs for mentally challenged children. With the book in my hand I bid farewell to Mr. W.

I decided to do more research on Carl Erskine and Jimmy. What follows comes from Carl Erskine’s book titled “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson.” He compared the treatment Jackie Robinson received from society with what mentally challenged children had to endure in 1960. Jackie and Carl were teammates from 1948 until 1956 with the Dodgers. Over the years as Robinson's teammate, Erskine learned, as he wrote, "that life is all about making life better for the next generation." And, in the most important of Robinson's lessons for Erskine, that next generation would include his and his wife Betty's fourth child, Jimmy. "America had some of the same social attitudes toward people with disabilities as it had toward race relations," Erskine wrote. "Jackie made people look beyond race, inside their own souls, inside the depths of what made them human, and see the light." "I often felt," Erskine wrote, "Jackie came into my life to teach me how to channel energy and anger toward what was happening around me with Jimmy and society's non-acceptance of Down syndrome and other birth defects. I had played with Jackie for 9 seasons, living side by side with him in the clubhouse and on the road. Today I have a 44-year relationship with my son Jimmy."

Jimmy has worked for Applebee’s for over 8 years and the manager told Carl that the place runs better when Jimmy is there. Jimmy was predestined to be institutionalized. But, thanks to loving parents, today is living a productive life. Because of examples like Jimmy more and more businesses are hiring mentally challenged people.  As was true of Jackie Robinson people like Jimmy Erskine are responsible for creating a more loving and caring society. Erskine wrote, “Jackie and Jimmy, two of my best buddies, changed the face of America.

Carl and son
 


 


 
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