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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The book, “Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports,” written by Kostya Kennedy takes you through a day by day account of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Many baseball people believe this streak will never be duplicated. It should be noted that 1941 was also the last year a player ended a season with over a .400 batting average when Ted Williams batted .406. In Chapter 16 of my book, “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball,” I develop a new formula which uses a player’s seasonal batting statistics to assign a probability of that player duplicating any batting streak. Then I apply my formula to calculate which players had the highest probabilities of duplicating special batting streaks. Of course, the most talked about batting streak is DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Another interesting streak belongs to Ted Williams when in 1949 he reached base successfully in 84 straight games. Which streak was harder to achieve? My formula assigned DiMaggio a probability of .0001 (1/10,000) and assigned Williams a probability of .0935 (935/10,000) of achieving their respective streaks. This says that, using their batting statistics for 1941 and 1949, for every 10,000 seasons DiMaggio would duplicate his streak one time while Williams in 10,000 seasons would duplicate his streak 935 times. Clearly DiMaggio’s streak was the harder to achieve.  

I also apply my formula to many other batting streaks such as the most consecutive games with at least one home run, the most consecutive games with at least one extra base hit, the most consecutive games with at least two or more hits, the most consecutive games without striking out and many other streaks. If you are interested in seeing the mathematics I used to develop my formula and the players who actually own these records, please read Chapter 16---titled ‘Streaking’--- in my book.

A discussion of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak always resurfaces whenever a player starts approaching DiMaggio’s record. The Cleveland Indians 20-year old catcher Francisco Mejia, ranked their number four prospect, playing for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats entered August batting .344. On Aug.4, he extended his hitting to 45 games by doubling in the 9th inning after going 0-4. As of this writing his hitting streak stands at 47 games. This ranks his streak as the 7th longest in Minor League history.  

Below are the players with the longest hitting streak in both the Major and Minor Leagues. There are many observations that can be made from these two tables. DiMaggio is the only player that appears on both lists. In fact, his 61-game streak in the Minors was longer than his 56-game streak in the Majors. Yes, Joe D. was a very special player. Except for Joe the other players listed in the Minor League Table had limited Major League success. In contrast, the Major League players listed are all Hall of Fame caliber players. What conclusions can you draw from this? 

HItting Streaks - Minors

HItting Streaks - Majors

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On July, 17 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak came to an end.

The title of this blog comes from the book Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports by Kostya Kennedy. His book takes the reader through each game of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak at a time when America was preparing for war with Japan. Joe’s streak began on May 15, 1941 when he blooped a single to right field in a game against the White Sox. The streak ended two months later at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, in front of 67,000 cheering fans. That day Joe had 4 plate appearances. Joe walked once and hit 3 ground balls. The first ground ball was a rocket hit down the 3rd base line which was backhanded by Cleveland’s Ken Keltner throwing Joe out by a step. Joe Walked in the 4th inning. In the 7th he ripped another rocket to Keltner who threw him out again. In his final plate appearance he hit a routine grounder to the shortstop. Joe’s greatness showed when he promptly started a new hitting streak which lasted for 16 games. All told Joe produced at least one hit in 72 of his 73 games. Both his 56-game hitting streak and hitting safely in 72 out of 73 consecutive games have never been duplicated. Without Keltner’s great fielding, the consecutive game streak might have reached 73 games.

The year 1941 also marked the last time a Major League hitter batted over .400 when Ted Williams batted .406 for the season. The year 1941 witnessed two remarkable baseball feats that many baseball experts say will never happen again. The baseball writers had a tough choice for the 1941 AL MVP Award. They chose the Yankees’ DiMaggio over the Red Sox’s Williams.

In my book, Sandlot Stats Learning Statistics with Baseball, I devote Chapter 16 to the study of many different types of batting streaks. In that chapter I develop a new probability formula which uses a player’s actual batting statistics for a season to calculate his probability of duplicating any of these batting streaks. These calculated probabilities allows us to compare different batting streaks seeing which streak would be the hardest to duplicate.

The rivalry between DiMaggio and Williams also extended to batting streaks. Ted Williams possesses 2 amazing on-base streaks. He holds the record for getting on-base in 84 consecutive games (1949) and the record for getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances (1957). To be credited with getting on-base a player must either get a hit, a walk or be hit by a pitch. Using my probability formula, I calculated the probability of Joe and Ted achieving their 3 streaks. DiMaggio had a 1 in 10,000 chance of achieving his 56-game hitting streak while Williams had a 1 in 10 chance of achieving his 84-game on-base streak and a 1 in 25 chance of achieving his 16-plate appearance on-base streak. Which streak was the hardest to achieve? From a probability point of view the answer is clear. Yes, Joe DiMaggio’s streak was the hardest to achieve. In fact, Ted Williams 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.”

In Chapter 16 of my book I provide 4 lists of special baseball and softball players. The lists include the players with the longest hitting streaks in the Major Leagues, the Minor Leagues, the college baseball leagues and the college softball leagues. In the Major Leagues Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897) are tied for second place with 44-game hitting streaks. For the Minor Leagues, Joe Wilhoit (1919) had a 69-game hitting streak followed by would you believe Joe DiMaggio with a 61-game hitting streak in 1933 for the San Francisco Seals in the PCL.

Considering the thousands of players in the history of professional baseball, for Joe to have 2 of the 3 longest hitting streaks speaks to the greatness of Joe D.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On April 22, 2013, I was invited to speak at Amity Regional HS in CT. Unlike some other trips this was a short excursion of 30 minutes from my house. I was told that I would be talking to an AP Statistics Class, other math students and teachers. I wanted to choose a statistics topic in baseball that was both interesting and understandable. The topic I chose was from Chapter 16 of my book Sandlot Stats. Chapter 16 (entitled Streaking) depends only on the basic probability theory covered in Chapter 7 of my book. Using these probability concepts, I derive a formula for predicting the odds of any player duplicating any streak. Some of the famous batting streaks in baseball include: Ted Williams’ 84-game on-base streak, Joe Sewell’s streak of appearing in 115 consecutive games without striking-out, hitting at least one home run in eight consecutive games (shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey Jr), Ted Williams getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances, and the most famous of all streaks Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. What elements are needed to talk about a streak? Let’s look at Joe’s 56-game hitting streak. The event is a game, success is getting at least one hit in a game, and the length of the steak is 56 games. For Ted Williams’ streak of getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances, the event is a plate appearance, success is getting on–base, and the streak length is 16. Streaks are discussed in all sports. Some examples are Drew Brees’ streak of throwing a touchdown pass in 48 straight games. In basketball, playing for Minnesota in 1993, Michael Williams connected on 97 straight from the foul line. Just this year the Miami Heat came close to tying the consecutive winning streak of 33 games.  Streaks also appear outside of sports. On a business channel, a reporter may report that for 15 consecutive days the Dow 500 was positive.

The numbers 714, 755, and 762 are instantly recognizable to many Americans as the lifetime home run totals hit by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds. Point 406 or just 406 evokes the name Ted Williams, the last player to average more than four hits in every 10 at-bats over a full season. Even a rather ordinary number like 56 has baseball significance to it—for Joe DiMaggio’s 1941 hitting streak, a 71-year record that no one in the major leagues has ever come close to breaking. The best-selling book, 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports by Kostya Kennedy, provides a day by day account of Joe’s streak with the buildup to WW II in the background. In the history of baseball (from 1876 to today) only six men: three college players, 2 minor league players, and one ML player have hit safely in at least 56 consecutive games. Of course, Joe was the only ML player but he also had a 61-game hitting streak in the minors. The two closest ML players to Joe’s streak were Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897). Both had 44-game hitting streaks.

Using my probability formula , the odds of any player duplicating DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak can be calculated. In 1941, the odds of Joe achieving his streak were 1 in 9545. In spite of batting .406 in 1941, Williams’ odds of duplicating Joe’s streak was 1 in 50,000. The main reason why Joe was 5 times more likely is their difference in walks. In 1941, Joe had 76 walks and Ted had 147 walks. Unfortunately, every walk hurts your chances for a getting a hit. Pete Rose’s odds in 1978 were 1 in 100,000 and Willie Keeler’s odds in 1897 were 1 in 40. Keeler had an AVG of .424 in 1897; whereas Rose’s AVG in 1978 was .302. The modern day player with the best odds was Ichiro Suzuki who in 2004 had a 1 in 274 chance of duplicating the streak. After the success of the movie 42 the time has come for a new movie called 56.     




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