Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jimmy Rollins

On August 22nd of last season, Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies went 0-4 in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Since then, the Phillies have played 38 games, and Rollins has at least 1 hit in each of them. There is a debate, if not raging, then getting ready to rage, about whether Rollins, if he hits in the next 19 Phillies games, passes Joe Dimaggio or not. Since it's extremely unlikely that this remains a topic for discussion next week, never mind in 3 weeks, I want to get my 2 cents in now.

There seem to be 2 distint schools of thought on this one. The first is that the streak ended when the season ended, the second, which is where I stand, is that the streak continues until he goes hitless.

One of the people whose analysis I greatly respect, the Baseball Crank, has this to say on the subject:
Personally, while DiMaggio's record is perhaps the #1 baseball record I'd love to see broken, I don't regard a streak over two seasons as quite the same, especially a hitting streak, the very essence of which is the mounting pressure of going a month or two without an off day. It should go in the books if Rollins or someone else does it, but it shouldn't wipe out Joe D.

It depends on what you mean by "wipe out." I certainly think that there's room in the baseball record books for "longest consecutive hit streak" and "longest consecutive hit streak (season)." But if Rollins actually does make it 57 straight, that's the longest consecutive games hit streak. Period. The idea behind keeping track of hit streaks is that it's a notable feat. For someone to take the field in 57 consecutive games and get a hit in each is an astounding accomplishment. And it's an accomplishment regardless of whether there is an All Star Break in the middle, an offseason in the middle, or no gap whatsoever.

In fact, I think that you can easily argue that it is more impressive to do it with an offseason intervening. The notable thing about a streak is that it's a streak. It's not necessarily bringing extreme value to the team - a player could go 1-4 or 1-5 every day with a single, and he's not providing any real value to the team (as Red Sox fans present during the Shea Hillenbrand era are well aware) but it's still a noteworthy accomplishment, a statistical freak, to get a hit every day. A .300 hitter would be expected to go hitless in a 4 at-bat game about 25% of the time. String 10 of those together, and the odds of going hitless in at least 1 is about 93-94%. A 20 game hit streak, for a .300 hitter getting 4 at-bats (not plate appearances) per game, is about a 1 in 250 event.

And that's true whether there's a gap in the middle of it or not. I think it's fair to say that if Rollins had hit in the first 36 games of 2005 and then gone out for 3 months with an injury, no one would think that the streak was over when he came back. I don't see how the intervention of an off-season can end it. Indeed, I think it's harder and more impressive if he can actually come off 6 months away and continue it. I understand the argument that the mental pressure is harder if he doesn't get the "break" that the offseason provides, but I disagree with it. He had to answer questions about it all winter, and then all spring. If anything, he had more pressure on opening day than he would have if game 37 had been August 1st of last year.

So, if he does it (which he won't), he's got the record.



Technorati tags: Rollins, Dimaggio, HitStreak, Phillies

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