Sunday, August 26, 2007

It was a Sox vs. Sox weekend, with Boston visiting Chicago for a Friday doubleheader and single games Saturday and Sunday. In the end, one team did a lot more "socking" of the ball than the other, as revealed in the following scores:

Red Sox 11, White Sox 3
Red Sox 10, White Sox 1
Red Sox 14, White Sox 2
Red Sox 11, White Sox 1

According to the Sunday game article, for a team to put up double-digit run totals in each game represented:

...only the fourth time that has happened in a four-game series since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It's the first time it has happened in the American League in 85 years.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Here are a couple of noteworthy hot-hand phenomena from last night's baseball action:

For the first story, the article says it all:

The Texas Rangers... became the first team in 110 years to score 30 runs in a game, setting an American League record Wednesday in a 30-3 rout of the Baltimore Orioles.

Elsewhere, a first-inning Milwaukee run ended Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb's consecutive scoreless innings streak at 42. Webb had been within reasonable striking distance of former L.A. Dodger Orel Hershiser's record of putting zeroes on the scoreboard for the opponents' inning-by-inning run counts for 59 straight frames, in 1988. Hershiser himself had edged out another Dodger great, Don Drysdale, who had blanked opponents for 58 2/3 innings in 1968.

A nice compilation of statistical data on pitchers' scoreless-inning streaks is available here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks tied a league record tonight for cumulative batters consecutively retired. According to this article, Jenks "has retired 38 straight batters, tying David Wells' American League record set in 1998 with the New York Yankees. It's the fourth-longest streak in major league history."

Update 1: The streak is now at 41 straight batters retired, tying the major-league record.

Update 2: Brought in to close out the ninth inning of the White Sox' August 20 contest against Kansas City, Jenks was greeted with a lead-off single by the Royals' Joey Gathright (article).

Jenks thus joins -- but doesn't exceed -- former San Francisco Giant pitcher Jim Barr in retiring a major-league record 41 consecutive batters.

Monday, August 06, 2007

In baseball action tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals tied a major-league record by getting hits in 10 straight at-bats (official at-bats, that is, as one batter walked in between the first eight and last two hits of the streak).

Much of the oddity centered around St. Louis starting pitcher Braden Looper, a converted reliever (I mention that, as relief pitchers would probably have among the fewest at-bats of any National League players and thus little opportunity to gain hitting experience).

For one thing, Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa had Looper batting eighth in the order, a ploy LaRussa tries with his pitcher from time to time. And, more amazingly still, Looper (who, as the above-linked game article noted, "began the game batting .161"), got two of the hits in the Cards' barrage (one of them a bunt single).

The comprehensive, batter-by-batter play-by-play sheet from is available here; your attention should be directed to the Cardinals' at-bats in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Due to the lateness of the hour (1:37 AM Central), I won't attempt any statistical analyses at the moment. I'll probably revisit the matter, though.

Update: One basic kind of analysis that can be done is to take the pre-August 6 batting average for each hitter who took part in the streak and multiply these together to obtain the overall probability of the Cardinals' accomplishing what they did.

As an analogy, if one wants to know the probability of rolling double-sixes with a pair of dice, one multiplies the chances of a six on each die together, (1/6) X (1/6), to obtain 1/36. This multiplication procedure assumes independence of events (i.e., no effect of one event on the other), an assumption that seems to work pretty well for athletic performance data.

Here are the St. Louis hitters who got at least one hit in the streak, along with the type of hit(s), and their batting averages prior to August 6 (for the position players, these averages are taken from the August 5 box score):

Looper (2: single, bunt single) .161 (use twice in multiplication)
Miles (2: infield single, single) .283 (use twice in multiplication)
Eckstein (single) .286
Taguchi (single) .298 (didn't play August 5, so taken from August 4)
Pujols (single) .316
Encarnacion (single) .289
Rolen (homer) .270
Ludwick (homer) .251

Thus, we're left with:

.161 X .283 X .286 X .298 X .316 X .289 X .270 X .251 X .161 X .283 = .000001

which, as an estimate at least, is 1 in a million.

Of course, each time a player makes an out in a game, his team has a new chance to start a hitting streak. Taking into account the large number of games each team plays in a year and the even larger number of outs it makes, those million opportunities probably come up every several years. Indeed, as alluded to above, there are other teams who share the record of 10 straight hits with the Cardinals.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A month ago, I conducted runs-test statistical analyses of Alex Rodriguez's alleged tendency to hit homers in bunches. I concluded that there was "very modest evidence" of A-Rod's "being a streaky home-run hitter..."

In the short time since that write-up, Rodriguez has unveiled a new batting stretch -- this time of the cold variety -- to further his credentials as a streaky hitter.

As reported in the article on this afternoon's Yankees loss to the White Sox, A-Rod “ended a career-high hitless streak at 22 at-bats when he singled in the second” (the grey summary box above the article refers to an “0-21 skid,” but I believe 22 is the correct number of at-bats).

His pre-slump batting average was .312 (116/372). This translates into a pre-slump failure rate = 1 - .312 = .688. Raising the latter figure to the 22nd power (for 22 straight at-bats) yields a probability of .0003 (3-in-10,000) of A-Rod having such a drought.

In a bizarre coincidence, the statistical figures of Rodriguez's cold stretch almost exactly parallel those of a 2005 slump by Ichiro Suzuki. As I previously reported:

Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who in 2004 set the single-season record for most hits, suffered through a 0-for-22 slump (longest of his career) in early August 2005. The mid-season Sports Weekly listed him as batting .311 (a failure rate of .689), so the probability of Ichiro’s going hitless in 22 straight official at-bats is .689^22 = .0003.

For the Ichiro analysis, I didn't have his batting average at the exact moment before his slump; I therefore used his average at (roughly) the halfway point of the 2005 season, which would have been a few weeks before his cold spell.

Going back to today's Yankee-White Sox game, another numerical oddity was that, after a scoreless first inning, Chicago scored eight runs in the top of the second, only to have New York put up eight of its own to tie the game. The Yankees clearly would have seemed to have the momentum, but in fact, the White Sox dominated the rest of the way, winning 13-9 (see above-linked article).