Monday, May 31, 2010

Northwestern had its quest for a sixth straight NCAA women's lacrosse title thwarted in yesterday's national championship game, as Maryland came from 6 goals behind to prevail 13-11.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garrett Wittels today extended his hitting streak to 54 games, as his Florida International University team won the Sun Belt Conference tournament. FIU now gets an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals, meaning that Wittels will have at least two more games this season (i.e., the regionals have a double-elimination format). The Golden Panthers will need to win twice to give Wittels a chance this season at tying Robin Ventura's record of 58 straight games with a hit. Wittels is only a sophomore, however, so he would have the opportunity to come back next season and extend the streak (provided it doesn't end in the NCAA tournament).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garrett Wittels of Florida International University extended his hitting streak to 53 games today, as FIU again beat Florida Atlantic to qualify for tomorrow morning's Sun Belt Conference championship game. Wittels was in some jeopardy today as, according to this Sun-Sentinel article:

Wittels, who entered Saturday with a 52-game streak, was 0 for 4 before he rocketed a 2-0 pitch off FAU pitcher Taylor Everist's glove in the eighth inning. He easily beat FAU second baseman Raymond Church's throw to first after the ball ricocheted off Everist.


One brief non-Wittels note: The Philadelphia Phillies ended a 30-inning scoreless drought last night. This Bleacher Report article slices and dices the Phillies' scoreless streak every which way!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Garrett Wittels got a hit in Florida International's game this morning to stretch his consecutive-games hitting streak to 51 games. FIU won the game, so the team is playing again this afternoon in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

UPDATE: Wittels also got a hit in FIU's second game today, bringing the streak to 52 games. Florida International edged intrastate rival Florida Atlantic, 18-16, in 11 innings, with Wittels actually pitching toward the end and getting the win! (Correction: This win did not put FIU into the championship game, as the team had to win another game Saturday.)

On a related note, here's a video of current record-holder Robin Ventura being interviewed on ESPN about Wittels's streak.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Florida International University shortstop Garrett Wittels yesterday extended his consecutive-games hitting streak to 49, in dramatic fashion. As described in this game article from FIU's athletics website:

After going hitless in his previous three at-bats in the game, [he] led off the bottom of the ninth with a double over the right fielder[']s head to extend his hitting streak...

The NCAA Division I record is 58 straight games, set by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987. Ventura, of course, went on to have a long and successful major-league career, his being punched out by Nolan Ryan notwithstanding.

Wittels's streak is second all-time in length at the D-I level, nine games behind Ventura. FIU is currently involved in the Sun Belt Conference tournament (as we speak, in fact) and conceivably could make the NCAA tournament. Whether Wittels and his team will have nine more games this season is another matter, though. He is currently a sophomore, so he would have the opportunity to come back next season to extend the streak, as long as it isn't snapped this season.

As of this writing, the FIU site shows Wittels's batting average to be .411. Assuming he can get four official at-bats per game, he is extremely likely to get at least one hit, which is necessary to keep his streak alive. One can take his failure rate per at-bat (1 minus .411, or .589) and raise it to the 4th power, yielding a probability of only .12 of going hitless in a game. In other words, given four official at-bats, Wittels would have a .88 probability of getting at least one hit in a game (this calculation also assumes independence of at-bat outcomes, like coin flips or rolls of the dice).

What really puts hitting streaks in jeopardy is when a player only gets one or two official at-bats, due for example to walks (if a player walks every time in a game, a hitting streak is not considered to have ended, however). Wittels doesn't walk very often (18 bases-on-balls in 49 games thus far this season), so it doesn't seem that he'll be shortchanged many opportunities to swing the bat!

UPDATE: Wittels today extended his streak to 50 games. FIU is in action again on Friday morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last night's Game 4 of the Lakers-Suns NBA Western Conference Finals, won by Phoenix to tie the series at two games apiece, featured a couple of outside-shooting bursts. In the second quarter, L.A.'s Kobe Bryant made six straight shots from beyond 20 feet, sandwiched between a miss at the beginning and end of the quarter(I've excerpted the following narrative from's play-by-play sheet).

11:30 Kobe Bryant misses 25-foot three point jumper
8:19 Kobe Bryant makes 21-foot jumper
7:52 Kobe Bryant makes 22-foot jumper
5:50 Kobe Bryant makes 25-foot three point jumper
5:24 Kobe Bryant makes 23-foot three point jumper
3:10 Kobe Bryant makes 22-foot jumper
2:03 Kobe Bryant makes 26-foot three point jumper
0:01 Kobe Bryant misses 27-foot three point jumper

Bryant also went 6-of-9 from the floor in the third quarter. He's had a lot of hot-shooting stretches over the years. It's somewhat hard, however, to classify him as a true streak-shooter, as he rarely exhibits prolonged coldness. Thus, his hot streaks might just be relatively small variations off of his generally high shooting percentage.

At the other end, Phoenix made three treys in a little over a minute (by Channing Frye at the 8:07 mark; Leandro Barbosa at 7:20; and Jared Dudley at 6:47) to key a 9-2 fourth-quarter spurt that boosted the Suns' lead from 89-87 to 98-89. The Lakers never got closer than within six thereafter.

As noted in the above-linked game article, "Frye had made 1-of-21 shots in the series and missed 18 in a row when his second shot of the night [in the second quarter], a 3-pointer, finally fell to the roar of the home crowd."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This past Sunday in Big 10 college baseball action, Northwestern and Michigan produced one of the most unusual box scores you'll ever see:

Northwestern....... 086 000 000 0 - 14 16 2
Michigan............ 006 031 202 1 - 15 18 2

First, the Wildcats had the hot hand, amassing a 14-0 lead after two-and-a-half innings. But then the Wolverines went to work, scoring in five of their next seven offensive half-innings to leave the game tied at 14-all after nine innings. Michigan then won in extra innings. Key to the Wolverine win was relief pitcher Matt Miller who turned the Wildcats' bats cold, allowing no runs (and only two hits) during the final five-and-two-thirds innings.

In theory, the battle between Michigan's hitters and Northwestern's pitchers would have been independent of that between Michigan's pitchers and Northwestern's hitters. However, in this case and in some huge football comebacks, the same team's offense and defense started clicking at the same time.

So great was the magnitude of Michigan's baseball comeback that ESPN showed some video highlights.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The NHL's Philadelphia Flyers tonight became only the fourth team in North American major-league sports history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series and win four straight, eliminating the Boston Bruins. Tonight's decisive game was a microcosm of the series, as Boston took a lead of three goals to none, only to see Philly score the final four goals!

Prior to tonight's game, National Public Radio's Mike Pesca did a story on the Flyers-Bruins series, and he was kind enough to interview me regarding what hot-hand research had to say about the situation. Click here to find the archived audio.

For further detail on the three previous successful comebacks from 0-3 -- achieved in hockey by the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders and in baseball by the 2004 Boston Red Sox -- see this summary from the website Who Wins.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The website Blog Interviewer recently conducted an interview with me about the Hot Hand site (done via written communication). Full text of the exchange is available here. In addition to providing background on the Hot Hand site, I also give my advice to anyone thinking about starting a blog.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

For the San Antonio Spurs, it was Dragic and it was tragic (to the extent that the outcome of a game can be tragic). The Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic went wild in the fourth quarter to give his team a 110-96 win and put the Spurs down three games to none in the second round of the NBA playoffs. According to this Associated Press/ article:

The backup point guard scored 23 of his 26 points in a brilliant fourth quarter... Dragic hit nine of 11 shots in the fourth, including all four 3-point attempts.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Orlando Magic used a 19-2 spurt in the fourth quarter to break open a one-point game and defeat the Atlanta Hawks, 112-98, in the teams' second-round NBA playoff series. The Magic has now won 12 straight games, six in the playoffs and six to end the regular season (game-by-game log). Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs and now leads Atlanta 2-0.