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.

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