Several streak-related stories are swirling through Major League Baseball at the season's halfway point (81 games). These stories involve a team, two hitters, and a pitcher.
Which team has the best record? Hint: It's a team that has recorded sub-.500 records for each of the last 20 years. Yes, it's the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh has won nine straight games and has the best record in MLB at this point, 51-30 (.630). The Bucs now need to go only 31-50 (.383) the rest of the way to end their streak of losing seasons. Last year, however, Pittsburgh was in an even more advantageous position to post a winning record -- a 63-47 record as of August 8, which required playing at only a .365 clip the rest of the way -- but still finished with a losing record.
Of the two hot hitters, one is capturing the imagination of baseball fans as he helps lift his team back into playoff contention, whereas the other has quietly put together a long consecutive-game hitting streak. The first one is Yasiel Puig, a Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder from Cuba. Puig just completed the first month of his rookie year (June) with more hits (44) during a first month than any player in MLB history, except for Joe DiMaggio (48). However, Puig bested Joltin' Joe in three important offensive categories during the two players' respective first months: batting average (.436 to .381), on-base percentage (.467 to .400), and slugging percentage (.713 to .659). Puig did strike out more times (20 to 8) than DiMaggio during their respective first months. Neither walked much (Puig, 4; DiMaggio, 3). Based on Puig's game-by-game log, I made the following table, which shows that, in the majority of his June contests (14 out of 22), he's gotten multiple hits in a game.
The quietly successful hitter is Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who yesterday got a hit in his 27th straight game. Cuddyer's streak has taken place from May 28-June 6 and (after missing five games) from June 13-30. His monthly batting averages have been .313 in April, .396 in May, and .347 in June. Even if we assume conservatively that Cuddyer is truly a .300 hitter this year, he still has a .760 probability of getting at least one hit per game if he gets four official at-bats (1 - [.700^4], where .700 is his probability of making an out in each official at-bat, which is then raised to the fourth power).
Finally, Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer has gotten a lot of attention for his 12-0 win-loss record to start the season, the first hurler to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. Many baseball observers (your author included) do not like win-loss record as a metric of pitcher accomplishment, because much of what determines whether a pitcher will win or lose is his teammates' offensive output. As we see in Scherzer's game-by-game log, he has gotten wins in games in which he has given up 4 earned runs in 5 innings (April 6), 5 ER in 5 innings (April 24), and 4 ER in 5 innings (May 10). In fact, Scherzer currently ranks 12th among American League pitchers in Earned Run Average (ERA), at 3.10. On another pitching metric, WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), Scherzer does better, his .90 placing him second in the AL, only slightly behind Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma (.88).