The big news going into the Final Four of March Madness is will Kentucky extend its winning streak from 38 to 40 games and win the National Championship. The last time a college basketball team achieved this was when Indiana in 1976 went undefeated and won 30 games to win the National Championship.
What is a streak? It is any consecutive number of successes by a single team or player. Success for a team can mean winning a game, hitting a home run in a game, getting double digit hits in a game, etc. Success for a player can mean getting at least one hit in a game, hitting at least one home run in a game, getting on-base at least once in a game, etc. A streak can be over just one season or can extend to multiple seasons. In what follows we will only consider streaks for one season. By all definitions, a streak signifies dominance by a team or player because long streaks do not happen by accident. Yes, usually there is at least one game when luck was necessary for the streak to continue. Many say Kentucky’s victory over Notre Dame this year had a luck component. In what follows getting on-base means the result of a plate appearance is reaching base by either getting a hit, a walk, or being hit-by-pitch. A plate appearance is any result of an at-bat. Here are some notable baseball streaks by a player.
- Most consecutive games without striking-out (115): Joe Sewell, 1929
- Most consecutive plate appearances with a hit (12): Walt Dropo, 1952
- Most consecutive games with at least two hits (13): Rogers Hornsby, 1923
- Most consecutive games with at least three hits (6): George Brett, 1976)
- Most consecutive games with at least one home run (8): Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly (1987), Ken Griffey Jr.’s (1993)
- Most consecutive games with at least one base-on-balls (22): Roy Cullenbine, 1947
- Most consecutive games scoring at least one run (18): Red Rolfe (1939) Kenny Lofton (2000)
- Most consecutive games with at least one triple (5) John Wilson (1912)
- Most consecutive games with at least one RBI (17): Ted Grimes, 1922.
- Most consecutive plate appearances getting on-base (16): Ted Williams, 1957
The mathematicsto develop a model for predicting which streak would be the hardest to duplicate and which player had the highest probability of duplicating the streak always fascinated me. This led me to develop a formula for using any player’s batting statistics for a given year to assign him a probability of duplicating a particular streak. The formula I developed is Ch. 4 in the book Mathematics and Sports published by the Mathematical Association of America. Also, Ch. 16 (Streaking) in my book Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball develops this formula and uses this formula to compare various batting streaks.
Two of the most celebrated players in baseball Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams own two of the most notable consecutive game streaks in baseball. Ted Williams, known for his batting eye, owns the streak of most consecutive games getting on-base (84 in 1949). DiMaggio’s streak of most consecutive games with a hit (56 in 1941) immortalized the number 56.
Which of these two streaks would be hardest to duplicate? Applying my formula to these two streaks. Williams had a probability of, 09444 (1 in 11 chance) of achieving his 84-game streak in 1949. DiMaggio had a probability of .00010 (1 in 10,000 chance) of achieving his 56-game streak in 1941. As further proof that the 56-game streak was the tougher to duplicate, DiMaggio’s probability of achieving the 84-game streak in 1941 was .00565 (1 in 17 chance) and in 1949 the probability of Williams achieving the 56-game streak was .000001 (1 in 100,000 chance). The second longest hitting streak is 44 games (Pete Rose 1978).
Flash! Wisconsin wins ending Kentucky’s quest for perfection.