Black Jack or When Does a Streak End?

The big news from last night’s absolute humiliation of the Devil Rays was the return of Hideki Matsui, who looked none the worse for his injury with a 4-for-4 night (and a walk for good measure). This story eclipsed even Bobby Abreu’s titanic 7 rbi performance (6 in the first inning, and he also made a terrific defensive play), and most crucially for this post, the fact that Derek Jeter failed to get a hit in the proceedings. Derek, of course, came into the contest with a 21-game streak on the line. In five plate appearances, he walked 4 times and was hit by a pitch, for a nifty 1.000 on base percentage. But that line begs the question: is the hit streak intact? Although he played in the game, he was not charged with an official at-bat. Apparently, according to MLB, the streak still lives. That seems dubious to us, but we’ll take it. What do you think?

PS: Sure was nice to see Moose finally pick up win 14, and even better that he did it in front of Phil Hughes, who was in uniform (though not active) in the dugout. We could hardly think of a better mentor for our ace of the future.

30 comments… add one
  • I don’t get the streak being on. Barring intentional walks and being hit by pitches in every single at-bat (which would be the one caveat for me in playing in a game but not having a streak end) I don’t see how it continues. Surely he was thrown a handful of strikes in the at-bats in which he walked, some hittable. He chose not to swing at those, theoretically. He had opportunities. This is an odd loophole, to me at least.

    SF September 13, 2006, 11:52 am
  • I’m wondering if Joe D. had any similar lacunae.

    YF September 13, 2006, 11:58 am
  • Hmmm, I disagree. There’s no way to discern whether or not he saw ANY hittable pitches, first of all, as that is a subjective matter. There’s always the “unintentional intentional” walk, and some a-hole could do that five times to purposely end a guy’s hit streak if he wanted.
    The thing I disagree with is that the streak is on if you get some combination of walks, hbps, AND SAC BUNTS! (But it will end if you throw a sac fly in there…at least I think this is the case, someone correct me if I’m off base here…pun intended.)

    tom yf September 13, 2006, 11:59 am
  • That’s a really lame loophole. It’s not an on-base streak, it’s a hitting streak.
    Speaking of Yankee offense, I saw this chart on ESPN.
    2006 1998 1961 1927
    Runs per game 5.7 6.0 5.1 6.3
    Batting average .285 .288 .263 .307
    Home runs 177 207 240 158
    Slugging percentage .460 .460 .442 .489
    It’s kinda hard, through all the noise, to think of this team as being in there with the ’98 squad, but they are – and without Sheff and Matsui for much of ’06.

    lp September 13, 2006, 12:04 pm
  • If Jeter took any called strikes though, then it’s not subjective — it’s objective in that the umpire determined it was hittable as the arbiter of the game. Not sure if this happened, but it does seem odd that you can not start a game, come in in the ninth and get an RBI fielder’s choice in which the runner is declared safe on a play at the plate but you get the 0 for 1 and the streak ends. However, you can play the whole game, see pitches, get no hits and the streak is still on.
    Very odd indeed.

    Paul SF September 13, 2006, 12:15 pm
  • I can’t agree with the reasoning of Paul and SF. Jeter’s aggressive; to say that he should have gotten a hit no matter what he saw…this seems like a weak rationalization. To me, it’s simply a philosphical question. Or perhaps a rules/history question (have the criteria changed over time? What constitutes a “game played”). I think there’s a reasonable impulse to say, “if you’ve played, you’ve played.” No further justification (he saw 1 strike!) is needed.

    YF September 13, 2006, 1:21 pm
  • I think the problem is with the rule itself. As I alluded to earlier, the honorable thing would’ve been for Jeter to give it a shot on that 5th AB instead of being pulled for a rookie. It was the smart baseball move, since, at the core, the AB was an unneccessary risk for a star player.

    Quo September 13, 2006, 1:29 pm
  • I lean more toward this: If you received at least one *plate appearance* in a game in which you did not get a hit, the streak should end.
    I understand where SF, Tom and perhaps MLB is coming from, in that if it were a particularly reviled player, or there was bad blood between the teams or the pitcher and batter, the pitcher could intentionally walk a hitter with a streak going every time, so loooking at whether he actually saw pitches to hit is constructive (and a bit subjective, on further consideration). But I doubt that’s ever happened, or is even very plausible.

    Paul SF September 13, 2006, 1:36 pm
  • to say that he should have gotten a hit no matter what he saw
    Oh, I am not saying that. I am trying to come to grips with a guy getting three unintentional (whether they were “intentional” is besides the point, as those are specifically qualified by an official scorer) walks in a game while it is simultaneously determined that he did not play in a game in which he went hitless. It’s a bit strange to me. Logically speaking, can a “consecutive games played” streak end when a guy doesn’t play in a game? Obviously yes. So why can’t a hitting streak end in which a guy doesn’t get a hit? One of those funny “sports logic black hole” moments, perhaps.
    But probably not. I think it’s very simple, with further thought: Jeter’s streak cannot be compromised if, through no fault of his own, he is disallowed from getting a hit. Walks, whether intentional or “semi-intentional”, or even unintentional, as well as HBPs, qualify as that deprivation. Pitchers who are wild shouldn’t punitively end a player’s streak. On the other hand, why sac bunts, which are at last check elective, equally shield a player is beyond me.

    SF September 13, 2006, 2:09 pm
  • When Joe D’s streak was at 29 games, Luke Appling misplayed a grounder that bounced and hit him in the shoulder. The official scorer credited DiMaggio with a single.
    The fact is that individual streaks are bound by external governance. The caveat regarding walks and HBP not being grounds for the cessation of any hitting streak was adopted after Joe D’s streak to prevent a team from purposefully denying a player the opportunity to challenge a record. What’s the difference between pitching around a batter and issuing an intentional walk?
    Paul, I respectfully disagree that a plate appearance in a game should be considered identical to an at bat in this circumstance. A rule that favors an individual performance metric helps promote interesting subplots to the story of baseball, which promotes the game. Rising tide. Such rules do not determine outcome of the game or alter the fact that at the core, baseball is a team sport and the highlight of individual performance is secondary to the team accomplishments on a seasonal level. However, individual accomplishments are what is discussed in the annals of history and what captures the imagination.
    I would not mind if baseball decided to change it’s rules and say that Jeter’s streak is invalid because he didn’t get a hit in a game in which he appeared. It’s a valid argument. It’s also short-sighted.

    attackgerbil September 13, 2006, 2:10 pm
  • I agrew with you Gerb, for the most part. But answer me how exempting sacrifice bunts from this is logical? It’s an elective option of the hitter, not something out of their control.

    SF September 13, 2006, 2:27 pm
  • ” It’s an elective option of the hitter”
    Doesn’t the manager, from the dugout, instruct the hitter to lay down a bunt in many instances?

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 2:47 pm
  • In which case bunting wouldn’t be an elective option.

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 2:49 pm
  • Whether the manager puts it on or not is irrelevant: this is a situation where the batter is in control, not where the batter has no control (i.e. HBP or BB).

    SF September 13, 2006, 2:49 pm
  • I agree with you SF, in that a sacrifice bunt should not be logically included as an exemption.

    attackgerbil September 13, 2006, 3:07 pm
  • And, as a Yankees fan, I think I have standing to say that the whole hit streak concept favors low walk guys (e.g., Dimaggio) over high walk guys who are overall better hitters (e.g., Ted Williams). So given the unavoidable flaws in measuring hit streaks, I say give DJ full credit next April when he gets to 57….

    Fred Vincy YF September 13, 2006, 3:10 pm
  • Wow. A gen-u-ine intellectual discussion on YFSF. We need to mark down this date for posterity.
    Great points all around here, esp, as ever from the Gerb. Good day for the blog. I only wish we had enough technical savvy to allow people to vote….

    YF September 13, 2006, 3:10 pm
  • “this is a situation where the batter is in control”
    I disagree – I would guess that it’s rare for a hitter to swing away when the bunt is on; therefore, the outcome of the AB is not fully in his control.

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 3:26 pm
  • “in that a sacrifice bunt should not be logically included as an exemption.”
    I can’t understand why a sac bunt shouldn’t be included as an exemption – the batter is basically being told to go up and make an out, albeit a productive one.

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 3:37 pm
  • I’m 60/40 on this one Andrews, and would likely be easily persuaded to agree with you.
    The sacrifice bunt is attempted per instruction by the coaching staff, so lenience is granted to the hitter. Should a swinging bunt or a check swing sacrifice also therefore be exempted? Sacrifice flies? The result to the team is the same in regards to advancing the runner. It’s the decision of the scorer whether or not a bunt is a true bunt. I’m still thinking that if the batter makes contact with the ball and does not reach base or does so by error, the plate appearance should not be exempted.

    attackgerbil September 13, 2006, 3:50 pm
  • Correction; should have read check swing that has the effect of a sacrifice.

    attackgerbil September 13, 2006, 3:55 pm
  • Well, what if the batter tries a sac bunt, and the third baseman throws it into the dugout. Does this go up as a plate appearance, the batter is 0-1, ending the streak? Or am I correct to think that the official scorer is the determinant here? It would be on the OS to rule that there was, in fact, a sacrifice bunt, that the batter reached on an error, and the streak is intact, therefore, no plate appearance. And what if the batter tries to lay down a sacrifice bunt, or tries to bunt for a base hit but fails twice,then fouls nine pitches off, then gets hit by a pitch? Streak intact. For me the issue is that there is no way to PROVE that a manager put on the sac (sometimes, though in more rare occurrences, players sacrifice even though they are allowed to swing away – I bet Jeter is one of those guys), no matter what our logic tells us. Strategy is not a factor in the rules; it’s an externality. This is why I find the sac as an unworthy exemption.
    This is one of those glorious moments in sports rulemaking that drives meaningless debates, and thank god for that, no?

    SF September 13, 2006, 3:59 pm
  • Sac flies shouldn’t be exempted, in my opinion, because the hitter is on his own.

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
  • Good points, SF, but I still believe there should be an exemption.
    Later guys – I’m off to the stadium.

    Andrews September 13, 2006, 4:03 pm
  • Well, like I said, AG, I was leaning. I can see it both ways, and if I were a Jeter fan, I know I’d be pissed (or at least annoyed) if he lost the streak because of walks and a HBP.

    Paul SF September 13, 2006, 4:13 pm
  • SF, your hypothetical situations sealed it for me. No sac bunts. Sorry Andrews :)
    Now if I can convince JT to never tell Melky to try and bunt again.

    attackgerbil September 13, 2006, 4:21 pm
  • I think the streak should be considered over. To me, what makes a long hitting streak impressive is the difficulty, even the luck, that enables it to happen. You can call it unfair, but such is the nature of the record and much of baseball achievement. I’m going to be very literal about this one: Jeter played in a game and did not get a hit. Even if it wasn’t his fault, the fact is that he got a hit. There were probably hits during this streak that in less lucky circumstances would have been outs; such is the nature of a hitting streak. It’s often outside the control of the hero.
    Is it fair that someone as great as Ernie Banks never played in the post-season? No. But it underscores how truly special it is for someone to get that chance. It also shines a light on the arbitrary nature of a lot of things we view as great in this game.

    Nick-YF September 13, 2006, 4:29 pm
  • *he did not get a hit.

    Nick-YF September 13, 2006, 4:29 pm
  • I agree with Nick YF on this one. To me, the hit streak is over, and I really hope it doesn’t get into the 30s because all the idiots on ESPN and talk radio will talk ad nauseum about last night’s game, and none of them will display as much intelligence as this thread.
    The man played a game of baseball. He had four plate appearances. He didn’t get a hit. Streak over. It’s really not complicated.

    Sam September 13, 2006, 4:52 pm
  • Hmm. Tough call on this one. I see both sides. I personally lean toward the MLB rule on this: that the streak should stay alive in this instance. Jeter did not make an out, and if the rule was otherwise it strikes me as mighty unfair to a player with a streak… what, he’s supposed to go up there hacking at pitches out of the zone, which is counterproductive from a team standpoint? Meh.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) September 14, 2006, 10:19 am

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