The New York Times ran an op-ed piece today authored by Samuel Arbesman and Steven Strogatz of Cornell University that details the authors’ efforts to use a comprehensive collection of baseball statistics from 1871-2005 in order to replay the history of baseball 10,000 times with the goal of determining the likelihood of Joe Dimaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. I don’t pretend to have anywhere near the level of smarts required to fully understand what they did, let alone weigh in on whether or not the methodology used was sound. I do fancy the idea that at the instant this simulation was complete, thousands of anti-blogging/anti-statistician sportswriters cried out at once in terror and were suddenly silent.
The upshot, as best as I can fathom, is that it isn’t unlikely that in the course of baseball history that someone did what he did, but it is unlikely he did it (56th most likely — creepy), and even more surprising he did it the year in which he did.
It’s fun navel-scratching material to ponder on the day prior to when we actually get back to playing the games.