Schroedinger’s Streak

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.

12 comments… add one

  • Next they should figure out how likely it was for someone to reach base safely in 84 consecutive games, like Ted Williams did that year.

    pastorsteve March 30, 2008, 8:35 pm
  • Basically, someone’s more likely when they have a higher hitting average. Duh.
    I’ve done the math as a kid.. haha..

    Lar March 30, 2008, 9:12 pm
  • Another happy coincidence, as this will be a point of discussion in one of the three remaining Top 50 seasons…

    Paul SF March 30, 2008, 9:30 pm
  • @Lar–not quite. It also helps to not walk much and hit high in the line-up to get more at bats.

    Joba_Rules March 30, 2008, 10:31 pm
  • Anyone see the walk-off homer by Zimmerman in the first game in Nationals Park? Pretty exciting stuff.

    Atheose March 30, 2008, 10:50 pm
  • Yes, just got done watching the game, Atheose. 24 consecutive batters retired and then a walk-off. Great stuff.

    attackgerbil March 30, 2008, 11:07 pm
  • > basically yadda yadda
    Yeah, and basically the fax machine is a waffle iron with a phone attached.

    attackgerbil March 30, 2008, 11:15 pm
  • I can’t like Ryan Zimmerman. After what he did to Wang in 2006. Woulda had 20 wins.

    AndrewYF March 30, 2008, 11:25 pm
  • True, to some degree, but still. Remember that the “optimal” batting order for the best player was 2nd anyhow, but no one really does this.
    Also, Dimaggio was walked intentionally at some point too. And there were times where he had to step out of the box to reach to get a hit.
    That probably wouldn’t happen nowadays (unless it affected the game) but I can’t agree that most players won’t reach for pitches that could’ve been walks otherwise..

    Lar March 30, 2008, 11:44 pm
  • Which Florida player was it that reached out and hit a double off of an intentional walk last year (or the year before)? That was pretty fricken hilarious, though you’ll rarely see it nowadays.

    Atheose March 30, 2008, 11:57 pm
  • That was Miguel Cabrera against the O’s. Come to think of it, we might witness that sort of thing again this season. Hooray!

    yankeemonkey March 31, 2008, 1:35 am
  • Good point, yankeemonkey. That Tigers lineup is, I daresay, scarrier than any Yankees lineup I’ve seen in recent history.

    Atheose March 31, 2008, 7:58 am

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