Web edition: February 21, 2013
Print edition: March 9, 2013; Vol.183 #5 (p. 31)
Scrutinizing baseball’s streaks
My family owned the Oakland A’s, formerly the Kansas City Athletics, from 1960 to 1980. During this period, our team won three consecutive World Series (1972 – 74) and five consecutive division titles (1971 – 75). I personally witnessed that one player would be on a streak and his attitude appeared to raise his teammates’ spirits “Hitting streaks may be contagious,” (SN: 1/26/13, p. 13). I also saw the opposite: If a player was having a bad day, this also seemed to be contagious.
Nancy H. Finley, Dublin, Calif.
On the other hand, you can sit just back with a dog and a brew and enjoy the game. Who cares why streaks happen? It’s just a joy when it happens on your team and a misery when it doesn’t. Can we assume that slumps are also contiguous? Bet [the researcher] can’t figure that out either. But if he’d like a real challenge, why haven’t the Cubs won a World Series in over a century? (The billy goat curse doesn’t count.)
Gerald Karey, Silver Spring, Md.
Why must the primary cause be ascribed to the star hitter? Could it be that some common factor raises the hitting of all players on the team, such as any weakness in the opposing pitchers?
Demetrios Matsakis, via e-mail
One advantage of studying the impact of hot hitters instead of pitchers is that a streaky hitter is in the lineup every day. While the researchers acknowledge that the skill of opposing pitchers could affect an entire team’s hitting, determining the impact of pitchers would be difficult since a team faces dozens per month, including specialist relievers who pitch to some batters rarely or not at all. The authors quote the late baseball player, manager and philosopher Casey Stengel: “Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice versa.” — Nathan Seppa