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Hitting streaks in baseball may be contagious

Teammates of a batter on a streak also hit better than average

Like a popular politician with long “coattails,” a baseball player on a hitting streak seems to lift the performance of those around him. Teammates who play regularly with a streaking player hit at a pace above their own average during those games, a mathematical analysis shows.

“We don’t prove that hitting is contagious,” says study coauthor Joel Bock, an engineer at Scalaton, a software engineering firm in La Mesa, Calif. “But the data show there is something there.”

Streakiness in sports is a controversial topic in science. Some scientists point to a lack of evidence showing that a player can have a true “hot hand” that predicts subsequent success, such as the likelihood that a hot basketball player will make the next shot (SN: 2/12/2011, p. 26). Even less is known about whether a hot hand can extend to others.

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