Moments in the Sun

June 15, 2020

Amos and Juliet 

            Walking my dog in the park this morning, there was an awkward scene.  There was a woman in Islamic garb, with a man and a little girl, no more than 15 months old.   I took the adults to be her grandparents.   They were a long way from us, at least 75 yards and I would guess 100, but the little girl spotted the puppy and the puppy spotted the little girl, and the little girl desperately wanted to play with the puppy, and the puppy desperately wanted to play with the little girl.  She couldn’t quite walk yet; she was at that stage where she could only maintain her balance by holding her arms out to her side as she ran, but she ran toward us as the puppy strained at his leash. 

            Her parents or grandparents took a long time to respond, probably because they were so far away from us that they didn’t believe the little girl could possibly run that far, but she just kept running and running and running.  After a while she was much closer to me than to her grandparents, and, with a street behind me, I had to stay there to make sure she didn’t get into the street.   Cutest little girl you ever saw; just adorable.

            The little girl desperately wanted to play with the puppy and the puppy desperately wanted to play with the little girl, but even without the social distancing, it would have been difficult to let it happen.  The puppy has sharp toenails, and the little girl has tender skin, and there would have been blood, and screams, and trauma after a few moments of satisfaction.  With the social distancing, of course, it was out of the question.  Eventually her grandmother came to catch her and carry her back.  It was a sad moment in this difficult time we are in, when we cannot explain the rules to puppies and baby girls. 

 

 

25 Game Streaks

            I had a question in "Hey, Bill" a couple of days ago; I think the essence of the question was "How unusual was Shane Spencer’s 1998 hot streak, if we take away the fact that it happened at the very start of his career?"   In other words, it SEEMED like an amazing thing because we had no history with him, but if he had the same hot streak in the  middle of a career, would anybody remember it?  Or do all good hitters have a streak like that, hiding somewhere in there?

            I took my Game Logs file, which now includes 176 players and 299,806 Game Lines.   There is a "Game Score" for each hitter’s game, so it is easy for the computer to total up the Game Scores for each 25-game sequence in every player’s career.  I also have the runs created, so it would also be easy to figure the Runs Created for any player in any 25-game span; I didn’t do that, but that would have been another way to do it.  I think the other way is better.

            Anyway, I believe that the best 25-game sequence by any hitter in my data was by Hank Greenberg, from August 29, 1940 to September 20, 1940.   The 25-game streak started with a double header at Washington on August 29.  Greenberg had 5 hits in the double header, homered in both games, had a double and two walks.  He had two hits on September 3rd, two hits including a homer on the 4th.  On the 5th he had two doubles and a walk and scored three runs; on the 6th he homered and drove in two runs, scored two runs.  On the 7th he homered again; on the 8th he hit a triple.  The team didn’t play on the ninth, but on the 10th he singled, doubled, homered and walked twice, driving in four runs.   On the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th he homered in every game, going 7-for-16 with three walks giving him an on-base percentage over .500, and he drove in 8 runs in those four games.

            In the 25 games, Greenberg hit .433 with 15 homers, 38 RBI.   He had 23 walks, almost one per game, giving him a .549 on base percentage and a slugging percentage of 1.056.  He hit in 23 of the 25 games, reaching base three times on walks in the two games in which he did not hit safely. 

            I measured "streaks" for this purpose in 25-game units, but Greenberg’s streak did not start on August 29th or end on September 20.   After September 20 the Tigers had five games left on the schedule.  Greenberg hit safely in every game, homered twice, and reached base six more times on walks.  The end of his hot streak is not actually September 20; the streak ended when the World Series ended.  In the World Series he went 10-for-28 (.357) and drove in 6 runs, had an OPS In the series over 1.000.  

            I am sure that Bonds and Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle would have comparable or better streaks, but they are not in my data yet.  There are other streaks in my data comparable to Greenberg’s, and I could have chosen one of the others as the "best" 25-game streak in the data, but there is also this.   Greenberg’s is the only one of the greatest streaks in the data that happened in the heat of the pennant race.  Almost all of the most impressive streaks in the data occurred mostly in July.   Greenberg’s streak started with the Tigers three games behind the Indians, and ended with the Tigers as the World Series champions.  That adds value.

            The streak started with Greenberg hitting .323, with a .407 on base percentage, .593 slugging.  The season ended with him hitting .340 with a .434 on base percentage, and .670 slugging.   He lifted his slugging percentage 77 points, in September, with 450 at bats before then and a .593 slugging percentage before then.   His OPS in September was 1.504.   Greenberg won the MVP Award.

            I am drifting off of the question that I was pursuing here, but I will get back to it.  But first, a look at some of the other most remarkable hot streaks in my data. 

            Earl Averill, in a 25-game sequence beginning in the second game of a double header on July 5, 1936, and ending on July 31, 1936, hit .482 with 8 homers, 34 RBI and 38 runs scored.

            Reggie Jackson, in a 25-game sequence beginning June 10, 1969, and ending on the fourth of July, hit .388 with 16 homers, 35 RBI, also 10 doubles.  The streak includes Reggie’s 10-RBI game in Fenway, followed by a double, triple and home run in the next game, after which it was discovered that he was using an illegal bat, and also includes a 3-homer game by Reggie against Seattle on July 2.   

            Jim Gentile, in a 25-game run beginning June 23, 1961 and ending July 27, 1961, hit .327 with 13 homers, 40 RBI.   Gentile was being platooned through much of the streak, and missed several games in there because of platooning.   The streak does NOT include the famous game earlier that year in which Gentile hit two Grand Slam home runs; that was in May, but Gentile did hit two Grand Slams during the streak, one of them as a pinch hitter. 

            Charile Keller, in a streak beginning August 10, 1939 and ending September 3, 1939, hit .433 with only 5 homers, but 35 runs scored and 31 RBI.   Keller was a rookie at the time, and the streak includes a game in which he drew 5 walks. 

            Roger Maris had a streak ending July 15, 1961 in which he hit .402 with 12 homers, 33 RBI in 25 games.   Mark McGwire, in breaking Maris’ streak 37 years later, had a 25-game stretch ending June 13 in which he hit 17 home runs.  

            The only player in my data to hit .500 in a 25-game stretch was Ichiro in 2004.  In a 25-game stretch ending August 21 Ichiro had 57 hits, giving him a .514 batting average.   I believe that Johnny Damon also had a long stretch of games in which he hit .500, but Damon isn’t in my data as of yet, so the Damon is in the Details. 

            The most RBI I found in any 25-game stretch was 42, by Roy Campanella in 1953.   The interesting thing there is, it was the first 25 games of the season (for Campanella).   He drove in 42 runs in his first 25 games. 

            Jose Cruz had a 25-game stretch ending July 27, 1984 in which he hit .490 and had 12 doubles.

            Tony Oliva had a 25-game stretch ending July 13, 1969, in which he hit .477 with 17 doubles.

            Norm Cash had a 25-game stretch ending June 25, 1961 in which he hit .457 with 14 homers, 25 RBI.   Cash’s OPS during the stretch was 1.608, the highest in the data.   Cash is the only player to have had a higher OPS during his streak than Greenberg (1.604). 

            Cash and Greenberg are an interesting match.   They were both long-term Detroit Tiger first basemen, although Greenberg was playing the outfield in 1961, because the Tigers had two slugging first basemen, Greenberg and York.  Anyway, Cash and Greenberg have similar stats—Greenberg .340 with 41 homers, 150 RBI, Cash .361 with 41 homers, 132 RBI.   Cash’s OPS for the season was 1.149, 45 points higher than Greenberg’s (1.104).   The 1940 Tigers won the World Series, but won only 90 games during the regular season (90-64); the 1961 Tigers did not win the pennant, but won 101 games during the season (101-61). 

            The most runs scored by any player in any of these stretches was 38, by Averill in his run, followed by 35, by Keller.   But Tony Phillips in 1995 also had a 25-game run, ending July 27, 1995, in which he scored 35 runs.   Willie Wilson had a 25-game stretch in 1980 in which he hit .449 and scored 34 runs.   Enos Slaughter had a 25-game stretch ending August 1, 1942, in which he hit .426 and hit 8 triples. 

            Bill Mazeroski had probably the worst 25-game stretch in my data, a 25-game patch in 1963 in which he hit .106 (10 for 94) with no homers and scored only one run.   Many players in the data had 25-game stretches in which they hit less than .106, but with many fewer at bats.  Two players had 25-game stretches in which they did not have a hit, but they were just mostly pinch running, and only had a few at bats. 

           

 

            To get finally to the question which I started out to answer.   There are, indeed, many players and many non-Hall of Fame players who had 25-game stretches in their careers better than Shane Spencer’s hot start—but there are also many outstanding hitters who never in their career had a stretch of games as impressive as Spencer’s run.  Among the non-Hall of Famers who had better stretches than Spencer are Gentile, Maris and Cash in 1961, also McGwire, Tony Oliva, Jose Cruz and Charlie Keller, but also players not yet mentioned.   Frank Howard and Joe Adcock both had 25-game stretches in which they blasted 15 home runs, Howard also hitting .400 in those games. Davey Lopes in 1979 had a 25-game period in which he .371 with 13 homers, also 9 stolen bases.   Here are some others (below). The date given is the date on which we marked the end of the stretch, although in many cases these players stayed hot after that date:

 

First N

Last

M

Da

Year

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

Willie

McCovey

6

22

1969

14

30

.417

.533

.976

1.509

Harmon

Killebrew

7

4

1961

13

35

.417

.495

.906

1.402

Ralph

Kiner

7

21

1950

13

32

.356

.482

.889

1.371

Jim Ray

Hart

7

23

1967

13

34

.398

.468

.903

1.371

Doug

DeCinces

8

28

1982

13

32

.414

.473

.879

1.352

Dick

Allen

6

15

1969

13

24

.383

.463

.840

1.303

Steve

Garvey

7

3

1977

13

34

.337

.398

.782

1.180

Leon

Wagner

5

6

1962

13

33

.383

.449

.851

1.300

Duke

Snider

9

7

1953

13

36

.419

.474

.848

1.322

Fred

Lynn

8

18

1979

12

27

.444

.549

.938

1.487

Tony

Perez

5

8

1970

12

31

.422

.523

.867

1.389

Eddie

Mathews

8

10

1954

12

31

.353

.517

.824

1.341

Al

Kaline

7

9

1966

12

27

.391

.456

.920

1.376

Robin

Ventura

7

31

1991

12

33

.364

.433

.776

1.209

Kirby

Puckett

5

14

1986

12

24

.417

.462

.833

1.295

Andre

Dawson

5

20

1990

12

32

.371

.385

.804

1.189

Gus

Zernial

7

7

1951

12

31

.350

.404

.790

1.194

Rico

Petrocelli

6

9

1969

12

26

.325

.455

.850

1.305

Hank

Sauer

5

17

1954

12

30

.350

.421

.740

1.161

Willie

Stargell

6

25

1971

12

36

.370

.473

.859

1.332

Frank J

Thomas

5

20

1958

12

29

.340

.367

.767

1.134

Jim

Hickman

6

17

1970

11

29

.407

.500

.857

1.357

Dick

Stuart

9

17

1961

11

31

.389

.449

.768

1.217

Jim

Rice

9

2

1978

11

28

.423

.475

.827

1.301

Ron

Cey

5

6

1977

11

35

.363

.482

.791

1.274

Cecil

Cooper

7

20

1983

11

33

.369

.405

.786

1.192

Bill

Nicholson

8

13

1944

11

30

.350

.430

.770

1.200

Rocky

Colavito

9

14

1958

11

30

.370

.468

.804

1.272

Bob

Cerv

5

17

1958

11

30

.344

.422

.789

1.210

Ken

Harrelson

6

22

1968

11

38

.364

.408

.773

1.181

Don

Mincher

8

9

1963

11

25

.309

.391

.670

1.061

 

            But there are also many fine hitters who never had a stretch of games that you could say definitively was better than Spencer’s career start.   Jose Cardenal, Willie Davis and Bill Madlock all had 25-game stretches in which they hit over. 400, but with only 2 homers in that stretch.    Bob Elliott (1947 NL MVP), Keith Hernandez, Andy Van Slyke, Vic Power, Lou Boudreau, Felipe Alou and Will Clark pretty clearly never had a 25-game stretch as good as Spencer’s, although obviously they had very good 25-game stretches, hit .400 and drove in 30 runs, but not with the power and OPS to match Spencer.  Daryl Strawberry’s best 25-game series (a) spans two seasons, 1987 into 1988, and (b) is probably not better than Spencer, although it is about as good.   John Mayberry had a 25-game stretch (1975) in which he hit .458 with 9 homers, 27 RBI.   Better than Spencer?  Probably.  

 
 
 
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