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Hitting streaks spread success


By Stephen Ornes / January 11, 2013 For baseball players who want to increase their batting success, a new study of f ers this tip: Get on a team with a slugger. When one player experiences a hitting streak, his teammates do better as well, according to the new analysis of baseball stats. (In baseball, as in lif e, some people are improved by the company they keep!) T he scientists didnt identif y the reason f or this link. However, the pattern is real, they reported this past December in the scientif ic journal PLOS ONE. We dont prove that hitting is

The s e b as e b all all-s tars p laye d in 1937. Fo urth fro m the le ft is J o e DiMag g io , who we nt o n a 56-g ame hitting s tre ak in 1941. That re c o rd has no t b e e n b ro ke n. Cre d it: Harris & Ewing

contagious, Joel Bock told Science News. But the data show there is something there. Bock, who worked on the new study, is an engineer at Scalaton. Its a sof tware engineering f irm in La Mesa, Calif . In the study, a streak was def ined as when a player hit the ball and reached base in 30 games in a row. Since 1945, major leaguers have racked up 28 hitting streaks. (In 1945, Boston Braves player Tommy Holmes went on a 37-game streak. T he most recent streak occurred in 2011. T hats when Dan Uggla, of the Atlanta Braves, hit saf ely in 33 straight games.) Bock and his collaborators then studied the records of the sluggers teammates. T hose players batting averages went up, too but only during the streak. A batting average measures how well a player is hitting. For example: Say a player goes to bat 10 times. If

he hits a ball and reaches base saf ely three times and makes an out the other seven, then his batting average over those 10 at-bats is .300. Bock and his collaborators looked at the records of players who played regularly while someone on their team was on a hitting streak. T he researchers f ound that on average, batting averages of the sluggers teammates went up by about 11 points but only during a streak. T hat means if a player normally was hitting .250, he hit .261 during the streak. Jeremy Arkes, who did not work on the study, f inds its results plausible. T his economist at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif ., says many f actors may explain why hitting seems to be contagious. A batter on a hot streak may reach a base a lot and distract a pitcher, f or example. T hat might cause the pitcher to make mistakes and throw more hittable balls to later batters. Or teammates may be enthusiastic about a sluggers streak. T hat enthusiasm could provide extra excitement and extra purpose to playing, Arkes says. And that could boost the teammates perf ormance. Future studies may help explain why hitting streaks seem to be contagious and Bock welcomes those studies. T here is some sort of mechanism going on, but Im not sure I know what it is, he says. Power Words streak A continuous period of specif ied success or luck. batting average T he average perf ormance of a batter, expressed as a ratio of a batters saf e hits per of f icial times at bat. contagious Spread f rom one person or organism to another by direct or indirect contact. economics T he branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption and transf er of wealth.