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Upon Further Review:
Hitting Streaks, Ichiro, and Some Random Info

by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
June, 2009

Earlier this season, when Ichiro Suzuki extended his latest hitting streak to twenty straight games, I commented on it here, noting how he had now done that six times in his career, leaving him one behind Pete Rose for the all-time mark.  That streak ended after reaching 27 consecutive games on June 5th. 


Now prior to this most recent streak, I had always seen Rose listed as having been the all-time leader with seven career hit streaks of 20 games or longer while I had also seen Ichiro credited with five (here, here, here and here among other places).  Yet MLB.com reported that Ichiro had recorded his seventh career streak of 20+ consecutive games with a hit while Rose, along with Ty Cobb and Willie Keeler, had logged eight such streaks.  This annoyed me terribly, as it essentially flew in the face of everything I’d learned through exhaustive research over the past few years.   

Let me explain.  I have a bit of a thing for hitting streaks.  I find them terribly fascinating, and increasingly so the longer they get.  I love the daily anticipation that comes with a long and growing hit streak; will he get another one today?  Can he keep it going?  How far can he get?  I still remember the budding excitement in 1978 when Rose, who was my brother’s favorite player back then, became just the sixth player ever, and the first since 1941, to collect a hit in 40 straight games.  The Streak was the talk of baseball back then, and everyone naturally wondered if he could break Joe DiMaggio’s all-time mark of 56.  Of course, as we all know, Rose got no closer than 44 consecutive games, falling about two weeks shy of matching The Yankee Clipper’s mark, but he remains the only player in the last half-century to reach 40 straight games.  His incredible success, and ultimate failure, serves to exemplify to perfection just how incredibly difficult the hit streak record is, and always will be, to break.

So as I would watch players stretch out their streaks to 20, then 25, and even 30 games in a row, I would always wonder exactly where they ranked on their club’s all-time list.  I did a bunch of searching, but try as I might, and despite the plethora of information now available online, finding concrete lists turned out to be a more difficult task then I thought it would. 

Now it’s easy to find any streak over 30 games, but who holds the longest streak in Rockies history?  (Answer: Dante Bichette, 23 games in 1995)  When Ryan Zimmerman made it to the magic number 30 plateau earlier this year, you may have heard that Vladimir Guerrero held the Nats/Expos all-time franchise record with his 31-game streak in 1999, but do you know who Zimmerman passed by in order to move into second place?  (Guerrero, who hit safely in 26 straight games in 2000)  George Davis hit safely in 33 straight back in 1893 to set the all-time Giants franchise mark, but who holds the mark for the longest streak since the club moved to San Francisco? (Jack Clark, 26 games in 1978)

Don’t you think each team’s official web site should list their club’s top ten all-time in franchise history?  Even my Team by Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, nearly 1,200 pages long, lists only the single top streak in each club’s history. 

Everything I was able to find seemed to be partial and incomplete and I got tired of waiting for ESPN to flash the current team in question’s all-time list on the TV screen when a guy’s streak finally became relevant enough for them to do so (usually only the top 3 or 4 anyway), so I resolved, then, to personally compile as complete a list of all hitting streaks as I possibly could.  What has followed since then have been countless hours of internet searching for any streak that would rate in that club’s top ten and/or any over 20 straight games (if you knew me personally, you’d know this is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to my obsessive nature and baseball).  This is research I intend to pass on

I have to say that I’ve done pretty well in my endeavors, if I do say so myself.  Heck, I’ve even expanded my efforts to include different categories and leagues.  Want to know how many players have hit for 30 straight or more in Minor League Baseball?  (44)  Or who holds the record for the longest streak in MiLB history? (Joe Wilhoit, 69 games in 1919)  Ever wondered how many 30+ game hit streaks there have been in Japanese Baseball history?  (Just five)  And were you ever a little bit curious about the top streaks in college baseball history?  Division I, II or III?  Yup, I’ve logged the top 13 all-time streaks in Division III college baseball history. (Leading the way is Salve Regina University alum Damian Costantino, who hit safely in 60 straight games over three seasons from 2001-03 to surpass former White Sox and Mets star Robin Ventura’s all-time college mark of 58 set in 1987)  I’ve even listed the top streaks by position, including the designated hitter. (Paul Molitor served as the Brewers’ DH in all 39 games of his ’87 streak)

And yet despite all my efforts, I still apparently managed to miss several important streaks.  I never claimed to have every streak ever, but I had to wonder, where did I go wrong?  How did I miss those?  Well I wasn’t going to take it lying down and set out to do some more serious research in order to get to the bottom of it all. 

Still, after some more furious Googling, I have found only one of the three “missing” streaks credited to Cobb by MLB.com (with the sixth one I have recorded having only been recently uncovered, in May, when Retrosheet.org added box scores for the entire 1920s!).  I have not been able to find any concrete evidence that he ever had eight streaks of 20 games or longer.

And Wee Willie Keeler?  Well someone must’ve “hidden them where they ain’t,” because I’ve only found four of his 20-game streaks, although considering how much of his career he played prior to 1900, it hardly surprises me that they would not be well-documented.  Still, you’d think if MLB.com can report them as fact, that they’d be out there to find somewhere.  Now I’m not saying that I don’t believe MLB.com because they are the official mouthpiece of MLB, but I’d sure love to see the list that they were working off of. 

However, while my options are limited when it comes to Cobb and Keeler, with Rose and Ichiro, whose careers have been more completely documented, it should be easier to figure this out.  Internet searches, though, did not initially turn up the streaks in question (although this page, I’m nearly 100% certain, used to list Rose with seven but since the MLB.com report posted, it has been amended to show him with eight, including the years he amassed them…sort of).  It just didn’t make sense to me why their streaks were not chronicled by Retrosheet, since both of them played in seasons for which their box scores are accounted for.  But then, the answer suddenly came to me: multiple season streaks.

Retrosheet lists all Top Individual Performances in franchise history for all clubs, including all consecutive game hit streaks of 20 games or longer, but only for the years in which the box scores are available (those being from the 1920’s and from 1954 to present, hence the reason why Joe D’s 56-gamer in 1941, for instance, is not listed).  Aside from those missing years, what they also do not list are multi-season streaks, which meant that that must be where the answer lay.

Using BaseballReference.com’s game logs for each player, I searched for streaks by Ichiro and Rose that began at the end of one season and carried over into the next. 

Ichiro Suzuki

20+ Game Hit Streaks

Games

Year

27

2009

25

2007

23

2001

21

2001

21

2004

20

2004-05

20

2006

And that’s where I struck gold.  I found that in 2004, Ichiro finished the year by having hit safely in 13 consecutive games, and then followed that up by getting a hit in each of his first seven games of ’05.  The result, as you can figure out for yourself, is one missing 20-game hit streak. 

Now officially, Major League Baseball has two separate distinctions for hit streaks: single season and multi-season.  Oddly enough, however, when you check out MLB.com’s official list of all single season 30+ game streaks, it lists both Keeler and Jimmy Rollins with their multi-season totals.  Go figure.

Semantics aside, hitting safely in 30 straight games over two seasons is a heck of an achievement and no less so than a single season 30-game hit streak in my book.  Forty-four players have hit safely in 30 straight games during a single season and they are the ones who are most often referenced when discussing 30-game hit streaks.  Another nine have reached that mark over parts of two seasons, however they don’t generally receive any credit.  Why should players like Hal Morris (29 straight to end the ’96 campaign and another three to begin the ’97 season) and Gene DeMontreville (his final 17 straight in 1896 and the first 19 games the following year) be denied recognition of their remarkable accomplishment?  I mean, don’t you think it’d be harder to get from 36 to 56 if you had an entire off-season in between to cool you down?  There have been over 600 streaks of 20 games or longer in baseball history (Derrek Lee’s 21-game streak from May 30 through June 24 being the most recent), but only 53 have made it as far as 30 games.

Well it makes no sense to me and as such, I will accept and log any streak over 20 games (or 30) that I can find no matter how many seasons it took to accomplish (can you imagine a player being recalled and demoted over parts of three or four seasons, yet managing to compile a 20-game streak?).  Nevertheless, I recognize and note a distinction between the two and wherever possible, denote the breakdown. 

Pete Rose

20+ Game Hit Streaks

Games

Year

44

1978

25

1967

23

1979

22

1968

22

1975-76

21

1982

20

1977

20

1977

So with Ichiro’s missing streak no longer missing, it was time now to focus on Rose’s missing 20-gamer.  And the result that I found was, of course, that Rose had hit safely in the final 14 games of the ’75 season, and then had come back in the bicentennial to hit safely in his first 8 (the previously-mentioned, possibly-amended website lists the year of this streak strictly as 1975).

So indeed upon further review, MLB.com is right; Rose did have eight streaks of 20 or more consecutive games with a hit, not seven, while Ichiro now has seven and not six.  I then have to assume that they are right about Cobb and Keeler (and also by extension, George Sisler who was also credited by MLB.com as having had seven, although similarly I can only find four of his), despite my inability to find concrete proof.  Luckily though, I can further assume that if and/or when Retrosheet, some wonderful day, is able to complete their compilation of every single major league box score, then the issue of missing streaks will be no more.  Please let that day be in my lifetime!

Either way though, even if I missed a couple of streaks, I was correct in my assertion that Ichiro was, and is, only one 20-game hit streak away from being tied for most such streaks in MLB history.

Other Random Information

With that matter settled, is Rose, along with Cobb and Keeler, still the professional baseball, all-time, 20-game hit streak king?  The answer, my friends, is no.  That honor falls, of course, to my man Ichiro, who had at least two streaks of 20 consecutive games or longer with a hit while playing in Japan.  In 1994, Ichiro hit safely in 23 straight games from May 21 – June 21, batting .432 (41-for-95) during that span, and then turned around and duplicated that feat from July 13 – August 14, going 39-for-101 (.386).  This means that, by my count, Ichiro’s career-best 27-game streak actually gives him the most 20-game hit streaks in professional baseball history, with nine. 

Further adding to his legacy of consistency, Ichiro hit safely in 19 consecutive games in both 2003 and 2007 and 18 straight in 2006.  Altogether, Ichiro has hit safely in at least 15 consecutive games or longer, sixteen times in his big league career.

But is it really nine?  Or is it actually ten?  Is 27 straight even his personal best?  In 1993, while playing for the Eastern League farm club of the Orix Blue Wave, Ichiro set a club record that still stands by hitting safely in 30 straight games.  However, this one comes with a bit of a twist.  You see, after hitting safely in 13 consecutive games, Ichiro was recalled on May 20th to the parent club, where he stayed until early July.  After being sent back down, Ichiro picked up where he left off and hit safely in the next 17 straight games.    

Of course, Ichiro benefited from staying sharp while with Orix and, of course, quite a bit of luck.  But if you think that streak had a unique twist, then consider the case of Dick Higham.  Higham, who was born in England, hit safely in 29 straight games to come within one of then-record holder Cal McVae (30 straight, 1876).  Higham not only split his streak between two seasons, though, but he actually started it during the 1876 season and saw it come to and end in 1878 after having been out of baseball altogether in ’77. 

For all of his success, Ichiro has still not been able to string together 30 consecutive games with a hit in his major league career.  How hard is it to get to 30 games?  Consider that of the thirty major league teams, nearly a third of them (nine) have never seen a player hit safely in 30 straight games, including such long-time and storied franchises as the White Sox, Pirates, and A’s.  At least nine others, including the Giants and Dodgers, can cite no more than one player who has ever achieved that feat (Baseball Digest claims that Nap Lajoie’s officially recognized 31-game streak in 1906 was only 20 games long, which would leave Sandy Alomar Jr. (30 in 1997) as the only Indian with a streak of at least 30 games).   One team, the Tampa Bay Rays, has never even seen a player hit in 20-straight games. (Jason Bartlett’s recently completed, career-best, 19-game hit streak edging out Quinton McCracken’s 18 straight in ’98, as the mark to beat in St. Pete) 

Tony Gwynn (8 batting titles) never did better than 25 straight games (1983).  Rod Carew (7 batting titles) likewise never topped the 25 straight he logged in 1982.  Wade Boggs (5 batting titles) never did better than 28 straight (1985), while Larry Walker had three batting titles in his career and twice hit safely in at least 20 straight games, but never topped the 21-game streak he compiled in 1999.  And Bill Madlock was a four-time batting champ who never hit safely in more than 17 straight (1985).  Altogether, that’s 27 batting titles without a single 30-game hit streak.  Oops, wait, I forgot Ichiro.  Make that 29 batting titles without a single 30-game hit streak. 

My success in finding the missing streaks by both Ichiro and Rose made me think that it was likely that there were other multi-season streaks that I did not have logged.  There was simply only one real solution to this problem.  Yup, I broke down and asked for a subscription to B-R.com’s Play Index tool for Father’s Day and began scanning the years for other missing 20+ game hit streaks.  This endeavor proved to be quite successful and several more streaks were unearthed, including two by players who began their runs with one team and finished with another. 

One of those players was Stan Javier, who began his streak by hitting safely in his final four games with the Angels in ’93 and then, after signing with Oakland as a free agent, hit safely in his first 17 games with his new club for a total of 21 straight games.  The other player was Joey Cora, who became the only player since 1954 to be traded in the middle of a 20-game hit streak.  Cora hit safely in 16 straight games for Seattle in 1998 before being dealt to Cleveland in August, in exchange for David Bell.  With the Tribe, Cora hit safely in his first four games to run the string to 20.

Finally, a couple of hitting streak did-you-knows about the most famous of all hitting streaks.  Did you know that when Joe DiMaggio hit safely in a record 56 straight games in 1941, Ted Williams, who that same year would become the last player ever to bat .400 in a season, started a 23-game hit streak of his own the day before DiMaggio went on his historic tear? 

DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games during the summer of ’41.  That you know, but did you know that during the streak, he also collected a hit in the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium?  He was 1-for-4 in that exhibition contest.  Then, the very next day after his record streak ended, DiMaggio began a 17-game streak, meaning that overall he hit safely in 74-of-75 games that magical summer.

Please feel free to check out and download a copy of my work here and to let me know if you find any mistakes, and/or if you have any streaks or tidbits of information to add to my collection, particularly those missing streaks belonging to Ty Cobb, Willie Keeler, and George Sisler.  Questions and comments are eagerly welcomed as well.  I hope you enjoy perusing this information as much as I did while compiling it.




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.

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