Top Hit Streaks,Year-By-Year

Lou Gehrig’s tragically ironic consecutive-games-played-record was broken by the certainly great, but happily less biographicallly dramatic, Cal Ripken. The famous season and career home run records were broken in the steroids era. With those records now less hallowed, the single most memorable remaining baseball record is surely Joe DiMaggio’s streak of 56 consecutive games with at least one base hit, from mid-May to mid-July, 1941. Lots more on hitting streaks after the jump.

Hit streaks have an odd status for sabermetrically-oriented fans, because a long hit streak is as much a freakish occurrence as a substantive accomplishment.  After all, as an expression of talent or value, one hit in four straight games is not generally more significant than two hits in each of two games and none in the next two. DiMaggio himself certainly had more productive stretches in his career than the 56-game streak. Sure, the 56-game streak was a superb hitting sequence for Joe D.: 247 PAs, with an on base percentage of .463 and a slugging percentage of .717, for an OPS of 1.181. But, to take one example, four years earlier, from May 23, 1937 through the first game of August 11 that year, DiMaggio put together a sequence of 74 games and 349 PAs with a .451 OBP and an .820 slugging percentage, for an astounding OPS of 1.271.

Yet it’s the 56-game streak for which DiMaggio is still best remembered. Long hitting streaks may be more show than substance, but in their very fragility, with the daily risk that each such streak can easily end at any time no matter how talented the batter, hitting streaks are a vivid, even romantic, part of baseball tradition. Hitting streaks encapsulate the daily effort at the heart of the sport to stave off irresistible imperfection as customarily symbolized by the inevitable advent of the hitless day.

In honor of the tradition of the hitting streak, then, and despite its limited practicality from a sabermetric point of view, I’ve put together a table of data that is, I think, not otherwise easily available. The table below is a list of the longest hitting streaks in the majors put together during each individual season from 1916 through 2012 (1916 being as far back as baseball-reference data currently goes for searching streaks in the Play Index). The table is not a list of the longest hitting streaks ever. Just as a list of the season-by-season home run champs is not a list of the biggest home run seasons ever, so the table below is a list of each season’s longest hitting streak, not a list of the longest hitting streaks ever. In 1972, no one had a longer hitting streak than the 19-game streak by Dave Cash of the Pirates. A 19-game streak would not make a list of the longest streaks ever unless it was an extremely  comprehensive list.  But because he did have the the longest hitting streak of 1972, Cash’s streak makes the table below just the same as every other season leader.

The table below also does not include some long streaks (or does not include some streaks in full) because it does not include streaks (or games within streaks) that cross over from or into another season.  So for example, Lance Richbourg of the Braves had a 30-game hit streak across the 1927-28 seasons that was longer than any other streak over those two years, but Richbourg’s streak does not appear on this table because his streak consisted of the last 14 games of 1927 and the first 16 games of 1928, neither of which was long enough to be the longest streak of that particular season.

One oddity you may notice in the table is that DiMaggio led the majors with the longest streak not just in 1941 but the previous season as well, although in 1940 he led the majors with a comparatively puny 23-game streak.  And Pete Rose, with the second-longest streak in the table at 44 games in 1979, also led the league the following season with a 23-game streak.  These are the only two instances in the table in which a player was the sole MLB leader for longest streak of the year two years in a row. It is strange that they also happen to include the two longest in-season streaks in MLB history.

Other notes:
–Rose is the only player in the table to appear three different times —  he had the longest streak in 1967, as well as the longest streaks of 1978 and 1979.
–Heinie Manush had the longest streak in both 1932 and 1933, but unlike Joe D. and Rose he tied for the lead in one of those years, 1932. But to drive home the point that Manush was Mr. Hitting Streak in those years, in 1933 he had both the season’s longest streak (33 games during July and August) and second-longest streak (26 games in May and June).
–Then there is Dave Parker, who appears in the table twice, both times for the same season, having tied himself for the majors’ longest streak of 1977 (22 games in April-May and again in July-August).
–There are a total of 111 streaks listed in the table — 97 seasons covered plus 14 extra listings because of ties at the top.
[table id=102 /]

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Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago

1927 co-leader is actually Rube Bressler. His name came up in a blog awhile back where he is listed as having the lowest ERA+ for a qualifying pitcher with 56 in 1915. He later very wisely converted to an outfielder and accumulated a .301 lifetime BA. He is one of 4 players with more than 4000 PA, a .300 BA and more than 10 decisions as a pitcher. The others are Babe Ruth, George Sisler and Ben Chapman.

bstar
7 years ago

Dan Uggla’s streak in 2011 is a real head-scratcher. He seems like the antithesis of the type of player who would put together a 30+ game hit streak.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Re: Uggla’s streak, wasn’t it reported that his .232 BA at the end of the streak was the lowest for a streak of 30+ games?

GrandyMan
GrandyMan
7 years ago

Brian Harper as a catcher: .306/.340/.434 (.774)
At all other positions (DH-LF-PH-RF-3B-1B): .259/.292/.370 (.662)

PP
PP
7 years ago

Rollins’ 36 game hitting streak has to be up there, maybe even in the top 25 or 30 all time? He’s another guy I wouldn’t think of as being able to put together a streak like that. And speaking of Boggs, I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet he never had one that long. Or Gwynn either?

PP
PP
7 years ago
Reply to  PP

Joe D and Rose are the only guys to do it 2 yrs in a row. Dom D. and Musial did it 2 out of 3 yrs. According to Wikipedia there’s only been 50 30 hit streaks. And they have Rollins at 38, + 2 at beginning of the next year.

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  PP

PP, you can find Gwynn’s, Boggs’, and Rod Carew’s best hitting streaks in the table for 1982-85. George Brett’s best streak was 30 games in 1980.

PP
PP
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Thanks. I finally figured out I can expand the list. I think I read Boggs hit in 80% of the games he played (was that on here?), which shows you what a single streak really means!

PP
PP
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

That 80% figure is cited several places including a site called The Baseball Library. So much for accuracy. Still an impressive % though.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

The baseballlibrary.com states that Boggs reached base safely in more than 80% of his games, it says nothing about getting a hit in all of those games.

PP
PP
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

yep, so much for accuracy from me!

PP
PP
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

so it’s probably highly unlikely any player ever had a hit in 80% of his games, and 73% is probably high?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

So far Ichiro has 79.3%

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Ichiro is at 79.3% assuming I’ve done the search correctly. Combination of high batting average, low walk total, and leading off. Ichiro also has 7 hit streaks of 20+ games.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Here’s a top 5 I came up with for players with hits in at least 1184 games.

Ichiro……..79.3%
Joe D………78.0%
Derek Jeter…77.4%
Al Simmons….76.3%
Gwynn………75.3%

bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Rogers Hornsby might be next at 74.8%. Too bad the data isn’t complete enough to get Ty Cobb’s career number.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Reply to #53:
The next 6 on my list are:
Puckett……75.1%
Traynor……75.0%
Hornsby……74.8%
V. Guerrero..74.8%
Frisch…….74.7%
Gehrig…….74.7%

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Boggs’ longest hitting streak was 28 games from 6-24-85 to 7-25-85.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  PP

I seem to remember Rollins’s streak finishing the year. Didn’t he add a game or two the following April?

Evil Squirrel
7 years ago
Reply to  Bryan O'Connor

I think Rollins made it to 38 by getting hits in the first two games of 2006, just going by memory there, I may be wrong.

Hal Morris’ 29 game streak listed up there in 1996 was also at the end of the season. He ran it to 32 at the start of the 1997 season, but nobody ever seems to give him credit for having a 30 game hit streak due to silly MLB rules regarding hitting streaks…

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  Evil Squirrel

Since 1901 the following players have had 30+ hit streaks extending over two seasons:
Jimmy Rollins 2005-5006
George Sisler 1924-1925
Harry Heilmann 1922-1923
Hal Morris 1996-1997
Vada Pinson 1965-1966
Ron LeFlore 1975-1976
Charlie Grimm 1922-1923
Sam Rice 1929-1930

Howard
Howard
7 years ago

Hal Trosky should not be confused with the communist listed as the 1936 leader.

brp
brp
7 years ago
Reply to  Howard

Anyone who gets assassinated via ice pick is OK in my book.

JasonZ
7 years ago

From 1963-1982 the National League went 19-1 in the All-Star Game.

From 1963-1982 the NL went 17-3 based on the longest hitting streak of the season.

In 1964, four players tied at 20 games. Three in the NL and one on the AL. I give the NL the win.

While there may be luck involved, it helps to be good, very good.

Sabermetrics aside…

The players on this list reflect that assertion.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Mike Vail’s 23 game hitting streak in 1975 is interesting. It began in only the third game of his career. The following game he pinch hit and drew a walk so his steak didn’t end. He then hit in the next 22 games which extended the streak to 23 games total. The streak finally ended in an 18 inning game in which he got 8 PAs and went 0-7.

Vail played a total of 10 seasons in the majors and never came close to matching that early streak. His next longest was only 10 games.

Artie Z
Artie Z
7 years ago
Reply to  Ed

I would guess that, of all the players on this list, Vail had the most opportunities to extend his streak with those 8 chances. There are “only” 514 games in which a player had 8+ PAs and 0 hits. I say “only” because it is player games, and 514 player games means it happens about 5-6 times a year since 1916. In related news, the two lowest WPA games for players who had 8+ PAs and 0 hits are for Tommie Agee and Keith Hernandez, both when they were with the Mets. Agee’s 0-8 with 2 GDPs led to a… Read more »

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  Artie Z

all this WPA talk, I still think it would be apropos to come up with positive WPA streaks. Pitchers can even get into the act!

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Re: hitting streaks and walk rates, I just took a quick look at career walk rates of the 74 players with 21st-century hitting streaks of 21+ games.

Surprise! They’re a tiny bit higher than the overall average.

Hit streakers: 57 BB per 650 PAs
Overall 2000-12: 56 BB per 650 PAs

P.S. Nice work, birtelcom.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

I’d use (H/G) instead of (H/PA), to best capture the importance of opportunities. A Ted Williams playing every game in 1939 has a better chance of a long hitting streak than a guy with the exact same proportions playing in 1968, because of more PAs per game. Question re: “being a good hitter does tend to come along with good BB rates” — Is there really a strong positive correlation between batting average and BB rates? Anecdotally, I am skeptical. Last year’s top 20 in total walks (avg. 83 BB) batted a combined .268, dragged down by the likes of… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Following up re: BB rates and BA … I took last year’s 144 qualifiers and divided them in half based on their BB rate. – The high-BB group batted .271, with 69 walks per 650 PAs. – The low-BB group batted .274, with 41 walks per 650 PAs. Then I took all qualifying seasons over the past 3 years and divided them into 4 groups based on their BB rates. – The (++) group batted .273, with 81 walks per 650 PAs. – The (+) group batted .272, with 61 walks per 650 PAs. – The (-) group batted .273,… Read more »

Daniel Longmire
Daniel Longmire
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

John, I think that your numbers (which are quite interesting) actually serve to bolster birtelcom’s argument more than your own. If the ++ and + groups are able to maintain the same batting average as the – and — groups while also walking more, doesn’t that mean that they are better hitters for taking greater advantage of their opportunities? Or does it simply mean that they are getting less hits overall, due to fewer at-bats? I don’t know the answer to that. I’d also wager that the plus groups have proportionally more SH and SF than the below-average types, since… Read more »

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

You’d want to neutralize out AB/G as a part of this if you wanted to talk about the player rather than just their opportunities. H/G certainly correlates with AB/G pretty cleanly.

no statistician but
no statistician but
7 years ago

To support part of your, thesis, birtelcom—that hitting streaks are freakish and don’t really tell us much—in 1939, when Chuck Klein’s monster seasons were a memory and his legs were gone, he had the longest streak of the year—for Pittsburg. In 1983, before his talents were realized, Tony Gwynn had the longest. Roy Sievers, streak leader in 1960, had a good year, but not up to those a few seasons earlier; Don Mueller had the longest streak in 1955, not 1954 when he hit .342. The best combos of streak and season on your list are probably Babe Ruth in… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago

With 28 HR and 9 SO in 1945 Holmes set the record for the greatest differential of more HR than SO.

mosc
mosc
7 years ago

Edged out Joe who only had 17 more HR than SO in 1941. Man.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
7 years ago
Reply to  mosc

Joe Dimaggio had eight seasons of HR>SO, Holmes had four (although besides 1945, no more than 13 HR). Holmes wasn’t quite Joe Sewell, but he did also have an amazing ability to avoid strikeouts: 100+ game seasons of 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 SO’s. Yogi Berra was +16 in 1950: 28 HR/12 SO. He had five seasons total like that. Mickey Cochrane was also great at avoiding K’s, but didn’t hit anywhere as many HR as Yogi, 358 to 119 (only twice HR>SO). I believe that Johnny Mize and Ted Kluszewski are the only two batters to hit 40… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ott and Barry Bonds also had more than 40 HR and more HR than SO.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
7 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Oops – the perils of relying on memory, instead of B-R P-I:

There are other players with 40 or more HR, with HR>SO:

-Mel Ott, 1929 (42/38)
-Lou Gehrig, 1934 (as Richard noted in #33), 1936 (49/46)
-Barry Bonds, 2004 (45/41) and oh yeah, a record 232 (!) walks

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago

In 1934 Gehrig had 49 HR and 31 SO. That’s the second highest differential.

RJ
RJ
7 years ago

By my count the only teams lacking a seasonal hitting-streak leader are the Royals, Diamondbacks and Rays. George Brett had a 30 game hitting-streak between July 18 and August 18 in 1980, one behind Ken Landreaux’s season’s best 31* for the Twins. During their streaks: -Brett: .467/1.249 -Landreaux: .392/.941 Landreaux’s streak ended on May 30, at which point his batting average stood at .356. He hit .238 the rest of the way, ending up at .281 for the year. Luis Gonzalez also had a 30 game hitting-streak, which was *also* bested on the year by one measly game, the spoilsport… Read more »

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Thanks birtelcom.

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

I know Juan Pierre isn’t exactly a power hitter (in related news, I am not the pope), but 2 hits for extra bases out of 62 hits total in that first season… in Coors… dear oh dear. It takes something pretty special to bat over .300 and have an OPS+ of 58.

Ed
Ed
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

RJ – Pierre’s two doubles that season came in his first 12 plate appearances, one at Coors, one in St. Louis. He had zero extra base hits in his final 207 PAs. The following season, he tripled in his first game. But doubles continued to elude him. His first double of 2001 came in his 62nd plate appearance.

You would think that someone with Pierre’s speed would have been able to leg out a double somewhere in those 268 PAs….

mosc
mosc
7 years ago

I thought the result of this would be “hitting streaks don’t mean much, lets look at the longest streaks of positive WPA games” or somesuch.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Unrelated technical question for the crew: How can I calculate the combined ERA+ of a group of pitchers? For similar figures like OPS+, I use a weighted average — for each player, I multiply the stat (OPS+) by the volume (PAs), then total those figures, and divide by the total PAs, and presto. This works for OPS+, producing a mark of exactly 100 for all non-pitchers. But it’s not working for ERA+. For all pitchers over the last 5 years, the weighted average is giving me an ERA+ of 106. Can you explain why, and/or give me a method that… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

JA: When you calculate the “volume” for pitchers and a pitcher has, say 210.2 IP, are you multiplying by 210.2 or by 210.67?

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Richard — I always convert the .1’s and .2’s into their true values.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

A couple of spelling nits:
– Zack Wheat (not Zach)
– George Metkovich (“h” on the end)
– Carney Lansford (not Carmey)
– Vladimir Guerrero (not Vlad)

I mention this in case others are copy/pasting the lists into Excel and matching up with Play Index search results.

Phil Gaskill
Phil Gaskill
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Not on the hit-streak-champ list, but Mr. Menke had just one “n” in his first name, not two.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

196 times since 1901, a hitter has averaged at least 1.4 hits per game with 100+ hits for the year. Fourteen of those seasons also had that year’s longest hit streak. Another 21 of the streak leaders belong to players who appear on the H/G list. The 14 direct matches: George Sisler, 1922 — 1.73 hits/game, 41-game streak Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 — 1.54 hits/game, 23-game streak George Sisler, 1925 — 1.49 hits/game, 34-game streak Wade Boggs, 1985 — 1.49 hits/game, 28-game streak Ty Cobb, 1917 — 1.48 hits/game, 35-game streak Tommy Holmes, 1945 — 1.45 hits/game, 37-game streak Heinie Manush,… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Most HRs in a same-season hitting streak is a tie: – 15 HRs, Joe DiMaggio, 1941, 56-game streak – 15 HRs, Dan Uggla, 2011, 33-game streak – 15 HRs, Willie McCovey, 1963, 24-game streak The most amazing thing about Stretch’s streak is that the Giants went 9-15 and fell from 1st to 4th place. Uggla’s streak accounted for 35% of his hits, 39% of his RBI and 42% of his HRs for the year. George Brett struck out just 3 times in his 30-game streak, and the Royals went 23-7. Besides his 1932-33 streaks, Manush had a 27-game streak in… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Chuck Klein had 4 streaks longer than that 1939 streak — 26, 26, 25 and 22, all from 1929-31. In one 26-game streak, he had 43 RBI and 11 HRs. Orlando Cabrera started a 22-game streak with 3 games against the Twins. When the streak reached 11, he was traded to Minnesota, and kept it alive for 11 more games. Joe Stripp ended the 1931 season on a 16-game hitting streak. The following March, he was sent to Brooklyn in a multiplayer deal for Babe Herman, who had hit in his last 3 games of ’31. Both extended their streaks… Read more »

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5 years ago

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