Year of the Hitting Streak?

(Patrick Record) Osprey third baseman enjoyed a 21-game hitting streak earlier this season.

What’s the least-likely broken record in Major League Baseball history?

The obvious answer to that question is Johnny Vander Meer’s 1938 mark of two consecutive no-hitters. It’s hard to fathom the possibility of any modern pitcher logging consecutive no-hitters ever again, let alone three straight to set a new mark. For context, there have only been five pitchers ever to toss three no-nos in their careers. Mr. Vander Meer should rest easy knowing his record is probably the most unbreakable in all of profssional sports.

The less obvious answer that we were fishing for (in case the title of this post didn’t tip you off), however, is Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941.

A myriad factors ranging from an exacerbated media microscope to a modern baseball ecosystem that features more teams makes surpassing the feat more complicated for modern batters. Heck, there were only 16 MLB teams in 1941 and, as ESPN pointed out in May, DiMaggio faced only 54 different pitchers during his record streak…that’s crazy. You can’t help but wonder how Joey D. might have fared in a year like 2017 where the longest hitting streak in the Big Leagues is 19 games (Whit Merrifield, Bryce Harper, and Jose Altuve).

Interestingly, the 2017 Pioneer League, although an entirely different level of play, has developed into a petri dish of sorts in terms of sustaining long hitting streaks, especially as it pertains to the Missoula Osprey. Approaching the end of August, Osprey players boast three of the four longest hitting streaks on the circuit this year (22, 21, and 18 games).

The fact that Robby Rinn from Idaho Falls could match Yerzy’s league-wide long of 22-games on Monday night further illustrates how unique 2017 has been with respect to hitting streaks. Three guys with 20+ game hitting streaks feels like a lot, even without the necessary context to digest the idea.

There have only been three Pioneer League seasons in the last decade in which more than one hitter posted a 20+ game hitting streak. With Rinn’s inclusion, the 2017 Pioneer League has notched three 20+ gamers collectively, while the Osprey own two all by themselves.

Based on the available records, no team has ever had the three longest streaks in the same season and only one team, the 2009 Orem Owlz, has boasted two streaks of 20+ games in the same season. With the recent development of Robby Rinn’s ongoing 21-game streak, the Osprey will fall short of becoming the first team in recent history to post the three longest marks in a single year (bummer, I know). Unless you have a time machine, though, the Osprey will match the 2009 Orem Owlz as the only two clubs with multiple 20+ gamers in the same year.

Let’s remember one key piece of groundwork underlining the run of Osprey and Pioneer League hitting streaks: they play a 76-game short-season slate. While it’s obviously not fair to devolve entirely into the games of transitivity and relativity, there is a component of relativity paramount to appreciating the individual and collective success of Joey Rose, Andy Yerzy, and Gabriel Maciel.

Looking at DiMaggio’s streak (56 games) in the context of the 1941 season calendar (156 games), it spanned roughly 36% of the season. If we were to indulge in the fruits of relativity, what would 36% look like in a 76-game Pioneer League season?

It would be 27–28 games depending on how much of a stickler you are for math. How does that shake out in comparison to PBL norms?

  • The Pioneer League record, dating back to its days as a full-season, 140-game circuit is 32 games, set in 1950 by Herbert Harlow from the Ogden Reds.
  • The longest streak in the last 10 years was 29 games, accomplished by Raimel Tapia in 2013 with Grand Junction.
  • The Osprey record is 28 games, set by Justin Williams in 2014 (fun fact: his streak is still active, so if he ever returns to Missoula for a rehab assignment or some other reason, he’ll resume with a 28-game hitting streak).

How does this pertain to the Osprey? Well, there are a couple of items to be considered when evaluating the impressiveness of the club’s run of hitting streaks. For starters, Rose, Yerzy, and Maciel are three of the youngest regulars in Missoula’s order. None of them have cracked even 20 years of age yet. Rinn, however, doesn’t make the cut for the “young player” club…the dude is almost 25, but who are we to judge. Any way you look at it, the historic run of hitting streaks in the Pioneer League is pretty cool.

One last thing before we go…

Let’s just play the game of relativity one more time just for fun. Below is a look at what each streak might look like based on season percentages in the context of a 156-game season as Dimaggio played in 1941:

  • Yerzy: 22 games (28.9%) — 45 games in a 156-game season.
  • Rose: 21 games in a 76-game season (26.7%) — 43 games in a 156-game season.
  • Maciel: 18 games (23.6%) — 37 games in a 156-game season.

Remember, these numbers are a ridiculous game in admiring the impressive achievements of a trio of the youngest Osprey in Missoula currently. Is a 22-game hitting streak in the 2017 Pioneer League actually equivalent to a 45-game streak in the 1941 Major Leagues? No, definitely not.

Cheers to an exciting run to the finish line!

-Cooper