In ab­bre­vi­ated sea­son, hot and cold streaks can have ex­ag­ger­ated ef­fect on bat­ting av­er­age

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @Gro­chowskiJ JOHN GROCHOWSKI

When we last saw reg­u­lar-sea­son base­ball, White Sox short­stop Tim An­der­son was fin­ish­ing up a break­out sea­son in which he led the ma­jors with a .335 bat­ting av­er­age.

An­der­son’s chance to de­fend that ti­tle be­gins Fri­day in a 60-game sea­son in which early streaks take on ex­ag­ger­ated im­por­tance.

The qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard for a bat­ting-av­er­age ti­tle is 3.1 plate ap­pear­ances per team game. In a 162-game sea­son, that’s 502 plate ap­pear­ances; in a 60-game sea­son, it’s a mere 186.

Imag­ine a hit­ter with 170 at-bats and 16 walks. That adds up to the re­quired 186 plate ap­pear­ances. This hy­po­thet­i­cal hit­ter bats .300 with 45 hits in 150 of those at-bats but has a hot week in which he goes 12-for-20. That one week lifts him from .300 to .335.

In a long sea­son, if the hit­ter had 510 at-bats and hit .300 with 147 hits in 490 of them, a 12-for-20 streak only would raise his av­er­age to .312.

The flip side is that a cold streak can sink a sea­son bat­ting av­er­age. As­sume an 0-for-20 streak in­stead of a 12-for-20 one, and the .300 hit­ter sinks to .265 in the sea­son with

170 at-bats but only to .288 in a sea­son with 510.

In the ex­treme, the short­term ef­fect could give us the first .400 hit­ter since Ted Wil­liams’ .406 in 1941.

The last hit­ter above .400 af­ter his team’s 60th game was the Braves’ Chip­per Jones at .409 in 2008, on his way to a .364 sea­son. But we can see some chal­lenges in equiv­a­lent time frames in the last 10 years. In the decade 2010-19, no qual­i­fier hit higher than Josh Hamil­ton’s .359 in 2010. But the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent in a break­down of av­er­ages from the start of a sea­son through June 7 and from July 23 through the end of a sea­son.

Two play­ers hit .390 or bet­ter in that sam­ple, both in the span from July 23 to the end of the sea­son. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabr­era posted a .390 av­er­age in 2011, and the Reds’ Joey Votto hit .397 in 2016. Votto was 95-for-239 dur­ing his hot stretch. If just one out had dropped for a hit, his av­er­age for the dates base­ball is be­ing played this sea­son would have been .402. Cabr­era was 90-for-230. Two hits in­stead of outs would have made that .400.

Last sea­son, the lead­ers were the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger at .365 in the early span and the Twins’ Nel­son Cruz at .370 in the late span. Three Sox have been lead­ers: Paul Kon­erko at .371 early in 2011, Jose Abreu at .355 late in 2014 and Avi­sail Gar­cia at .361 late in 2017.

An­der­son was strong­est at the end, hit­ting .357 from July 23 on­ward. That was pro­pelled by a .430 bat­ting av­er­age on balls in play. There’s a cer­tain amount of chance in BABiP, and high bat­ting av­er­ages fu­eled by BABiP usu­ally de­cline the next sea­son.

To de­fend his ti­tle — or, with some BABiP magic, chal­lenge Wil­liams — An­der­son is likely to need a su­per-hot streak with­out fall­ing into the frigid zone. The short sea­son just leaves no time for the prob­a­bil­i­ties to bal­ance out.


White Sox short­stop Tim An­der­son (shown scor­ing in the first in­ning of an ex­hi­bi­tion game Mon­day against the Cubs) led the ma­jor leagues with a .335 bat­ting av­er­age last sea­son.


Paul Kon­erko

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