Marlins Hit Parade Making MLB History

Fish befuddle stats professors, payroll

By Janie Campbell
|  Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 2:40 AM EDT
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There they are, our own little random freaks. Sniff!

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You've got to hand it to these Marlins: with the lowest opening day payroll in the majors and a comedically patchy roster (who's running this thing, Statler and Waldorf?), they keep finding ways to look good. Right now, they're finding a way to be historically good: their bats have them in the midst of a record run of 14 consecutive games with a double-digit hit total.

It's not just a franchise record, either: no team since the 1937 St. Louis Browns, who notched 15 straight, has strung this many consecutive 10+ hits together. The last National League team to do it was the '27 New York Giants. (Of course, neither of those teams exist anymore, so clearly the wages of hits is death.)

"I didn't know St. Louis was the Browns to be quite honest with you," said Jeremy Hermida, whose 8th-inning home run Tuesday night secured the honor. "It's a 100-percent complete team effort to have something like this go on and to even be in a situation like this. You can't point to one guy. It's been everybody."

Hermida was born in 1984, which means unless his parents were late bloomers, even they weren't around for the Browns' big accomplishment.  The long-standing record prompted the Herald's Clark Spencer to get scientific with it and e-mail some statistics experts to find out exactly how rare such a streak is.

The short answer? "It's complicated," rendering math worthless to our delight.  

The long answer? Is really, really long, according to Bowling Green stats professor and author of Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics and the Role of Chance in the Game, Jim Albert:

I collected the game hit numbers for a week of games in August to how common 10 hits was. For these 51 National League games, the average number of hits was 9.35 and the proportion of games where a team got 10+ hits was 0.47. So the chance of getting 10 hits is just about like getting heads on a flip of a fair coin. A naive computation would say -- since the Marlins have a 47% chance of getting 10+ in a single game, then the chance of getting 10+ in 14 consecutive games is (.47)^14 = 0.00003 (pretty small).

But this is not really right, since there are many baseball teams and there is a long season and it is much more likely that SOME team in the majors will have a streak this long this season. The number .00003 is understating the probability by a lot. I did a simulation where I assume that each team is "average". I simulated the hits for all games for all 30 teams and recorded the longest team streak (where long is 10 or more hits) that one sees for some team in the season.

What I found is the chance of finding a team hitting streak this long by some team this season is about 0.03 or 3%.

I actually am more impressed with the fact that Burke Badenhop graduated from BGSU.

And there you have it. The streak is so freakish that even statistics can't really account for it, meaning it's an almost purely random event -- but the fact Burke Badenhop has a degree is stunning. 

The Marlins will need all their scholars to match the Browns when they take on the Astros tonight.  But even if they fail, they'll beat the Browns in another category: the current record holders finished the 1937 season dead last in the majors.

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