« Opening Day! Jays-Yanks Gamer I | Main | Strange Timing »

Monday, March 31, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bravo, Paul. And great point about the on-base streak. I think that's worth a post in itself.

To some degree, I agree, but then players aim for what's being valued, which has some truth. Not to devalue what Williams did.

For example, I think it was Mantle that said stolen bases weren't really valued at all back in the day, and if 40-40 was such a big deal, he could've done it every year.

So yes, it's still great that Williams was what he was, but it's tough to penalize DiMaggio retroactively for a "lesser" feat...

Of course, I have the usual Yanks bias in either case.. ;)

players aim for what's being valued, which has some truth.

I heard this argument a lot among those arguing for Jim Rice to be inducted into the Hall. "Walks weren't valued at the time," they'd say, "otherwise he'd have been more selective and driven up his on-base percentage." Andre Dawson supporters use the same logic.

I think these arguments are specious, and I think the players themselves know better. Is walking better than reaching for a bad pitch and grounding out or, worse, into a double play? Yes. It's not a new concept. It's hard for me to believe that had he only been more enlightened, DiMaggio would have walked enough to match Williams' on-base streaks.

At any rate, the point here isn't to say DiMaggio's streak is overrated or shomehow not as good as everyone thinks (I am making a bit of an unspoken case for Williams' deserving the MVP that season). It's to show that Williams, if anything, has had streaks that were just as good, if not better, but which were underrated by the prevailing culture of baseball observation over the past 60 years.

DiMaggio has benefited for decades from a school of thought that emphasized hits as the basis for determining success, a school born from the dead-ball era, when walks were truly devalued and batting average was an accurate tool by which to measure real value. The new school of thought is that simply reaching base is valuable -- and, moreover, is a fairer way to determine success. This doesn't take away from DiMaggio's amazing streak; it simply gives other streaks -- with just as much, if not more, "wow" value -- their due.

As an additional disclaimer, as a fan of Bill James and OBP (my other fantasy league actually uses OPS) I value the on-base streak high as well, but not necessarily at the expense of the other more famous streak.

I just wanted to give the other side, nothing more than that.

In a game of percentages, it's hard to say either way, but remember that he did get on a 17 game (give or take one, my memory might be off) hitting streak right after that, and that he hit a 64 game streak (also from memory, sorry) in triple-A means that, at least on some level, that he was aiming for it. Rather he aims for it because he's good at it, or he just "happens" to get the streak because he's good is probably another debate anyhow..

I think its also interesting to note that the same exact biases would be seen today if two similar players were having these seasons. The chase for .400 or 56 straight would be the header on Baseball Tonight daily and there would be barely a mention of going for .543 and (to a lesser extent) the chase for 84 straight on base. These numbers stick in history as they are easier for the casual fan to digest.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search YFSF

Sports Gambling


schedule & standings