Silverman: The science of a great hitting streak

From Robert Silverman at The Daily Beast on October 25, 2015, with mention of SABR member Eno Sarris:

There’s no way to explain what Daniel Murphy—maybe the hottest player in the history of professional baseball—is doing right now. Even science can’t explain it.

For 30 years, the general consensus among sports analytics experts was that any single scalding or ice-cold stretch of play is an example of statistical noise that has no predictive value, and a prolonged period of success shouldn’t be treated in any way differently than we would if we started flipping a coin and landed on heads again and again.

But you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete or fan anywhere that doesn’t see this as profoundly wrong and an example of data wonks missing the forest for the trees.

Now, after all, it turns out the conventional wisdom—those armed with no advanced metrics but a working pair of eyeballs—might have been right all along.

In case you haven’t been following the New York Mets’ giddily improbable, borderline-miraculous trek to the World Series, their offense has been powered by an utterly average 30-year-old second baseman that never bopped more than 14 homers in a single season who, for reasons unknown, has transmogrified into the greatest hitter in postseason history.

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Originally published: October 28, 2015. Last Updated: October 28, 2015.