Over the past few weeks I’ve been competing in Major League Baseball’s “Beat the Streak” contest. It’s based on Joe Dimaggio’s record of 56 consecutive games with a hit back in 1941. The goal is to pick one MLB player per day to get at least one base hit. If you “double up”, you can pick two players and extend your streak by two games as long as they both get a knock. But if either fails, you start over at zero. If you get to 57 straight hits, it means 5.7 million dollars.
That doesn’t sound so hard, right? Fact is, MLB has been running this contest for 13 years and nobody’s made it to 57. Last week one guy was at 51 before losing. (He doubled up, taking Pillar and Carrera from the Jays versus Atlanta’s Bartolo Colon, who is approximately 60 years old. It didn’t make sense to me that he took batters hitting back to back in the lineup, but, hey….my longest streak so far is ten, so what do I know.)
A couple of friends (John and Gan) participating in the contest makes it more fun. And there are interim prizes along the way, like gift cards to MLB.com, subscriptions to MLB TV, etc. If you establish the longest streak of the season without getting to 57, you win a hundred large.
John is a pretty sharp fantasy player, but Gan seems to favor his favorite team’s players. To be completely candid, I avoid guys playing against Pittsburgh or Arizona, but I intentionally discount the offensive prowess of D-backs or Pirates to manage my biases. This is bidness, yo.
Winning obviously requires a lot of luck, but I think the exercise has helped my regular baseball handicapping. I was up thirteen units after the first two weeks. But, as usual, my results fell off after that, and started the slow inexorable slide to mediocrity. This seems to happen every year. I think it’s easier to win before the books and sharps have much data. But I’ve tightened up my picks since starting BTS, and I’m starting to win again.
At first, I doubled up on BTS picks every time, thinking I’d get to double digits and then be more conservative and make just one pick each day. But after I got my streak to ten (and my hubris to eleven), I went several days without a win, usually getting a hit from one guy but not two, setting me back to zero. Eventually it dawned on me that there aren’t necessarily two good picks each day. It’s better to make the best pick, then just wait until tomorrow.
I’ve also started to look deeper into my potential picks for anomalies. For instance, I usually start my search with hitters batting opposite-handed against struggling pitchers. On average, left-handers hit right-handers better and vice versa. But this isn’t always the case. For example, the Dodgers right-handed Justin Turner is hitting sixty points higher against righties this season.
I also started to pick Bryce Harper today. Harper is 4th in MLB in batting average with an OPS of 1.202. In layman’s terms, he’s killing it. And today he was going against Tyler Glasnow with an ERA over seven. But I noticed that Harper is hitting only .226 in day games. For his career he’s hit almost a hundred points lower in the sunshine. So. Great player, can really mash….but no reason to take him today.
For tonight’s games, I settled on either Seattle’s Jean Segura or Justin Turner. Gan took Cesar Hernandez and Ichiro, while John’s betting on Segura and Daniel Murphy. Turner is going against a right-handed starter (Edinson Volquez) with an ERA over four only one game removed from a finger blister issue. Miami also has a mediocre bullpen, has lost three straight and is traveling across the country.
Segura is a good choice, but it makes me nervous that he has a fifteen game hitting streak. Like the Indians fan says in “Major League”……“It’s too high”. So I’m going with Turner. So much for incisive, objective analysis…..