Marco’s Chances

Marco Scutaro currently has a 17-game hitting streak, that began on April 29. He’s tied for tenth on the Gaint franchise list since 1916. During that time, Scutaro has hit .486/.519/.629. Can he keep it going? Can he beat Jack Clark‘s 1978 record of 26 games for a San Francisco Giant hitting streak? Can he beat George Davis‘s franchise record of hitting safely in 33 consecutive games?

It’s going to be hard. One thing Scutaro has working against him is the he is a right-handed hitter, which means that (1) he loses the platoon advantage most of the time and (2) he’s a step farther from first base than a lefty is when he puts the ball in play. Throughout major-league history, lefties have won the majority of batting titles.

If you’re going to put together a long hitting streak, you need to get a lot of at-bats per game. A .327 hitter, like Scutaro, who gets just three at-bats in a game, will go hitless more than 25% of the time. If he gets four at-bats, per game, the probability drops to about 17%; with five at-bats, it drops to 11%.

The key to getting more plate appearances is to bat as high in the lineup as possible for a lineup that bats as often as possible. Scutaro has the first problem licked; he bats second in the Giants’ lineup. As for the second point, the simplest way to bat more often as a team is to get on base more often. Every team gets 27 outs in a game, and the formula to determine plate appearances per game is simply 27/(1-OBP). A team that has a .400 OBP would bat 45 times in a game; a team with a .325 OBP would only bat 40 times.

Since Scutaro is the second hitter, of course, the magic number for him is 38. If the Giants can manage to bat 38 times in a ballgame, that will assure him five plate appearances. Fortunately for Scutaro, the Giants’ team OBP of .329 is the ninth-highest in baseball. Working against him, ironically, is the fact that with a 15-7 home record, the Giants often do not bat in the ninth inning at home. With just 24 outs, the Giants won’t often get to bat 38 times.

Scutaro has had five or more plate appearances in only 9 of his 40 starts. All told, Scutaro has 179 plate appearances in 40 games, an average of  4.475 PA/G.

Where does that rank historically? The top five plate appearances per game since 1900 (min 75 G):







Dom DiMaggio





Frank Crosetti





Frank Crosetti





Taylor Douthit





Charlie Jamieson






All five players were leadoff hitters for a team that either won the pennant or led its league in scoring. The 1936-39 Yankees are arguably the greatest dynasty of all time, and while the 1951 Red Sox scored just 804 runs, they were a year removed from scoring 1027 runs, the last time a team scored 1000 runs until the 1999 Indians did so. The Giants, with 202 runs, are third in scoring in the National League this season. Before the season, I don’t think anyone predicted them to lead the league, and they still probably won’t.

There’s another point in Scutaro’s favor. He has an exceptional ability to put the ball in play, making contact on 94.3% of the pitches at which he swings. He has 12 bases on balls, or a BB% of 6.7%. While I don’t ordinarily advocate such a low walk rate, a relatively low walk rate does ensure a larger number of at-bats. You can help your team by taking a walk, but you can’t extend your hitting streak that way.

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