As you undoubtedly know by now, Andre Ethier’s impressive hitting streak, which started in the season’s third game, ended last night at a nice, round 30 games. In hindsight, maybe we should’ve seen it coming.
Since 2000, there have been eight hitting streaks of 30 games or longer. Of those eight, Ethier is the fifth (he joins Albert Pujols, Willy Taveras, Moises Alou, and Ryan Zimmerman) to end his streak at exactly 30. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, of course most 30+ game hitting streaks end at 30, doesn’t that just make intuitive sense?” but here’s the thing: of the three hitting streaks since 2000 that have gone over 30, they’ve all gone well over the mark. In 2002 and 2006, Luis Castillo and Chase Utley took their streaks to 35. Jimmy Rollins took his 2005-2006 wraparound streak up to 38.
In fact, in big league history, 20 of the 54 hitting streaks of 30 games or longer have ended right on 30. Ten have ended at 31, two at 32, four at 33, three at 34, and then five have ended at 35. Obviously we’re dealing with small sample sizes here and it’d be hard to draw a statiscally significant conclusion, but maybe there’s a bit of a psychological aspect to these hitting streaks, especially in the day and age of the 24-hour media cycle. Streaks like Ethier’s really start getting hyped as they approach 30 games. I knew last week that Ethier would be the 54th guy to take a streak to 30 games if he made it. That gets you on the hitting streak Wikipedia page.
Perhaps the most telling is this: since 2000, only one player has had a hitting streak that ended at 29 games: Johnny Damon in 2005. In fact, as many players had hitting streaks end between 27 and 29 games (five total) as have taken a streak to exactly 30. Players gun for 30. They press to get there. They do, and as they do it they get a bunch of attention and press and the pressure gets piled on. Maybe they realize how hard it was to even get that far and how they’d have to almost double it to break one of the sport’s most enduring records. And when all that happens, they tend to stop.