Since 1900, only three players have reached base in more than 60 consecutive games. If you started taking educated guesses, you’d probably come up with two of these men, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, in relatively short order. After all, DiMaggio has the longest hit streak in baseball history, while Williams has the game’s highest career on-base percentage. But if you tried to come up with the third hitter (who actually pulled this off last season), it would probably take a month of Sundays. Why? Because Orlando Cabrera reaching base via hit, walk, or hit by pitch in 63 consecutive games – more than Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, or Wade Boggs ever did – is a fluke.
Every so often a player puts together a truly memorable fluke season, whether it was Norm Cash hitting .361 in 1961, Brandy Anderson juicing, I mean, hitting 50 home runs in 1996, or Orlando Cabrera reaching base in 63 consecutive games. No offense to O.C., who is a fine player and above-average hitter, but his career on-base percentage is .320, and last season it was a less-than-spectacular .335 OBP — good for 131stÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦in the American League. That he somehow managed to safely reach base for two straight months defies all logic. It’s simply a fluke.
And so is Jorge Posada hitting .340.
The Yankees catcher is putting together a remarkable 2007, and doing it with uncanny consistency. In each of the first four months of the season, he hit 3 home runs and had 15 RBIs. And he did it like a real man – without batting gloves. Sure, his BA has fluctuated from month to month – .311 in April, .394 In May, .287 In June, and .360 in July – but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. A career .276 hitter, Posada is batting 64 points above his career average right now. If this were still May, it wouldn’t be noteworthy. But it’s early August, the season is almost two-thirds complete, and Jorge Posada has a legitimate chance to win the American League batting title.
He’s having a classic fluke season.
If you look closely at Posada’s statistics, a few things stick out – signs that may portend a precipitous dip in his average over the last two months of the season. The most glaring number is his batting average on balls in play (or BABIP). In the last three years, Posada’s BABIP has been .312, .294., and .302. This year? .406. So basically every time he hits the ball in fair territory, he’s channeling the ghost of Ted Williams.
Posada is almost 36, an age when most field generals are dropping off quickly at the plate (if not behind it), so what can account for his sudden surge in average? Is he exhibiting better plate discipline? No, his walk to strikeout ratio, 0.63, is in line with his career average, 0.66. Is he hitting more flyballs? No, his groundball to flyball ratio, 1.21, is a tick off his career average (1.20). So what IS he doing differently? If I had to guess, nothing. He’s simply getting luckier this year than he has in the past, because balls he’s putting in play are finding grass instead of fielders’ gloves.
Posada’s not hitting more home runs than usual. And he’s not hitting more flyballs. And he’s not striking out less. He, is, however, hitting more doubles this year than he has in the past. To date, he’s hit 31 two-baggers, which is good for fifth in the American League. Since he’s not exactly known for his speed, you’d have to assume that his doubles are the result of good placement, i.e., he’s finding the gaps, both in left and right center fields. The question is, will he continue to do that? And can he actually win the American League batting title? Right now he’s fourth in the league, only a few clicks behind Magglio Ordonez (.348), Ichiro Suzuki, and Placido Polanco. Can he hang with those three through the dog days of summer?
Well, if Orlando Cabrera can reach base in 63 consecutive games (and still finish the year with a .335 on-base percentage), then why CAN’T Posada keep finding the holes? Right now, he’s in line for one of the all-time great fluke seasons.