All eyes are on Jackie Bradley Jr. as he continues his hitting streak, now at 28 at the time of this publication. Many are wondering if the young center fielder has a shot at breaking Joe DiMaggio’s record of hitting safely in 56 straight games set in 1941. While JBJ is at the half way point, it’s unlikely, if not impossible, that he will break DiMaggio’s streak. In other words, Jackie Bradley Jr will not break the record.
You first have to realize how hard it is to get a hit in so many consecutive MLB games. You’re already hitting against some of the best pitchers in the world whose sole job is to get you out. JBJ has proven he can hold his own at the plate. JBJ has hit safely in 28 games so far, which in itself is an amazing feat. But not only is he still far from breaking the Red Sox team record, but hitting safely in another 28 will be tough, especially as the team gets ready to play tougher teams in weeks to come.
Let’s look at it another way. Nobel Prize winning physicist Edward Purcell calculated that there would first have to be over fifty players with a .350 or greater lifetime batting average in order for most players to have a mere chance to break Joe DiMaggio’s record. In other words, Major League Baseball would have to have a large abundance of .350 lifetime hitters in order for a chance of seeing the record fall. Only Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Shoeless Joe Jackson have lifetime batting averages of .350 or greater, which demonstrates the tremendous challenge in pursuing and breaking the record. Purcell’s late Harvard colleague, Stephen Jay Gould claimed that DiMaggio’s record is “the most extraordinary thing that ever happened in American sports,” which exemplifies the large-scale respect this record has among scholars. Let’s also keep in mind that those who have hitting streaks of 40 or more games are recognized as some of the greatest hitters ever. Willie Keeler set the original record in 1897 at 44 games, and Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, tied it in 1978. Keeler is a Hall of Famer, and Rose, while he should be in the Hall of Fame, still holds the record for all the hits at 4,256. Jackie Bradley Jr will not break this record because he doesn’t come close to standing among Keeler and Rose (yet).
Jackie Bradley Jr will not break this record mainly because he’s still young, he still has much to learn about hitting if he wants to maintain his skills, and the record itself is taking a back seat to a pennant race that’s heating up more and more as the season draws closer to the all-star break. I wish JBJ the best, but until he reaches 40 games (which is also unlikely), I’ll be focusing more on the Red Sox as a team than I will on the great center fielder.