DANIEL MURPHY’S GREAT HITTING CONTINUES. In October of 2015, just before the World Series began, I posted here about how Daniel Murphy’s performance in the Series would be a test of whether a baseball or basketball player can have a “hot hand” over a long period of time. I said: “Daniel Murphy, a second baseman for the Mets who has been a decent but not a great hitter, has been on a hot streak that is hard to explain. Murphy has never hit more than 14 home runs in a season. He has now hit 7 home runs in his last 9 games, including a home run in each of his last 6 games.” The obvious explanation was that Murphy’s streak was an unusual random event and the thought that he might continue it would be an example of the “hot hand fallacy”—“the fallacious belief that a person who has experienced success with a random event has a greater chance of further success in additional attempts”.

The alternative explanation was that Murphy, had made a sudden and unusual improvement.

I followed Murphy in several posts since then. In May of 2016, after the first month of the season, Murphy was doing well. I posted on an article by Andrew Beaton that said that: “Murphy’s hot streak in last year’s playoffs “was about as expected as a kangaroo riding the subway’.” Beaton then said that “the only thing less predictable than his October rampage was that it would continue into May….” Beaton then offered two changes ithat Murphy had made in his batting swing that might explain Murphy’s improvement.

Here is an article by Joel Sherman in the New York Post (August 30) which says: “When Daniel Murphy carried over his strong postseason with the 2015 Mets to the 2016 Nationals, there were questions of whether it was sustainable.

We have an answer now: Yes.”

Murphy currently ranks 5th in the majors in OPS.

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  1. Nick says:

    Jarrett Seidler and Jeffrey Paternostro of BP Mets were discussing in the offseason that the changes he’d made at the plate were tangible and real and that it was a mistake for the team to let him go.

    I’m so skeptical of claims like this–how often do people use how a player finished the previous season as evidence that they are suddenly better than they always have been?–but sometimes a real change does occur.

  2. Philip says:

    I tend to be a sucker for sudden improvements in spring training (He’s learned a new pitch! He’s in the best shape of his life!

  3. Nick says:

    I think part of the problem is that Spring Training and September, beyond being fraught with small sample perils, is that the opposition is diluted. For example, Jake Peavy famously ONLY throws meatballs in Spring Training because that was his process, and obviously his Spring Training results had no real correlation to how he would do in the regular season. Similarly, in September, rosters are expanded, more AAA players are up who otherwise wouldn’t be, and half the league has less of an incentive to try in most of their games.

    But then, sometimes real change occurs, and maybe one day I will be able to tell what is real and what isn’t.

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