In Castillo's face you could see nothing. Not happiness, not disappointment, not relief. "I was glad we won," he said afterward, "but I wanted to bat again." Castillo hit .403 during the streak, raising his average to .341.
Though he had the longest hitting streak in 15 years and tied for the 10th longest in history, Castillo still finished 21 games short of DiMaggio's record. He made it almost two thirds of the way. "Fifty-six remains astronomical," says DiMaggio's lone surviving brother, Dom, who had a 34-game hitting streak himself while playing for the Red Sox in 1949. "These days they write up eight-game hitting streaks. For this young man to get to 35, that's pretty darn good. Fifty-six might be the one record that doesn't ever get broken."
Lesson on Hitting Streaks
Why Castillo Kept It Going
Luis Castillo is no magna cum laude when it comes to baseball history. He once mistook Stan Musial for Lou Brock and had never heard of Rogers Hornsby until last week. But he put himself in elite company when he became only the 25th player to extend a hitting streak past 30 games. It's been done 27 times (twice by Ty Cobb and George Sisler). How rare is that? More hitters have had 50-homer or 150-RBI seasons than 35-game hitting streaks. Three-hundred-strikeout seasons or 16-game winning streaks by pitchers are more common than 35-game hitting streaks.
Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs are just a few of the many great hitters never to have a 30-game streak. Based on those who streaked before him, Castillo had the right profile to join the 24 other players who have taken hitting streaks beyond 30 games. Here is what it takes.
?Speed. All 24 players who came before Castillo had above average speed except outfielder Rico Carty (1970) and first baseman George McQuinn (1938). Even 37-year-old Pete Rose still had good speed when he hit in 44 straight games in 1978. Castillo, who led the majors with 62 stolen bases in 2000, is among the fastest players in baseball and a threat to bunt for singles.
?Consistent contact Hitters with big strikeout totals don't show up on the list, except for Benito Santiago, who whiffed 112 times as a rookie with the Padres in 1987, the year in which he had a 34-game streak. Nobody else on the list struck out more than 67 times in the year of their streak. Castillo is a slash-and-run hitter who may be another exception; he was on pace to strike out 88 times this year. He struck out 16 times during his 35-game streak—more than DiMaggio did over the entire 1941 season (13).
?Avoid walks. The key is to get as many at bats as possible and put the ball in play. A hitting streak is the one time when a walk is not as good as a hit. Castillo walked eight times during the 35-game streak and is on pace for 55 this season, which falls in the typical range for players on the list. DiMaggio walked 21 times during his streak and 76 times for the season. (Interestingly, Detroit manager Luis Pujols said on Sunday that he would have ordered a walk to Castillo if he had come to the plate with the game tied 4-4 in the ninth last Saturday.)
?Hitting pedigree. We're talking good hitters. Fly-by-night guys don't hit in 35 straight games. Only two players who did so failed to finish the season hitting .300: Hal Chase hit .287 in 1907, and Ken Landreaux hit .281 in '80. Indeed, of the 22 retired players with hitting streaks of more than 30 games, 18 of them finished with a lifetime batting average of .290 or better. Castillo began this year with a .282 career average. If history means anything, that average is likely to get higher.
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