During Jonathon Niese’s first at bat the other night Josh Lewin casually mentioned that he had a three game hitting streak going back to last year. Pitcher hitting streaks are not something you pay much attention to, as even a three game streak during the season spans 10 or more days. Niese laced an RBI single to left field in the fourth to extend the streak to four and it made me wonder about pitcher hitting streaks.
Turns out four games ties for the active lead among pitchers with Colby Lewis. Lewis’ is perhaps most interesting because it began all the way back in 2011 with a double in June bring him to one out of eight on the season. He made only one start in an NL park in 2012, going two for four against the Astros. He missed all of 2013, but managed a hit in both his NL games in 2014 including the 4th one against the Bartolo Colon and the Mets on July 5th. The Rangers play in Arizona on April 21st and 22nd, but Lewis is scheduled to miss them. Kyle Kendrick just had a 4-game hitting streak end against Clayton Kershaw on Friday.
Niese’s streak began on September 20th last year against the Braves’ David Hale. Many Mets pitchers have had a four game hitting streak, most recently R.A. Dickey did it in 2011 and 2012. There are six guys with five hits, most notably Mike Hampton and Tom Seaver. Anytime your name is mentioned alongside Seaver’s you know you’re doing something right. The all-time Mets leader though, with a six game hitting streak from late 1974 to early 1975, was Jerry Koosman. Koosman hit .500 during his streak going nine for 18 with a double, triple, and four RBI. It ended against the Expos and Dave McNally when Koosman failed to get a hit in his first AB and after giving up six runs through five was replaced in his second AB by Jesus Alou. Niese will face the Braves tonight trying to make it five.
You might be wondering what the All-Time streak is. Niese is nowhere near Wilbur Cooper’s 16 game streak from 1924. Cooper hit .346/.376/.433 on the season that year while winning 20 games for the Pirates. More recently Carlos Zambrano had a 13 game hitting streak, but the play-index query I used ignored his pinch hitting appearances where he wasn’t a pitcher. Truthfully he only had a six game hitting streak. Johnny Sain had a 13 game streak in 1947 which is good for second place on this list.
When I said ‘pitcher hitting streak’ your mind may have first gone to Babe Ruth. Ruth did have an 11 game streak crossing from 1917 to 1918 as a pitcher, but there were a bunch of games in the middle as a pinch hitter and first baseman. Truthfully he hit in the final two games of 1917 as a pitcher, and then 10 of the first 11 games of 1918, with the one miss being a walk as a pinch hitter. That’s a 12 game streak, nine of which were as a pitcher. Ruth would later have a 26 game hitting streak with the Yankees, but not as a pitcher.
Can Niese get a 5th hit tonight against Trevor Cahill? If so the streak might start getting some real attention; five games is a lot for a pitcher. At that point only six active players would have had a longer one, with Wade Miley’s 2012 8-game streak being the top. Niese has never batted against Cahill, but I’m looking forward to the matchup.