On August 3, Wilson Ramos put the New York Mets on his back. They were facing the Pittsburgh Pirates one day after the Bucs snapped New York’s seven-game win streak, and they were on a mission to begin a new streak with a series-knotting victory. Ramos got the Mets off to a hot start with an RBI single in the first, but the Pirates answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Pittsburgh maintained a one-run lead into the top of the eighth, until Ramos unleashed a two-run homer to put the Mets back in front. He got another big opportunity with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, and again, he came up huge, sending a double to deep right field that scored all three runs. He finished the day 4-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs, and the Mets needed just about all of them, narrowly holding on to beat Pittsburgh, 7-5.
Indeed, that victory kicked off another long run of winning for the Mets, who won each of their next seven games after that performance, giving them 15 victories in 16 games overall. It also, however, began an even longer streak for Ramos. After that game, he hit safely in 26 straight games. That’s the longest hit streak since Whit Merrifield hit safely in 31 straight games from September 10, 2018, to April 10 of this year. In terms of single-season hit streaks, it’s the longest since Freddie Freeman’s 30-game streak near the end of the 2016 season. No one else who has begun a hitting streak in 2019 has maintained one for more than 19 games.
That hit streak came to an end on Wednesday, with Ramos going 0-for-4 against his former club, the Washington Nationals. He did draw a walk in his first plate appearance, which keeps his streak of reaching base alive at 27 games. That designation is less unique — including Ramos, there have been 17 instances in 2019 in which a player has reached base in at least 27 straight games. Jorge Polanco owns the longest such streak, reaching base in 37 straight games from May 13 to June 25. Mike Trout has two such streaks this season; one of 29 games, the other of 28. On-base streaks, however, are definitively easier to pull off than hit streaks. After all, reaching base can involve any of a hit, a walk, or a hit-by-pitch, while a hit streak specifically requires one of those to stay alive. Since 2009, there have been a total of 21 hit streaks of at least 25 games. There have been 21 on-base streaks of at least 25 games in 2019 alone.
Streaks like the one Ramos has put together don’t come along as often as they used to, either. From 2002-2009, 26 players began hit streaks of at least 25 games, an average of 3.25 per year. Then, after a blank year in 2010, there were 14 more from 2011-16, 2.33 per year. Since the end of 2016, however, only Merrifield and Ramos have made hit streaks extend at least 25 games, or even past 21 games. This isn’t necessarily surprising, with the league-wide shift away from contact and toward power and walks, but it has been a bit jarring after years of seeing multiple hitters flirt with month-long hit streaks in any given season.
These kinds of already-rare feats are becoming even more uncommon, which adds a layer of surprise to seeing Ramos be the one to put a run like this together. He’s a fine hitter, particularly for a catcher, but he isn’t a great candidate to come up with base hits at this kind of consistent clip. He’s just a .277 career hitter, and his career BABIP of .300 is pretty much average. Luck can play a significant role in any given batted ball landing for a hit, depending upon the fielder the ball is hit to, the shifting or non-shifting tactics deployed at the time, and a long list of other factors. For this reason, hit streaks can often be looked at as extended stretches of good luck as much as they are long runs of consistency. With that being said, however, the kinds of hitters who happen to stumble into hit streaks like the one Ramos just finished tend to be good ones. (Table does not include three hitters whose hit streaks lasted over multiple seasons).
|Player||Year||Hit Streak||wRC+ at end of season|
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||2016||29||118|
Of the 13 players to began and end a hit streak in the same season since 2010, only one has finished that year as a below-average offensive player. Many more, such as Freeman in 2016 and Encarnacion in 2015, were some of the best hitters in their leagues in the year in which they recorded those hit streaks. Ramos, then, is a bit of an outlier here. Even after his hit streak, his wRC+ would be tied for the second-lowest of anyone’s on this list if his season ended today.
Does that mean Ramos wiggled his way into a streak that was unrepresentative of the way he actually hit over the last month? Not so fast. While Ramos hasn’t been an impossible out since Day 1 this season, he certainly seemed to be over the course of his hit streak. Ramos recorded three four-hit games over this stretch, with eight more two-hit games to go with them. He also had the added pressure of needing to keep this streak up despite entering four of the 26 games as a late-inning replacement. In two of those, he got just one plate appearance, but both times, he singled to keep his impressive stretch alive. Over the last month, the Mets showed no regard for allowing Ramos the best possible opportunity to keep up his streak, perhaps rightfully so. But he did it anyway.
Despite all of that, however, Ramos still managed not to be even one of the 10 most productive hitters in baseball during this stretch of games. His wRC+ over this time period was 179, the 12th-best in baseball, while his 1.2 WAR was 22nd. He hit .430/.452/.590 in 104 plate appearances, edging out Alex Bregman for the top batting average over that time span, but he didn’t do much else, homering three times and walking just three times against 11 strikeouts. It wasn’t even the hottest stretch of this season for Ramos. In 15 games from May 21 to June 6, Ramos hit .422/.519/.756 in 54 plate appearances, smacking five homers and drawing nine walks against five strikeouts. But he finished five of those 15 games without recording a hit. The only streak he had was an on-base streak of 16 games, and even that got snuffed out on June 7.
Hit streaks are tricky. They’re fluky and luck-dependent and distract us from the fact that a walk is just as valuable as a single, to say nothing of the dingers someone might hit if they aren’t simply trying to shoot a ground ball past the second baseman to push a streak along for one more day. But like Norm MacDonald’s moth joke, it is only after they’ve eaten up a particularly fascinating amount of time that you begin to appreciate them for what they are.
On the first Saturday of August, Wilson Ramos went 4-for-5, and he got a hit in every game after that until the first Wednesday of September. Every batter enters every game wanting to get a hit. Ramos accomplished that goal 26 straight times. It wasn’t enough to get him even halfway toward tying Joe DiMaggio’s famous record, and it might not even be enough to help the Mets finish their season with a surprise playoff berth. But it was something Ramos, a 32-year-old veteran with a long history of being a solid offensive player, had never done before, and something perhaps a growing percentage of hitters won’t ever do. For 26 games, Ramos captured lightning in a bottle. How fun it must have been while it lasted.
Tony is a contributor for FanGraphs. He began writing for Red Reporter in 2016, and has also covered prep sports for the Times West Virginian and college sports for Ohio University's The Post. He can be found on Twitter at @_TonyWolfe_.