A hitting streak is a stretch of consecutive games in which a batter records at least one hit. The rules regarding hitting streaks count a streak as neither ending nor being increased by one game if the batter doesn't get at least one legitimate chance at a hit, i.e. at least one plate appearance ending in either an at bat or sacrifice fly. This includes not only games in which the batter receives a walk, hit by pitch, or sacrifice hit in each plate appearance, but also games in which he is not in the lineup. A hitting streak can also be terminated by the last game of the season, although records are kept for streaks that overlap two seasons as well.
There is a debate among sabermetricians on whether hitting streak are meaningful or not. The classic position is that the distribution of a batter's hits is random, and that hitting streaks are simply chance occurences that are not intrinsically meaningful. The counter view is that studies of major league games since the 1950s indicate that many more long hitting streaks occur than random chance would warrant, and therefore that their appearance is based on some level of skill. In any case, hitting streaks tend to be given a lot of publicity when they reach 20 or so games and can create sustained excitement for a time even if the teams involved are out of the pennant race.
- Jim Albert: "Great Streaks", and response by Trent McCotter The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 39, Number 2 (Fall 2010), pp. 58-64.
- Edward Beltrami and Jay Mendelsohn: "More Thoughts on DiMaggio's 56-Game Hitting Streak", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 39, Number 1 (Summer 2010), pp. 31-34.
- Michael Freiman: "56-Game Hitting Streaks Revisited", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 31, 2003, pp. 11-15.
- Kostya Kennedy: 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, Sports Illustrated Books, New York, NY, 2011. ISBN 978-1603201773
- Trent McCotter: "DiMaggio's Challengers", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 35, 2007, pp. 82-83.
- Trent McCotter: "More on Streaks", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 36, 2007,pp. 44-45.
- Trent McCotter: "Hitting Streaks Don't Obey Your Rules: Evidence That Hitting Streaks Aren't Just By-Products of Random Variation", in The Baseball research Journal, SABR, Volume 37, 2008, pp. 62-70.