by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With Denard Span taking a well-deserved day of rest Wednesday, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I neglected to explore how truly remarkable his 36-game on-base streak, which ended Tuesday, has been.

If you approach the game of baseball with a more traditional view, tending to focus more on batting average than on-base percentage, you’re depriving yourself of realizing the extent of this immaculate accomplishment.

Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t take time to point out precisely why it’s immaculate, or if, selfishly, I ignored my own opportunity to appreciate it.

For starters, it really doesn’t matter how a batter reaches base – whether by hits (which batting average measures exclusively) or by base on balls – because for the purpose of helping his team, it only matters that he puts himself on base, somehow, allowing his teammates the opportunity to drive him in, and his own body the chance to score a run.

Thusly, in this realm of player valuation, batting average is important, but on-base percentage is king. It just says more about the player’s overall contributions to his team’s success, or lack thereof.

And in Span’s 36-game on-base streak, er, span, the Nationals have won more than they’ve lost, with a 21-15 record from June 28 to Aug. 10 (Sunday).

In those 36 games, Span went 57-for-144 at the plate (.396), scoring 25 times with 19 bases on balls, 7 doubles, a triple, 10 stolen bases and 6 RBI.

That equates to a .463 (!) on-base percentage, better than his .356 seasonal and .352 career on-base percentages, meaning he’s played out of his mind.

Span’s batting average on balls in play (BAbip, for lack of better explanation, is how many balls off his bat dropped in play for hits, excluding home runs) during this stretch was .446, also well above his season (.335) and career (.321) averages.

Span’s slugging has also been absurd (for a leadoff hitter, and by Span’s standards): .458 with a .922 OPS pairs nicely on one line.

Now for some context.

Starting with wins above replacement (WAR), these nuggets, albeit slightly dated, should suffice.

This works too.

To further drive home the point, Jose Bautista is the only Major Leaguer to boast a longer on-base streak this season. He safely reached base in 37 games, a span in which he amassed 31 runs on 9 home runs and 39 hits, with 24 RBI and 34 bases on balls, for a .295/.440/.553 slash line (.994 OPS) and .306 BAbip.

Incredible as well, but also leaving some important caveats to point out.

On May 5, 31 games into Bautista’s streak, he had a game in which he only successfully reached base being hit by a pitch, a necessary distinction to make from advancing to first base on balls, as Bautista did nothing to reach base besides allowing himself to get hit with the ball.

Also, some would argue Bautista’s streak was actually 38 games, carrying over his final game from last season, in which he reached first base on balls. I’m not of the mind to buy into such a theory, for two reasons: We’re currently arguing accomplishments made within a single season, and Bautista also ended his 2013 campaign on the disabled list. Moot point.

Before I go, I should mention Span’s 14-game hit streak within the streak, in which he went 25-for-48 at the dish, with 8 runs, 5 stolen bases, 5 bases on balls and 4 RBI for a .431/.469/.517 slash line, while only striking out on three occasions.

For these reasons, in a game in which success and failure is dependent on streaks – team- and individually-based — I personally deem Denard Spans’ 36-game on-base streak Major League Baseball’s single most ridiculous streak of this 2014 season, until proven otherwise (in the comments).

If nothing else, I’ll be able to sleep tonight.


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