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An Exchange over ‘Locked In’ Worth Reading


Are hot streaks only random statistical variations? On Twitter last Sunday evening, Keith Law of ESPN and Brandon McCarthy of the Diamondbacks debated the “locked in” issue, which was well documented here.

Subsequently, Tom Tango, an analytics adviser for the Cubs and co-author of The Book, engaged former Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg on his Tangotiger blog, and an interesting exchange ensued. Here’s an extended excerpt:

From Apr 15 to Apr 23, 2006, you hit 8 HR in 8 games, on 37 plate appearances. Your BA/OBP/SLG was: .452/.541/1.290

From Apr 24 to May 3, 2006, you hit 0 HR in 8 games, on 37 plate appearances. Your BA/OBP/SLG was: .129/.270/.226

I’d love for you to post this. I can (and have) been talking about this for years, but we need a Nixon-goes-to-China person to make the non-believers believe.


I think we may be thinking the same thing, just at different times.

If the question is, “Does the 4th ab of a guy who “appears” to be Locked-In have a higher chance of getting a hit”?. . . . then it is up to historical chance. However, the problem is that you are looking at a single outcome, a hit.

The guy may have lost the feeling on the last before his last ab.

Am I confused with the question?


We are looking at all outcomes (walks, singles, doubles, HR, etc). And THOSE outcomes match their seasonal record.

By the time he comes up the 4th time, then what he was feeling in the two hours prior to that is now IRRELEVANT. It was completely transient. There was no carryover effect.

This is the point we’re trying to make. You may FEEL locked-in (and you somehow only acknowledge this feeling only after-the-fact). But that doesn’t mean it’ll carry over.

Even if I grant that your feeling (acknowledged after-the-fact, and may have existed in real-time as it happened), that feeling is now gone. It’s fleeting.

To put it plainly, if you have Ryan Braun with 3 HR in 3 PA and you have Miguel Cabrera with 3 SO in 3 PA, then what we will expect to happen on the 4th PA is EXACTLY what their historical record would suggest: equal greatness. We do not expect Braun to suddenly be like Barry Bonds, and we do not expect Cabrera to now be John MacDonald.

And your example of yourself is perfect: you were locked-in for 8 games, but you only acknowledge this after the event occurs. And even if you felt the same way on game #9, outcomes didn’t follow you. And it didn’t follow you for the next 8 games.  And that’s because these feelings are so transient that it becomes irrelevant in terms of it being actionable.


Yes. I agree. But I think everyone would agree with that. 


I think I have to be clearer in my belief. Locked-in is being in the zone. It is real. But unpredictable in future events.


More here, including a lively back-and-forth in the comments section.

Tags: MLB


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