Consecutive games streaks since Ripken

September 6th, 2020

On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking Lou Gehrig’s Major League record. He made it all the way to 2,632 consecutive games before taking himself out of the lineup on Sept. 20, 1998. It’s a mark that feels so unbreakable that only one streak has even reached 1,000 games since Ripken’s ended, and only four others have even made it to 500 consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Whenever a notable anniversary related to Ripken’s streak comes up, a frequent question is “so, who has the longest active streak?” The current answer is Whit Merrifield, who has played in 360 straight games (through Tuesday), all for the Royals, a streak that began on June 25, 2018. In April, Merrifield responded to Twitter discussion of his streak with a photo of himself in an Iron Man costume.

Ripken’s record streak, which began May 30, 1982, became the longest active in the Majors on July 9, 1986, when he played in his 686th consecutive game and Dale Murphy’s 740 straight games played streak ended. Ripken held the Majors’ longest active consecutive games played streak for more than 12 years, until another streak took over when his ended on Sept. 20, 1998.

In the 22 years since, there have been 33 instances of a player having the Majors’ longest active streak. Here are some facts about the chain of the longest active Iron Man streaks since Ripken’s ended, as determined by the Elias Sports Bureau. Note that the chain only includes streaks to overtake others on the day they ended -- so some long streaks are not on this list, if it was superseded by a streak that was longer and ongoing simultaneously.

Players to hold the longest active streak multiple times

Those 33 instances of a player holding the longest active streak include two players who did so twice: Prince Fielder and Freddie Freeman.

Fielder took over as the longest active streak on Sept. 7, 2009, at 160 consecutive games, when Orlando Cabrera’s ended. He held onto the longest active designation until Sept. 12, 2010, when his streak ended at 327 with a day off and Matt Kemp took over with a 186-gamer. Kemp’s ended on May 14, 2012, and lo and behold, the longest active streak again belonged to Fielder, at 216 -- a streak that began two days after his prior one had ended. That streak ended up lasting 547 games, the second-longest streak by anyone since Ripken’s ended, ending when Fielder missed a game due to a stiff neck which would eventually lead to season-ending surgery.

Freeman first held the longest active streak beginning on May 6, 2015, at 195 games, when he took over after Evan Longoria’s ended at 270 games. Freeman’s lasted just another month-plus, ending on June 18, 2015, at 233 games after exiting the Braves’ prior contest with a wrist sprain. Chris Coghlan then had the longest active streak, then Kendrys Morales, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Céspedes, Manny Machado, Matt Duffy, José Altuve, Mike Trout, Alcides Escobar and Freddy Galvis.

Then, on April 24, 2019, Galvis’ streak ended at 349 games and Freeman took over again, this time at 194 consecutive games played. That streak lasted until May 12, 2019, when Freeman was a late scratch with a head cold and it ended at 211 games. Thus, Freeman held the longest active streak for two spans, neither more than two months, in both 2015 and 2019.

Longest time holding the longest active streak

As alluded to above, Miguel Tejada had the longest consecutive games played streak since Ripken’s, at 1,152 games from 2000 until 2007. It follows logically, too, that it’s also the most time that any singular player held the longest active streak in that span.

His streak began on June 2, 2000, but did not become the longest active streak until Aug. 14, 2002, at 391 games already when Luis Gonzalez's streak ended at 446 games. The streak then went on until June 22, 2007, when Juan Pierre took over when Tejada went on the injured list with a broken wrist. Tejada held the longest active streak for almost five years.

Shortest time holding the longest active streak

There were a handful of seasons since 1998 where the longest active streak changed hands multiple times within a single season. But only once did it change on consecutive days. On June 19, 2016, Machado’s 229-game streak ended when he served a suspension for a benches-clearing incident and Duffy took over as the longest active streak at 188 games as he played that day.

But the next day, Duffy did not play, and his streak ended at 188 after he suffered an Achilles sprain, and Altuve then took over the longest active streak at 162 games.

Most times changing in a single season

During the course of the 2015 season, the active Iron Man streak leader changed seven times, the most in a single season in this span. Hunter Pence had a 468-game streak that ended on Opening Day, so the first change was to Evan Longoria, who took over with a 243-game streak on April 6.

He held onto that distinction until his streak ended and Freeman took over at 195 on May 6, as detailed above. Then, as we know, Freeman’s ended on June 18, and Coghlan took over at 128 consecutive games. Coghlan’s streak ended at 150 games on July 12, and Morales took over with 123 consecutive.

Morales’ streak went 155 games, until Aug. 19, at which point Granderson took over with a 142-game streak. That went just three more games, ending at 145 on Aug. 24, at which point Céspedes took over with 130 straight. That went on until Sept. 27, when Machado took over at 155 games, a streak that would last into the following June, as noted previously.