The Run Batted In is popularly debunked when used as a measure to evaluate offensive value by the saber community. A lot of people don’t understand why because they grew up with the stat, it’s a part of the so called “Triple Crown,” you get points for it in MLB The Show, so it must be important, right? While a player batting in runs is important, we have to remember that in cases that aren’t solo HR, the RBI depends on people outside of the batter at the plate to get on base. The RBI is like a group project: The leader will get credit for doing the work, but other group members had pivotal roles in making the project completion a possibility. The group leader did not do all the work! I mean, unless you’re used to working in those groups where you did all the work because you were either anti-social or the other group members decided the project was not their highest priority (I’m looking at you Brandon Belt, your slumpy shoulder walks to get on base help no one!). I couldn’t fit this all in a tweet, so I made it a blog post. Ta da.
You look at someone’s stats and what’s the first three numbers you notice: Batting Average, HR, RBI. I mean unless you’re trying to see if his jersey number relates to you in any sort of way which creates the rationale that you and this player were “meant to be” together. Not that I do that. But in a couple years Buster Posey and I will be connected for a year and you can’t take that away from me.
Word has been getting out that batting averages might not be the best statistic to measure a player, but there are still people that swear by it (e.g., Team Keppinger). But word has not been spreading as much about the RBI. This stat should not be made plural into “RBIs”: “Run(s) Batted Ins?” Yea, no. HRs make sense, OBPs and AVGs make sense when you compare, but RBIs don’t. Why do people use RBI though? Or better yet, why do they think they use it?
“It means someone’s clutch:” Run(s) Batted In after all, measures how many people a batter has knocked in, including himself. Solo HR to win the game? CLUTCH. Single the opposite way to score the game winning hit? CLUTCH. They can clearly handle the pressure of the moment when he has the responsibility of plating that duck on the pond.
“Tradition, witches! It’s part of the Triple Crown:” BA, HR, RBI, the so-called “Triple Crown.” This thing, like the Twilight saga, needs to just die. Even for pitchers the triple crown of W, ERA, K’s needs to go away.
“I need it to measure the better hitter:” This runs along the “clutch” line. People also do this when evaluating players for their fantasy teams.
I’m going to try my darndest to make each of those arguments sound dumb:
Clutch: There’s a stat on Fangraphs for that and it’s called “Clutch.” I don’t understand it, but the community has acknowledged that RBI and being “clutch” are two different things. Also, wouldn’t you say that getting the chance to be clutch is dependent on the player’s team to get those players on base? You’re penalizing Hunter Pence for not getting 100 RBI because he played half the season with a shi–crappy team that set a franchise record in losses? How about Mike Stanton? He didn’t even get to 90. Why is it his fault that the AAAA players in front of him couldn’t get on base while he killed the ball 500 feet?
Tradition: Wasn’t it also tradition to only throw fastballs in a baseball game? To only let whites play? To have 2 divisions in each league? To have 4 playoff spots? To only play day games? Change happens, and it can be for the better. I promise.
Better hitter: I’m probably repeating arguments but if using RBI is used to determine who was the better hitter in 2011 then that means that Mark Reynolds > Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano > Mike Stanton, Ryan Howard > Jose Bautista. You could do this all day. There may have been a time when Soriano was better and Howard definitely JoeyBats but now… as the saying goes: “yea, no.”
I hope this article makes you think more about using RBI to judge a hitter. How it makes you reconsider how the team plays into the stat that is “RBI” and how you may be reconsidering based on RBI.
And one more for the road. Enjoy this little gift basket: