Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RBI Men

One of the most popular mainstream statistics has traditionally been Runs Batted In. Most of us know that know that RBI is a flawed statistic because it is dependent on the opportunities presented a player. It is a lot easier to accumulate RBI when there are a lot of men getting on base in front of you. It is more difficult to get RBI when you play on a weak hitting team which gives you few opportunities. With this in mind, David Pinto at Baseball Musings used his day by day database to develop a new statistic which considers opportunities as well as total RBI.

Pinto determined the number of runners that were on base when each batter came to the plate. He then calculated RBI Percentage, the proportion of runners on base that the batter drove home in his plate apperances. For example, Magglio Ordonez has had 162 runners on base in all his plate appearances this year. He has scored 36 of them (48 RBI - 12 homers). That gives him an RBI % of 22.22. That may not sound very high but it is 6th highest in the majors for players with 75 or more runners on base.

RBI % is not a perfect statistic. It could be improved if we considered base/out states. For example, it is easier to knock in a run with a runner on third base and nobody out than it is with a runner on first and two outs. It also penalizes players who are pitched around and receive a lot of walks but then so does RBI in its raw form. Despite these shortcomings, I do think it's a useful stat and I like its simplity.

Table 1 below shows the Major League leaders in RBI % for 260 players with 75 or more runners on base. You will see that Magglio Ordonez (6th), Placido Polanco (8th) and Carlos Guillen (18th) rank in the top 20. You may be surprised to see that old friend Carlos Pena (11th) is also in the top 20.


Table 1: Major League Leaders in RBI Percentage

Player

Team

Runners

RBI

HR

RBI%

Martin

LAD

135

34

3

22.96

Ibanez

SEA

119

28

1

22.69

Hardy

MIL

128

44

15

22.66

Molina

SF

115

31

5

22.61

Hernandez

BAL

89

22

2

22.47

Ordonez

DET

162

48

12

22.22

Hunter

MIN

140

42

11

22.14

Polanco

DET

118

27

1

22.03

Lee

CHI

121

30

4

21.49

Johnson

ATL

98

27

6

21.43

Pena

TB

84

28

10

21.43

Martinez

CLE

154

41

8

21.43

Sosa

TEX

136

39

10

21.32

Garciaparra

LAD

139

30

1

20.86

Lugo

BOS

132

30

3

20.45

Guerrero

LAA

152

41

10

20.39

Lowell

BOS

148

39

9

20.27

Guillen

DET

148

36

6

20.27

Dobbs

PHI

84

22

5

20.24

Lee

HOU

173

45

10

20.23


Table 2 shows how the Tigers rank in RBI Percentage. Ranking in the top quarter of the league along with Ordonez, Polanco and Guillen are Pudge Rodriguez (34th), Curtis Granderson (48th) and Craig Monroe (69th). Lagging behind are Gary Sheffield, Sean Casey and Brandon Inge. It should be noted that Sheffield is probably one of the players who is penalized somewhat because he is pitched around with runners on base.


Table 2: RBI Percentages for Tigers Regulars

Player

Rank

Runners

RBI

HR

RBI%

Ordonez

6

162

48

12

22.02

Polanco

8

118

27

1

22.03

Guillen

18

148

36

6

20.27

Rodriguez

34

113

26

5

18.58

Granderson

48

109

27

8

17.43

Monroe

59

131

29

7

16.78

Sheffield

181

144

29

12

11.81

Casey

228

102

11

0

10.78

Inge

251

126

19

8

8.73

3 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 31, 2007

    Interesting stuff, Lee. Pinto say why he used PA's instead of AB's? It seems like an easy way to solve the Sheffield problem with a minimal cost. I'm guessing it aggregates out over several seasons anyhow, but in addition to base/outs, you could imagine controlling for base-runners. Guys like Pena and Guerrero really have a nice advantage in the RBI percentage department hitting on clubs with great team speed. Sean Casey isn't scoring from second on most triples:-)

    -TonyJM

    ReplyDelete
  2. Doug PurdieMay 31, 2007

    I have the same question. Why calculate on PA's instead of AB's? One drawback is it would not reward the patience of batters who draw a bases loaded walk.

    But why try to tinker with the RBI stat when no amount of tinkering are going to make it a more meaningful stat than the Runs Created, OPS and Win Shares stats? They already disregard unequal opportunities.

    I do have a problem with OPS as it counts singles twice. Once in the SLG stat and again in the OBP. Why are singles so highly valued? How about a Bases Gained per Plate Appearance stat? Singles and Walks counts for 1, double = 2, etc. Count 1 for every stolen base and subtract 1 for every base stealer caught or picked-off. Also count one for every extra based advanced by runners. IOW, A guy who scores from 2B on a single gets 1 more (or from 1B on a double).

    ReplyDelete
  3. The walks are a problem but I'm not sure what's the best way to solve it. Suppose, a runner is on first base. There are a few things that can happen without a run scoring. The batter could make an out, get a single or get a walk. All of these count as a failure with this statistic. So if you remove plate appearances which result in walks, then you are favoring players that get a lot of walks over players who get a lot of singles.

    Why use this stat when we already have OPS, RC, etc? This stat is not a replacement for those stats. The point of RBI% is that there is still a sense among mainstream baseball fans (and they may be right to an extent) that RBI measures something that OPS does not. RBI% is just a simple way of trying to measure this "clutch thing" which a lot of people talk about.

    Why are singles counted twice in OPS? The point of the OPS formula is to combine the two main parts of run production: getting on base and moving runners along after they get on base. A single does both of those things. The bigger problem with OPS is that walks only shows up in the getting on base part of the formula. It should also show up in the moving runners along part although it should have less weight that singles. Stats like RC and VORP do a better job of weighting everything. However they also more complicated and can be alienating to those who aren't into stats.

    ReplyDelete

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