Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tigers Top RBI Men Since 1950

Previous posts about the Baseball Prospectus RBI opportunity statistics generated quite a bit of interest, so I'll write some more about it here.  I wanted to find the Tigers with the best RBI rates since 1950 - the first year complete play-by-play data are available.

As a reminder, the Others Batted In Percentage (OBI%) statistic is calculated by dividing the number of runners batted in by the total number of runners on base during a batters plate appearances.  For example, there have been 2,307 runners on base in Miguel Cabrera's plate appearances as a Tiger.  He has scored 417 of those runners.  So, his OBI% is 417/2,307 = 18.1%.  Players get no credit for knocking themselves in with homers. 

The Tigers leaders in OBI% since 1950 are shown in Table 1 below.  Keep in mind that this statistic is not kind to players who draw a lot of walks as walks do not generally get runners home.  In some cases, that is because pitchers do not want to give them good pitches to hit with runners on base. These players help their team by extending innings and scoring runs, but may not have high RBI rates.

Another caveat is that I do not adjust for season. Thus, batters who played in high-run-scoring environments have an advantage.  The same problem would exist for the RBI statistic though and OBI%'s main use is as an alternative to RBI.  Finally, in order to weed out players with fluke seasons dominating their career totals, I only include players with 1,000 plate appearances with runners on base.   

Despite all of the intentional walks, Cabrera's 18.1 mark tops the list.  Rusty Staub, who played outfield and designated hitter for Detroit from 1976-1979 is next at 18.0.  That probably does not shock fans who remember him driving in 96, 101 and 121 runs in first three years as a Tiger.  Next is Magglio Ordonez at 17.7%.  That includes a 22.0 percentage in his outstanding 2007 season.

One of the biggest surprises on the list is Craig Monroe at 16.6.  That is largely a result of hitting for an .800 OPS for his career with runners on base versus .690 with the bases empty.  Was that luck?  Perhaps, but we aren't trying to project the future here.  Fortunate or not, his situational hitting helped the team score runs.

Another player who might surprise some people is second baseman Placido Polanco (16.3).  Putting the ball in play in almost every bat helps.  He also may have benefitted somewhat from batting in back of the fairly speedy Curtis Granderson.

Who was the Tigers worst RBI man since 1950? Third baseman Don Wert drove home only 11.4% of runners on base between 1963-1970.  Wert was a relatively weak hitter (88 OPS+), but, to be fair, he also played in a period where pitchers dominated. 

Table 1: Tigers OBI% Leaders since 1950

Player
PA
PA ROB
ROB
OBI
OBI%
Miguel Cabrera
3,402
1,674
2,307
417
18.1
Rusty Staub
2,407
1,221
1,610
290
18.0
Magglio Ordonez
3,530
1,760
2,439
431
17.7
Ray Boone
2,856
1,438
2,023
356
17.6
Tony Clark
3,212
1,520
2,086
362
17.4
Steve Kemp
2,930
1,456
1,972
334
16.9
Cecil Fielder
4,252
2,157
3,045
514
16.9
Craig Monroe
2,545
1,206
1,681
279
16.6
Placido Polanco
2,818
1,165
1,523
249
16.3
Travis Fryman
4,792
2,357
3,303
533
16.1
Carlos Guillen
3,384
1,575
2,210
354
16.0
Al Kaline
11,597
5,381
7,228
1148
15.9
Willie Horton
5,978
2,859
4,013
630
15.7
Rocky Colavito
2,723
1,183
1,629
254
15.6
Bobby Higginson
5,660
2,513
3,363
524
15.6

Data Source: Baseball Prospectus

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