Thursday, December 13, 2012

Which Players Have Participated in the Most Runs Since 1950?

Before the Tigers stunned us with the recent acquisitions of Ramon Cabrera, Jeff Kobernus, Kyle Lobstein and Brayan Pena, I was talking a lot about Run Participation Statistics.  A player can participate in his teams' runs in three ways:
  • Runs Scored (RS)
  • Runs Batted In (RBI)
  • Runs Assisted (RAS)
A Run Assisted is any contribution to a team run that does not result in a run scored or RBI for the batter.  The ways a player can get a Run Assisted (RAS) are described below:
  • A batter advances a runner to either second or third with a hit, base on balls, hit batsmen, error, sacrifice bunt, or another kind of out.  If that runner then scores either during the same at bat or an ensuing at bat, the batter who advanced him is given a Run Assisted.
  • A batter reaches base and is removed for a pinch runner or is replaced by another runner on a force out.  If the new runner then scores, the batter who originally reached base is given a Run Assisted. 
A player gets credit for a Run Participated In (RPI) if he either scores, drives in or assists a run.  There is no double counting for home runs so the formula is RPI = RS + RBI + RAS - HR

As explained in the first post on this subject, RPI is not a replacement for your favorite run estimation metric whether it be Batting Runs or Runs Created or something else.  Like Runs Scored and Runs Batted In, the numbers of Runs Assisted accumulated by a batter depends on opportunities created by teammates,  Thus, RPI is team dependent measure as well. Advanced statistics which try to isolate a batters production from that of his teammates are better measures of true talent and are superior forecasters of future performance than RPI.  

So, why do we need RPI? Many statistical analysts won't have a lot of use for it other than passing curiosity, but there are some benefits.  First, it says something about how actual runs were scored as opposed to how runs theoretically should have been scored.  This concreteness should be appealing to players, media and traditional fans.  People are going to look at RBI whether we like it or not, so why not encourage them to consider something better than RBI but which still looks at actual runs? 

Because it deals with actual runs, it's also possible that RPI and potential derivatives of RPI might tell us something about run scoring that say Batting Runs does not tell us.  Just like some pitchers seem to have an ERA skill beyond what their peripherals suggest, some batters might have run participation skills which exceed their abilities to get on base and slug.

Some of the noise surrounding run participation tends to go away over the course of a long career. Pitcher wins are not very relevant on a year-to-year basis, but become more useful over the long-term.  Run participation metrics - RS, RBI and RAS - are the same way.  Table 1 presents the RPI leaders since 1950, the first complete year of Retrosheet data (required in order to calculated RAS).

The table tells us that Hall-of-Fame slugger Hank Aaron has been involved in more runs (4,521) than any player since 1950.  Current Hall candidate Barry Bonds is second at 4,490.  The leading Tiger is Al Kaline with 3,777, good for 15th on the list. 

Table 1: MLB Runs Participated In Leaders, 1950-2012



Player
PA
RS
RBI
RAS
HR
RPI
Hank Aaron
13,518
2,096
2,213
950
738
4,521
Barry Bonds
12,606
2,227
1,996
1,029
762
4,490
Carl Yastrzemski
13,991
1,816
1,844
1,166
452
4,374
Pete Rose
15,885
2,165
1,313
1,056
160
4,374
Alex Rodriguez
11,163
1,898
1,950
905
647
4,106
Willie Mays
12,179
2,002
1,847
897
641
4,105
Eddie Murray
12,817
1,627
1,917
1,015
504
4,055
Rickey Henderson
13,345
2,295
1,115
903
297
4,016
Dave Winfield
12,356
1,669
1,833
897
465
3,934
Derek Jeter
11,895
1,868
1,254
1,046
255
3,913
Frank Robinson
11,740
1,830
1,812
852
586
3,908
Rafael Palmeiro
12,046
1,663
1,835
961
569
3,890
Cal Ripken
12,883
1,647
1,695
957
431
3,868
Paul Molitor
12,167
1,782
1,307
940
234
3,795
Al Kaline
11,596
1,622
1,582
972
399
3,777
George Brett
11,625
1,583
1,596
894
317
3,756
Chipper Jones
10,614
1,619
1,623
954
468
3,728
Gary Sheffield
10,947
1,636
1,676
923
509
3,726
Ken Griffey
11,304
1,662
1,836
847
630
3,715
Robin Yount
12,249
1,632
1,406
913
251
3,700


Runs Participated In is a counting statistic which is influenced greatly by length of career, so it's good to also have a rate measure.  One possibility is Runs Participated In Percentage (RPI%) which is the percentage of a teams' runs in which a player participated.  For example, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera participated in 253 runs out of 726 total runs for the Tigers in 2012, so he had a 34.8% RPI%.  The RPI% statistic might tell us how much a team relied on a player to score runs.  As such, some fans might find it useful in MVP voting.  The limitation of course is that a player my benefit from having less productive teammates surrounding him in the order. 

Over the course of a career, you can average a player's annual RPI%'s to arrive a career RPI%The RPI% leaders since 1950 are listed in Table 2 belowContemporary superstar Albert Pujols is the leader at 31.7%.  This includes a high of 36.7% in 2009 with the Cardinals.   Former Pirates great Ralph Kiner is second at 30.9%.  The top Tiger is Cabrera, who is fifth at 29.6%.

Table 2: MLB Run Participated In Percentage Leaders, 1950-2012



Player
PA
RPI
RPI%
Albert Pujols
8,103
2,978
31.7
Ralph Kiner
2,920
938
30.9
Jeff Bagwell
9,431
3,401
29.9
Kirby Puckett
7,831
2,566
29.9
Miguel Cabrera
6,473
2,235
29.6
Andrew McCutchen
2,497
725
29.2
Ryan Braun
3,854
1,332
29.1
Hank Aaron
13,518
4,521
29.1
Stan Musial
7,012
2,440
28.5
Al Rosen
4,309
1,468
28.2
Ron Santo
9,373
2,784
28.2
Matt Holliday
5,517
1,948
27.9
Billy Williams
10,495
3,323
27.8
Eddie Murray
12,817
4,055
27.7
Willie Mays
12,179
4,105
27.6
David Wright
5,453
1,809
27.6
Ichiro Suzuki
8,724
2,345
27.5
Barry Bonds
12,606
4,490
27.4
Hunter Pence
3,787
1,097
27.4
Minnie Minoso
7,624
2,702
27.4
 
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet.  Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at Retrosheet.org.



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