Knocking Yourself In

I’ve just invented a new stat, actually two. OK, I just heard that “Oh, God, not another one” groan. Bear with me here. I have high hopes for this one. Other people have gotten a lot of Benjamins off their stats. I hope to gain at least a couple of Abes off mine.

There’s been a lot of talk among baseball nuts about the RBI as an overrated stat, and I’ll admit that it can be such. But it also has value. So I started looking at the stat and remembered a lot of consternation back in the early 2000s when opposing teams would walk Barry Bonds with a man on base, thus cutting down on his chance to pick up an RBI (or two or more it he parked one). That led me to ask myself  “Self, I wonder how many of Bonds’ RBIs are himself (a homer) and how many are somebody else.” Self didn’t know, so I decided to look it up and in doing so came up with the following stats (drum roll,please). The first is RBI’s-not self (RBI-NS–catchy, right). Basically you take the player’s home runs and subtract them from his RBI’s giving you RBI-NS (remember, when the lawsuit comes, you heard this here first). For Bonds, as our example, you get 1996 minus 762 for a total of 1234 (honest to God) total men Bonds drove in who were already on base when he came to bat. 

The second stat is, and you knew this was coming,  percentage of RBI’s that are not self (%RBI-NS–equally catchy, right?). This is figured by dividing the RBI-NS number by the total number of RBIs. In Bonds’ case that’s 1234 divided by 1996 for a 62% total (rounded). That means 62% of Bonds’ RBIs are men already on base.

I think these stats have some value because they do let you know how much the team contributed to a player’s RBI total. They also give you some new ways to compare players directly (of course they don’t account for things like high scoring eras or park effects). And finally, I think they are fun to note.

So here’s a look at some of the totals as of 25 May 2010 (for active players). I took every player with 500 home runs and the next four down (Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell) because I was curious about Gehrig and Musial. What I found was an almost numbing consistency. Of the 25 players with 500 or more homers, Mark McGwire has only 59% of his RBIs being someone other than himself (that’s the low). Of the same group, Eddie Murray has the highest percentage (74%) of his RBIs being someone other than himself. Everyone else is in the 15 point range between them. That’s not much of a swing. Pick a player, pick an era, pick a team, and you get pretty much the same numbers. Ruth? 68%. Aaron? 67%. Mantle? 64%. Ted Williams 72%. All darned close to each other. Of all the guys I tried, Musial had the highest percentage at 76%, with Gehrig next at 75%. Those kind of figure because each had a ton of RBIs and less home runs than the guys above them on the homer list, which should be expected. After all, the 500 home run guy with the highest percentage is Murray, the guy with the lowest home run total.

Now that I did all this (“You have to get out more,” I hear you say) I decided to look at a couple of Deadball Era players, Cobb and Wagner. Of course each has a ton of RBIs and almost no home runs. Cobb’s %RBI-NS is 94%. So is Wagner’s. Then I did Cap Anson and got 95%. So this stat is skewed in the Deadball Era, but is still fun to look at.

Feel free to use it, (if you’re silly enough) to check on any player you want. Just send the $5.00 to me care of wordpress.

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