Runs Batted In
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Stat of the Week
by Peter Liubicich
Runs Batted In
This post was written by Peter Liubicich on June 11, 2012
Posted Under: Stat of the Week

This past Friday, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg displayed why the future of the Washington Nationals franchise is very bright after defeating the Boston Red Sox.  Strasburg put on a superb performance by throwing 6 innings, allowing 2 Earned Runs (ERs), striking out 13 and walking 2 for his 7th win of the season.  Harper batted second, played centerfield and went 3 for 5 with a double and a mammoth home run.  On the year, Strasburg has a 7-1 record, 92 Strikeouts only 19 Walks and a 2.41 ERA.  He anchors a Nationals team pitching staff that has combined for a team ERA of 2.97 and one that will certainly be formidable for the rest of the season.  Harper now has a Batting Average of .282 with 6 Home Runs, 17 RBI in 37 games and an OPS of .885 and an OPS+ of 138.

This week’s statistic is Runs Batted In (RBI) which measures the amount of runs a batter is responsible for driving in at the plate by hit, walk, hit by pitch or sacrifice hit. However, a player does not receive an RBI if a run scores when they are at the plate but it was because of an error in the field.  RBI is one part of the Triple Crown of baseball which is when a player leads their league in Batting Average and Home Runs and RBI.

As with many statistics it is fun and important to remember the generations of players before the Bryce Harpers of the world who amazed fans with their hitting prowess and the MLB Career Leaders in RBI is a who’s who of the best hitters in baseball history:

1.       Hank Aaron, 2297

2.       Babe Ruth, 2213

3.       Cap Anson, 2075

4.       Barry Bonds, 1996

5.       Lou Gehrig, 1995

Aaron often does not get enough credit when you hear or talk with people about the best hitters in MLB history because he never hit over 47 home runs nor batted in over 127 runs in a season.  In 23 years though, he batted .305, had 3771 Hits, 755 of which were Home Runs, drove in 2297 runs and was arguably the most consistent player in MLB history.  While it appears that Aaron’s RBI record is not in trouble of being broken anytime soon, Alex Rodriguez is quietly lurking at 8th on the list, with 1918 RBI, only 379 RBI behind Aaron.  Rodriguez could quickly rise up the list this summer though as if he hits 34 more RBI this season he will stand alone at 6th all-time passing Stan Musial who had 1951 RBI.  A-Rod is in his 19th season and is 36 years old turning 37 on July 27th and due to injury issues the past few years, his pursuit of the RBI record has been hampered, especially last year when he only drove in 62 runs in 99 games.  If A-Rod does stay around for another 5-6 years, however, he will come very close to passing Aaron’s record.

A batter’s ability to drive in runs and the number of runs they drive in is largely based on who is ahead of them in the lineup and how often the batters in front of them get on base.  In a lineup where the leadoff hitter and the hitter in the number 2 spot have high On-Base Percentages (OBP), the middle of the lineup (3-4-5 hitters) will have more chances to drive in runs than a hitter who hits behind a player that does not get on base as often.

Check back on Thursday where we will look at what some critics have said about RBI and why it is difficult to fairly compare players among different periods and different teams by this statistics.  We will also take a trip back in time and investigate why Detroit Tigers legend Hank Greenberg had 183 RBI in 1937, 3rd most in a single season in MLB history.

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