Womack: In defense of the RBI

From SABR member Graham Womack at High Heat Stats on April 19, 2012:

I’ve been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research for about two years now, a baseball blogger for about three, and among the many things I’ve learned, certain topics raise the ire of fellow baseball researchers. Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Over-reliance on traditional counting stats like wins or batting average. Runs batted in.

I don’t know when the first attacks began on the RBI, a counting stat that dates to the late 19th century, though I get where some of the criticisms come from. It’s easier to drive in runs on teams that score a lot of them in good offensive eras. It’s one reason Hank Aaron had 86 RBIs and a 153 OPS+ on the 1968 Braves while Dante Bichette had 133 RBIs and a 102 OPS+ on the 1999 Rockies. By no advanced measure did Bichette have the superior season, he just was in the right place at the right time. The stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com suggests that if Aaron had played on the ’99 Rockies, he’d have had 43 home runs, 157 RBIs, and a .370 batting average.

But, as it is with Morris or sub-replacement level WAR players who manage to hit .320 (George Sisler in 1929 and Bob Dillinger in 1949, by the way), I think some of the criticisms with RBIs are unfounded. It may not be as important a stat as its proponents suggest, but it’s also not altogether meaningless or a complete fluke to drive in a run.

Read the full article here: http://www.highheatstats.com/2012/04/in-defense-of-the-rbi/

Originally published: April 19, 2012. Last Updated: April 19, 2012.