Over the weekend, Robinson Cano eclipsed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career. Chances are we’re going to see Robbie do this multiple times over the course of his career, but since it was his first time, I wanted to examine his RBI numbers against his peers.
Not counting Sunday’s game, Cano has 101 RBI. That’s good for 7th in the league behind Miguel Cabrera (118), Jose Bautista (114), Alex Rodriguez (111), Vladimir Guerrero (107), Paul Konerko (105), and Delmon Young (102). He was tied with Mark Teixeira. What I’m going to do is use the B-R pages of these players, find their RBIs/base runners on and see who was tops in terms of driving in runs in terms of percentage of runners driven in.
Before going any further, let’s clear the air: I’m not a fan of the RBI statistic. It’s very incomplete and is very dependent on the players in front of the batter. If you don’t get up with a lot of guys in front of you, you’re not going to knock in a lot of runs. As for this piece, I’ll be examining runners on, which includes runners on first. It’s obviously very hard to knock in runs from first, unless you hit a homer or a triple. So, some of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I think it’s worth looking at since raw RBI is not great. This also doesn’t take into account hit type or if the player got on base some other way; it only tells us how many runners he drove in.
Let’s start from the top:
Miguel Cabrera: 118 RBI in 608 PA. Average MLer w/608 PAs: 66. Actual runners on base: 454. Avg. runners on base: 376. So, Miggy has had a lot more runners on than average. Given those numbers, the average percentage would be 17.55% of runners driven in. Miggy’s at 25.99%, so we’ll call it 26%. So, he’s doing more with more runners.
Jose Bautista: 113 RBI in 616 PA. Avg in 616 PA: 68. Act. Runners: 335. Avg. Runners: 383. Bautista, in the Toronto lineup, has had fewer runners on than the average player could expect. He’s driven in a much higher percentage–33.73–than the average–17.75. This is what happens when you unexpectedly belt over 45 homers.
Alex Rodriguez: 111 RBI, 529 PA. Avg: 58. Act. Runners: 392. Avg. Runners: 327. Shockingly enough, Alex Rodriguez has had many more RBI chances than the average player. He plays on the Yankees. Anyway, his percentage is 28.32% vs the average of 17.74%.
Vladimir Guerrero: 107 in 587. Avg: 64. Act. runners: 420. Avg: 363. Like A-Rod and Miggy, Vlad has had a good deal more runners to knock in than the average. His percentage: 25.48. Average: 17.63.
Paul Konerko: 105 in 584. Avg: 64. Act. runners: 358. Avg. Runners: 361. Konerko’s had a few fewer runners than we could expect, but has excelled in driving them in anyway. Average for 584 PAs is 17.73 (starting to see the pattern here). Konerko’s is 29.33.
I was actually pretty surprised that Delmon Young was on this list. Let’s see how he stacks up: 102 RBI in 553 PA. Average: 60. Actual runners: 417. Average runners: 342. DY%: 24.46. Avg: 17.54. Like everyone else on the list so far, he’s been better than average.
Robinson Cano: 101 in 628 PAs. Average: 69. Actual runners: 426. Average runners: 389. Percentage: 23.71. Average: 17.74.
Mark Teixeira: 101 RBI in 649 PA. Avg: 71. Actual runners: 440. Average runners: 402. Percentage: 22.95. Average: 17.66.
So, we can see that league average is right around 18%, usually coming in just a little less. Let’s re-rank the players, this time in terms of percentage of runners driven in:
1. Jose Bautista: 33.73%
2. Paul Konerko: 29.33%
3. Alex Rodriguez: 28.32%
4. Miguel Cabrera: 25.99%
5. Vladimir Guerrero: 25.48%
6. Delmon Young: 24.46
7. Robinson Cano: 23.71
8. Mark Teixeira: 22.95
We see that the guys who’ve had fewer runners on than expected–but still driven a lot in–are the ones at the top of the percentage list. This makes sense as they’ve done “more” with “less.” Tex has the most PAs and has the smallest RBI total (tied w/Robbie) so it makes sense that he’s on the bottom. Bautista’s homer barrage this year also helps him compensate for the lack of runners on, while Tex’s slow start hurt him. Tex’s slow start–and Alex Rodriguez’s absence–probably hurt Cano a bit, too. Regardless, each one of these guys has been well above the average player in terms of batting runs in. They’ve been given opportunities to drive runs in and they’ve come through. While we may not love RBI as a stat, the runs still do count and having guys who can drive a lot of runs in is always helpful. I’ll end this thought on RBI like I do with wins: most of the times, you’re not a good player because you drive in a lot of runs. You drive in a lot of runs because you’re a good player.