23 July, 2008

RBI/HR Breakdown Part I

Since the development of advanced baseball analysis, or general sabermetrics, RBI have been relegated to a less and less significant role within knowledgeable baseball circles. The primary reason being that the statistic in and of itself sheds very little light on an individual's value to his team. The greatest thrust of sabermetrics is the quest to interpret the value of individual players to their teams, based upon statistical analysis. So while RBI totals have been one of the staples of the back of a baseball card, they hold very little interpretive value. As part of an ongoing series we start to look at other ways to view RBI and how some within baseball circles are using them (for good or bad).
One breakdown worth looking at is RBI/HR. This is only the beginning of interpreting RBI. Again, this statistic in and of itself only gleans a small insight into the value of a player. Let's start by looking at the leaderboard among RBI/HR among players with a minimum of 2500 AB:
(All statistics are computed from raw data from www.baseball-reference.com)
Player-----------Total RBI-----Total HR---RBI/HR Ratio
Davy Force----------373--------------1-----------373
Bob Ferguson--------356--------------1-----------356
Duane Kuiper--------263--------------1-----------263
Emil Verban---------241--------------1-----------241
Tommy Thevenow---456--------------2----------228
Al Bridwell-----------348--------------2----------174
Jimmy Slagle---------344--------------2----------172
Mike Tresh-----------297--------------2----------148.5
Muddy Ruel----------534--------------4----------133.5
Lee Tannehill--------346---------------3----------115.33
Johnny Cooney-------219--------------2----------109.5
Frank Taveras-------214---------------2----------107
Bill Bergen-----------193---------------2-----------96.5
Nemo Leibold--------284---------------3-----------94.67
Joe Sugden-----------283--------------3------------94.33

Hardly enlightening, but perhaps interesting trivia.
Now let's take a look at RBI/HR in conjunction with a minimum of 200 HR:
Player-----------Total RBI-----Total HR---RBI/HR Ratio------Level of Player
Joe Medwick--------1383-----------205-----------6.75-------------------HoF
Jim Bottomley-------1422-----------219-----------6.49------------------HoF
Goose Goslin---------1609----------248-----------6.49-------------------HoF
Al Oliver-------------1326----------219-----------6.06-------------------AS
Bill Dickey-----------1209----------202-----------5.99-------------------HoF
Al Simmons---------1827-----------307-----------5.95-------------------HoF
Robin Yount---------1406----------251-----------5.60-------------------HoF
Ted Simmons--------1389----------248-----------5.60-------------------AS
Bobby Doerr---------1247----------223-----------5.59-------------------HoF
Paul Molitor---------1307----------234-----------5.59-------------------HoF
Buddy Bell-----------1106----------201-----------5.50-------------------AS
Roberto Clemente---1305----------240-----------5.44-------------------HoF
Wally Joyner--------1106----------204-----------5.42-------------------AS
Roberto Alomar-----1134----------210------------5.40-------------------AS (Probable HoF)
Rogers Hornsby-----1584----------301------------5.26------------------HoF
Kirby Puckett-------1085----------207------------5.24------------------HoF
Brooks Robinson----1357----------268------------5.06------------------HoF
George Brett--------1595----------317------------5.03------------------HoF
Rusty Staub---------1466---------292------------5.02-------------------AS

A very impressive list indeed. This isn't just a list of individuals who made the Hall of Fame or multiple all-star games because of high RBI totals, these are bonafied greats.
It is worth making a couple of points here. First of all, we have not accounted for the affect of the team on these totals. Of course the hitters batting in front of these individuals influence the ratio to some extent just as they influence the RBI totals. This statistic is far from independent, but in conjunction with HR totals becomes a useful total. Secondly, looking at leader totals is not enough. We must have some empirical data to compare. That empirical data is something we will look at later in this series. For now, we emphasize players with a respectable home run total (200-300 career HRs) and a correspondingly high RBI total are among the greatest to ever play the game.

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