Hollow RBI Numbers
This is a great article by Matt Gelb of the Inquirer. It’s about Ryan Howard and the Phillies attempt to leave him in the lineup so other teams might decide to trade for him. Of course, in this case, “trade” means the Phillies would send Howard and a boatload of cash to that team in return for really anyone. This article is good for two reasons. One, it shows that Ryne Sandberg should not be fully judged on the team’s performance this year as it suggests he was overruled on benching Howard so they can showcase him. Not that Sandberg hasn’t made mistakes, but obviously that’s going to affect the teams. Two, Gelb comes up with some great stats that show the hollowness of RBI numbers in general, and Howard’s specifically:
Howard, before this weekend’s games, batted with 402 men on base, tying Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria for most in the majors. But Howard drove in those runners at a 15.4 percent rate, which ranked 57th among 159 batters with at least 400 plate appearances.
A player who bats cleanup as frequently as Howard is bound to accumulate RBIs. Howard is on pace for 608 plate appearances from the No. 4 spot. There were 316 batters from 1914 to 2013 with at least 600 plate appearances in one season as a cleanup hitter, and 273 of them (86.4 percent) collected 90 or more RBIs.
Not that RBI are totally meaningless, but as you can see, when you hit in certain spots in the lineup, you’re going to get many more opportunities to drive in runs. Your RBI totals are mostly contingent on where you hit in the lineup and how good your teammates are at getting on base. Again, not totally meaningless, because the player still has to drive them in, but those other factors need to be taken into account. Of course, Amaro is quoted in the article as saying Howard has a decent number of RBI, but if he’s trying to trade him, I guess he would say that.
It’s pretty important for the Phillies to trade Howard as I’ve written before. This will open up first base for younger players who will most likely do a better job than Howard at this point.