The 2009 Alternate Universe Carter-Batista Award: RE24 (and Sitch?)

Most of us are still recovering from this week’s Big Awards Euphoria, especially from Monday’s announcement of the 2009 Carter-Batista Award winner (I recommend reading that post before this one), which found that Ryan Ludwick was the 2009 player whose RBI total most exaggerated his offensive contribution.

Personally, I feel that the RBI/wRC system is the best way for figuring out how much RBI totals reflect true offensive contribution. But I also understand that some prefer a more “contextual” approach. As I did at greater length in an earlier series, let’s revisit the same ground using one of FanGraphs’ more context-sensitive stats — RE24 (Cf. Part Two of my Driveline Series) — to discover an “Alternate Universe” winner.

RE24 might appeal to those who believe situational hitting is a repeatable skill (I’m currently agnostic on this). The basic difference between RE24 and traditional linear weights (e.g. wRAA) is that it takes base/out state into account. For traditional linear weights, a double with two men on and two outs “counts” the same as a double with none on and no outs. RE24 recognizes that in those situations, the run expectancy both before and after the plate appearance are different. To quote myself:

There are 24 base-out states (hence the “24” in “RE24”): eight different combinations of baserunners (e.g., runner on first, bases empty, runners on second and third, etc.) multiplied by the three out states in which hitter might have that situation (no outs, 1 out, 2 outs). RE24 measure the difference in Run Expectancy from the beginning of the play until the next play.

For our purposes, the application is obvious — RE24 might identify players who were particularly good in situations with high run expectancy, and thus “earned” their RBI more than wRAA lets on.

To convert RE24 to an “absolute” measure like wRC, subtract the wRAA from wRC and add RE24. I call this “24RC“. Divide RBI by 24RC to get the comparison of real (situational) production to RBI. [Note that it’s not quite apples-to-apples, RE24 is park-adjusted, and the RBI are not, although it’s not a big problem.] The players are ranked by RBI/24RC. I’ve also included a number that sort of isolates situational contribution by subtracting wRAA from RE24. I dubbed it “Sitch.” Clever, huh?

Here are the 2009 Alternate Universe Carter-Batista Award leaders (among qualified hitters with at least 90 RBI).

5. David Ortiz, 1.134 RBI/24RC. .340 wOBA, 99 RBI, 6.40 Sitch
4. Alex Rodriguez, 1.138 RBI/24RC. .405 wOBA, 100 RBI, -10.03 Sitch
3. Michael Cuddyer, 1.141 RBI/24RC. .370 wOBA, 94 RBI, -17.48 Sitch
2. Cody Ross, 1.188 RBI/24RC. .342 wOBA, 90 RBI, -3.02 Sitch
1. Jose Lopez, 1.202 RBI/24RC. .325 wOBA, 96 RBI, 3.72 Sitch

Congratulations, Mr. Jose Lopez! You may have been just outdone by Mr. Ludwick on Monday, but here in the alternate universe, You’re the Man. Maybe in that alternate universe you’re on Shaq Vs., too. Kate Hudson works wonders, I wonder what B-list actress Big Papi is dating? Michael Cuddyer is showing that it’s not his Sitch (or defense) that got him resigned, but those awesome RBI. And what can I say about Cody Ross? Seriously, what can I say?

2009 “Trailers”

47. Adrian Gonzalez, .772 RBI/24RC. .402 wOBA, 5.29 Sitch
48. Joe Mauer, .751 RBI/24RC. .438 wOBA, 0.32 Sitch
49. Chase Utley, .727 RBI/24RC. .402 wOBA, 4.14 Sitch

Someone recently asked me what it would take for Chase Utley to win the NL MVP. I said to wait a couple years for Pujols to reach free agency and come home to Kansas City. I guess I didn’t realize how terrible Chase is at maximizing his RBI opportunities.

2007-2009 Leaders and Trailers (qualifed, 250 RBI minimum):

1. Jeff Francoeur, 1.30 RBI/24RC. .313 wOBA, 252 RBI, -17.62 Sitch
2. Bengie Molina, 1.28 RBI/24RC. .317 wOBA, 256 RBI, 23.29 Sitch
3. Robinson Cano, 1.28 RBI/24RC. .346 wOBA, 254 RBI, -53.47 Sitch
4. Garrett Atkins, 1.19 RBI/24RC. .339 wOBA, 258 RBI, -6.31 Sitch
5. Mike Lowell, 1.18 RBI/24RC. .359 wOBA, 268 RBI, -4.79 Sitch
6. Ryan Howard, 1.16 RBI/24RC. .385 wOBA, 423 RBI, 22.80 Sitch

43. Lance Berkman, 0.80 RBI/24RC. .397 wOBA, 288 RBI, 25.32 Sitch
44. Albert Pujols, 0.80 RBI/24RC. .440 wOBA, 354 RBI, 15.22 Sitch
45. Hanley Ramirez, 0.72 RBI/24RC. .409 wOBA, 254 RBI, -27.34 Sitch

Note how much the Sitch scores fluctuate on both ends of the rankings and draw your own conclusions. Any list with Frenchy and Bengie on one end and Pujols and Han-Ram on the other speaks for itself. Other than noting Cano’s Sitch issues (!), I’ll leave it to you all to fill in the blanks. Perhaps this spreadsheet with complete rankings will help.

Print This Post

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
6 years 10 months ago

Oh nice, another pointless snarky post on FranGraphs…if only I could demand the last few minutes of my life back.

Stay pointless my friends.

6 years 10 months ago

Agreed. What was I supposed to learn from this? If nothing else, I come here to be entertained and this post didn’t do that either.

I’m all for sabermetrics, but posts like this make me cringe a little bit.

6 years 10 months ago

First the no-commenting on Cantu, now the speechlessness on Cody Ross? Do I sense an anti-Marlins tinge, Mr. Matt K? I’m watching you…

You could say this on Cody: “Fans chant his name a lot in South Florida. And he’s not a bad hitter.”

Joe R
Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

Robbie Cano should have an award all to himself for unclutchitude in 2009.

A wRAA of +23.1, and a RE23 of -7.4.
Essentially the Yankees could’ve had another 3 wins if Cano hit in key spots better, which in any given season, he could. That’s a bit…scary.

6 years 10 months ago

Any idea how this list would compare to a simpler list of RBI% (RBI/total RBI opportunities)? That’s not a stat I’ve seen often, but it’s pretty simple and foolproof. I would suspect that there is some agreement, but your list probably classifies hitters more closely to their overall abilities.

David MVP Eckstein
6 years 10 months ago

(click the name link for more info)

Despite the fact that the BBWA got it right with Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Joe Mauer and technically Albert Pujols, they are still a bunch of morons. Somehow, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Andre Ethier and Pablo Sandoval all ended up with more MVP votes than Chase Utley. At 7.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Chase Utley was the second most valuable hitter in the NL (behind Pujols, at 8.4 WAR) and the seventh most valuable player overall. A strong balance between fantastic defense at 2B and quality hitting at the plate makes Chase Utley one of the most valuable assets in baseball (based on his production and salary, Fangraphs ranked Utley as a top ten asset earlier this year). Utley does many things very well. He can hit (28+ HRs in 4 of the last 5 seasons, .390 career wOBA), field (career +15.5 UZR/150 at 2B), and run the bases (23 SB last season, 0 CS). He tied Reggie Jackson’s World Series homerun record this year. And, as evidenced below, he can even fly.

But Chase Utley gets no love.

At first glance, Pujols appears to deserve the MVP. His monstrous bat was second to none (+16 Runs Above Replacement (RAR) compared to Mauer, the AL MVP) and his defense is solid (it has averaged just under +5 RAR per season since 2002). However, Albert Pujols plays first base. Yes, WAR accomodates this with a -12.4 Positional Adjustment to Pujols’ cumulative RAR, but there is something more to be said when the WARs are close and the positions played by two players require significantly different levels of skill.

“But DME,” you say, “Pujols has a +8.4 WAR and Utley has a +7.6 WAR. That’s a chunky +8 RAR difference.” True, in theory, but WAR does not encapsulate every aspect of a player’s value (and no, I’m not talking about Grindiness Per Nine Inning (G/9)). WAR does not encapsulate baserunning skills. Because WAR is derivative of wOBA, which already accounts for SB%, the additional “Baserunning RAR” (BRAR) is calculated by (EQBRR-EQSBR). According to Baseball Prospectus, Chase Utley was the second best baserunner in the majors last season (behind Michael Bourne) and his BRAR was +5.32. Albert Pujols was not even a top 500 baserunner and his BRAR was -0.62.

This makes the difference between Utley and Pujols’ end of season cumulative RAR’s within two runs of each other. Such a difference is pretty marginal. Factor in Pujols’ +13 PA’s and the fact that Chase Utley’s team made it to the World Series (where Utley raked), and I would have to tip my hat in favor of Chase Utley, who plays in a much tougher division, for the NL MVP award. By no means is it a travesty that Pujols got the honor. It is a travesty, however, that Utley did not even finish top 5 in NL MVP voting.

This only goes to show that even when the BBWA gets it right, they still manage to get it wrong.