The 2009 Carter-Batista Award

As the Official-Baseball-Awards-Are-Awarded-Amid-The-Bitter-Protests-and-Feigned-Indifference-from-the-Internet season winds down, it’s also time for websites and individual bloggers to hand out their own made up awards. I have already crowned the King of the Little Things for 2009, so it’s time to move on to the Carter-Batista Award for 2009. What’s that? If an award is named after Joe Carter and Tony Batista, you might surmise that it has to do with players whose offensive value is exaggerated by their RBI totals.

Readers of this blog don’t need a lecture on why RBI are a bad measure of offensive performance, value, and skill. Like much of my work, this is an excuse to play with a “toy” or “junk stat” to get a point across. Earlier this year, I did a three-part series (1, 2, 3) where I go into much greater detail on the methodology, etc. Here, I’ll just give you the bare-bones.

The idea, inspired by Jonah Keri, is that by dividing a players RBI total by a better counting stat, we can get an idea of how much a players RBI total “overrates” his offense. My earlier version had a more complex construction, but interactions with Tango and terpsfan convinced me that the best way to go about it was to simply use unadjusted “absolute” runs created, like wRC (wOBA Runs Created). The idea stays the same: the higher a player’s RBI/wRC, the more RBI totals “overrate” his contribution, and the more he enters Carter-Batista territory.

[In case you’re wondering I didn’t park-adjust: I did initially, but realized that the RBI are a just as much a product of the environment as wRC, so dividing an unadjusted RBI by an adjusted wRC would be problematic. As usual, simpler turned our to be better.]

Who is this season’s winner? The pool is qualified hitters with at least 90 RBI. Here are the top five candidates:

5. Jorge Cantu, 1.18 RBI/wRC. .343 wOBA (.289/.345/.443), 100 RBI
4. Brandon Phillips, 1.20 RBI/wRC. .337 wOBA (.276/.329/.447), 98 RBI
3. David Ortiz, 1.22 RBI/wRC. .340 wOBA (.238/.332/.462), 99 RBI
2. Jose Lopez, 1.26 RBI/wRC. .325 wOBA (.272/.303/.463), 96 RBI

This stat should not be taken to mean that these guys are bad players or even bad hitters. It just says something about their RBI totals in relation to their true offensive contribution. Brandon Phillips isn’t a great hitter, but he’s a good player because of his 2B defense. Jose Lopez managed to contribute at an above average level this season because of decent defense and durability. We shouldn’t look down on him just because he hit behind Ichiro and his .386 OBP. Sure, Big Papi had a down year with the bat, but his other contributions are incalculable. Literally.

And now, your 2009 Carter-Batista award winner:

1. Ryan Ludwick, 1.26 RBI/wRC. .336 wOBA (.265/.329/.447), 97 RBI

Wow! Ludwick already won the prestigious Average-est Player of 2009 Award. This is entering Michael-Jackson-at-the-1984-Grammys territory. I’m not sure how he did it. Are there any high-OBP guys hitting ahead of Ludwick?

It’s illlustrative to look at the “trailers,” as well. In the last two spots:

47. Joe Mauer, .753 RBI/wRC. .438 wOBA (.365/.444/.587), 96 RBI
48. Chase Utley (naturally), .751 RBI/wRC. .402 wOBA (.282/.397/.508), 93 RBI

Finally, the 2007-2009 leaders and trailers (minimum 250 RBI)

1. Bengie Molina, 1.45 RBI/wRC. .317 wOBA (.278/.302/.440), 256 RBI
2. Ryan Howard, 1.24 RBI/wRC. .385 wOBA (.266/.363/.565), 423 RBI
3. Jeff Francoeur, 1.19 RBI/wRC. 313. wOBA (.271/.314/.409), 252 RBI

43. Albert Pujols, .827 RBI/wRC. .440 wOBA (.337/.444/.626), 354 RBI
44. Chase Utley, .821 RBI/wRC. .404 wOBA (.301/.395/.536), 300 RBI
45. Hanley Ramirez, .664 RBI/wRC. .409 wOBA (.325/.398/.549), 254 RBI

Much more could be written, but you all can take it from here draw your own conclusions. Check out the extended list of rankings on this Google spreadsheet.

I’ll be back Tuesday or Wednesday with a follow-up on situational hitting.

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

28 Responses to “The 2009 Carter-Batista Award”

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  1. Michael says:

    I demand that you give me a one-sentence blurb about Jorge Cantu, since he made the top 5!

    I can’t believe I forgot about this award, I saw it last year. Is there something else you’re giving away so that Ludwick can make it some sort of sweep?

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  2. Al Dimond says:

    Ludwick hit behind Pujols and Holliday a lot. Both OBP’d over .400 for the Cards this year. Per b-r, he had 16% more runners on base than average when he batted — and even more importantly, 29% more runners on second and 25% more on third.

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  3. Fresh Hops says:

    Nice work. Amusing stuff.

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  4. David says:

    Hanley batted leadoff before this season, right? Interesting.

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  5. R M says:

    I think you left out a word in the paragraph after players 5-2 are listed….unless Jose Lopez assaulted Suzuki and I never heard about it.

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  6. Kampfer says:

    It really shows how bad a leadoff is Mr.Jimmy Rollins
    And how good Chase Utley is getting for base for Howard’s overrated RBIs

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  7. Rolo says:

    I haven’t had time to go back and look at the longer explanation of the process and methodology, but does a value less than 1 imply that the hitter failed in opportunities that were likely there over the course of XHunder Plate Appearances to drive in as many runs as someone else?

    Does it imply that the batter regardless of hitting order in the lineup failed more often then others at driving in runners but was probably more successful than average at getting on base?

    And how is it that B. Molina has an average over 3 years of 1.45 yet doesn’t even show up in the top 5 this year (seems like an opportunity to weight the data differently)? Does a value that high over 5 years actually support someone’s claim that they do indeed perform better with RISP?

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    • Not David says:

      Mauer having a sub-300 OBP hitting directly in front of him (the genius of Gardenhire hard at work) the majority of the year probably didn’t do him any favors.

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  8. Logan says:

    Matt, you’re vaulting into the Dave Cameron territory of writers whose articles I’d drop a newborn baby to pull up and read.


    Funny and pointed. Loved the “feigned indifference” bit. I still believe that deep down old curmudgeon Cameron cares that the BBWAA hasn’t moved into the 21st century yet. I know I do, even though I maintain that I have no respect for them.

    Also, the blurbs about the players was great. “Chase Utley (Naturally)”. FFS, will this man ever get his due??


    Interesting and enlightening, just like the averagest player awards.

    I eagerly await your situational hitting article. Bring on the funny!

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  9. Werthless says:

    Pedro Feliz had a pretty empty 82 RBI this year, with only 61.3 wRC. His score would be 1.34, “better” than Ludwick.

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    • Logan says:

      “The pool is qualified hitters with at least 90 RBI.”

      Reading the article is a key component when critiquing it.

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      • Werthless says:

        “Would be” is the operative phrase, otherwise, I “is” would have been the chosen word. It wasn’t a critique of the article, but a critique of Feliz. I should have added that 90 RBI was an odd, arbitrary benchmark. 100 is a round number, while 80 RBI represents almost an RBI per 2 games.

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      • alright, everyone, let’s chill. It’s all in fun, right?

        Any benchmark for RBI is “arbitrary” in the sense that “100” as a number isn’t “statistically” significant. It’s just a social convention we have due to the .300/30/100 Triple Crown tradition. I would have preferred using 100, but not that many interesting people get it, I picked 90 as the next step down. I could have used 80, or not had any minimum,but just eyeballing it, 90 seemed to get the most interesting group of guys tending to hit in the middle of the order and stuff. BUt I also wanted to restrict the group — guys like Jason Kendall have extreme numbers, but does anyone really care?

        So, yeah, you could pick whatever benchmark you want. I was just try to find a medium between getting no one and getting everyone.

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  10. Jon says:

    During 2007-2009, Ryan Howard’s OPS with bases empty was .808, while his OPS with runners on was 1.045. Given that this split is (1) consistent and large each year, and (2) readily explainable by the fact that teams cannot employ their very effective shift against him with runners on, I think it’s likely that this split is real, and not just a statistical anomaly.

    As such, Howard’s RBI total is not purely the result of who else is in the lineup, but also a fact about what kind of hitter he is — one with a large bases-empty runners-on split.

    To the extent that your statistic is intended to capture the component of RBI-production that is correlated with team factors outside the specific player’s control, it overstates the contribution of the Phillies lineup to Howard’s RBI total.

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    • Interesting stuff. Thanks for putting it out there. You might find tomorrow morning’s post interesting as well.

      I’m not claiming to establish anything definitive for each player, or at least I didn’t mean to claim that. I’m making a more general point that RBIs don’t necessarily = offensive production.

      As far as hitting with runners on, I”m agnostic about that as a skill — not denying it, but I’m not exactly a believer. I’d need to see a study that looked at factors like variation in the population of hitters, etc. and showed how much is skill and random variation. Maybe Howard has the skill — but if you ask me the interesting part of the post is more about the Bengie Molinas and Jeff Francoeurs of the world than the Ryan Howards and Mike Lowells.

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      • Joe R says:

        Howard has 1521 PA’s with no one on and goes .269/.343/.545. Runners on? .290/.406/.628 in 1624 PA. In 1014 PA w/ RISP, he’s .278/.416/.587.

        His unintentional walk rate with no one on is (146-4)/1521 = 9.33%. For men on? 9.79%.

        How about strikeouts? 28.5% with no one on, 27.4% with men on.

        So a little better w/ men on in the two main areas, but 63 points of OBP and 83 of SLG better? His HR rate doesn’t spike, his BABIP increases slightly, but that’s expected with men on. And I doubt he’s phoning it in when no one’s on. But a RE24 – wRAA of 27.73 in his career is huge.

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      • Bill says:

        I don’t think anyone is saying Ryan Howard is that much better with runners on, simply that often the defensive team cannot employ a superior defensive shift against him with runners on.

        It’s especially true with w/ RISP, because often teams still shift with a runner on first.

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      • Steve says:

        maybe teams will stop shifting on Howard if Utley gets on a few times and steals 2 bases on one pitch…

        if they need video on how to do this, i can point them to their website.

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  11. Jonah Keri says:

    I (sort of) inspired something this awesome? Sweet.

    The Carter-Batista Award ranks well above the Ted Stepien Rule, The Bush Doctrine, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

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