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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.