As the 2010 season fades into memory and we look to 2011, my cheesy awards made from semi-”junk stats” need to get wrapped up soon. So today I unveil the 2010 winner of the Joe Carter-Tony Batista award, which is given to the player whose Runs Batted In most exaggerates his actual offensive value.
Most readers of FanGraphs don’t need to read a rant about why RBI are a bad measure of offensive value, so I won’t give you one. This award is just a fun way of sort of getting the point across with numbers. The general idea (explained in more detail in last year’s post) was inspired by a piece written a while back by Jonah Keri. I thought about using a more sophisticated methodology this season using BaseRuns scaled to the current run environment, but I prefer the simple approach. I simply divide each player’s number of RBI by the number of “absolute” linear weights runs created (wRC). The higher the number of RBI per wRC, the more the player’s RBI total “overrates” their actual offensive performance. To qualify for the award, I somewhat arbitrarily chose a 90 RBI minimum baseline.
And now for your top five (in reverse order):
5. Vladimir Guerrero, 1.22 RBI/wRC, .360 wOBA, .300/.345/496, 115 RBI
2010 was a nice comeback season for Guerrero, even if a .360 wOBA is a far cry from his heyday. I’m guessing that racking up RBI is a bit easier when hitting behind a guy with a .411 on-base percentage.
4. Adam LaRoche 1.25 RBI/wRC, .339 wOBA, .261/.320/.468, 100 RBI
LaRoche cotinued to show good power in 2010, but it is less impressive once you consider his home park. He hasn’t reached Tony Batista levels yet, but a first baseman with a .320 OBP and a sub-.500 slugging percentage in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball just isn’t all that inspiring. I wonder how much he regrets not taking San Francisco’s earlier offer? LaRoche also placed on my list of the Five Average-est Players of 2010.
3. Delmon Young, 1.31 RBI/wRC, .352 wOBA, .298/.333/.493, 112 RBI
Another guy from my “average” list… I’m not sure what more can be written about Delmon Young’s that hasn’t been said before — he’s finally above replacement level, still not that good overall. Hitting behind Joe Mauer and Jim Thome can really boost your fantasy stats, though.
2. Jason Kubel, 1.33 RBI/wRC, .326 wOBA, .249/.323/.427, 92 RBI
Another Twin? Maybe it’s Gardy who makes these guys so clutch… Kubel easily had the worst year of all the players on this list. The point, of course, isn’t that these guys are bad hitters, but that their RBI totals exaggerate their performance. Does anyone really want a .249/.323/.427 hitter in the middle of their lineup [insert #6org joke here]? I set the baseline at 90 rather than 100 because it makes for a more interesting list. I didn’t need to do so this season, but I left it at 90 to make things more consistent.
And the 2010 Carter-Batista Award goes to….
1. Alex Rodriguez, 1.41 RBI/wRC, .363 wOBA, .270/.341/.506, 125 RBI
I was quite surprised by this when I first ran the numbers. I’m sure Casey Close wishes I’d published this a week or two ago (“You guys are paying A-Rod all that money because of his RBI! Derek deserves that kind of money and security, too, he doesn’t get the opportunities because he leads off!). Rodriguez had “only” 103 RBI in 2008 with a .413 wOBA and 100 in 2009 with a .405 wOBA. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking that he was actually better this season than the previous two. I expect him to hit better in 2011, but it will be interesting to see how he ages.