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The 2012 Carter-Batista Award

Award season is upon us. Perhaps this dates me (or at least my methods) as a blogger, but to me, this is a fun time to bust out a series of awards and rankings based on stats and metrics with varying degrees of usefulness. Today I will begin with the 2012 Joe CarterTony Batista Award for the hitter whose 2012 RBI total most exaggerates his actual offensive contribution.

If you came to read a diatribe against using RBI to measure offensive value, you have come to the wrong place. That has been done, and I am assuming that anyone who wants something like that are skilled enough with Google to find one elsewhere. If you are one of those people who really want to get into an argument using percentage of runners driven in or whether or not “clutch” is a skill or whatever, well, feel free, I am not going to address that here (I will probably have a 2012 version of a kind of situational hitting award, but that is different and I am pondering some changes with that).

This award is based on a simple metric: runs batted in (RBI) divided by absolute linear weights runs created (wRC). If you want lengthier explanations for why I use these specific numbers, you can check previous years’ write-ups (2011, 2010, 2009). This little metric basically removes context from the player’s offensive production relative and compares it to his RBI numbers. The higher a hitter’s RBI/wRC, the more his RBI total exaggerates his actual offensive production (as measured by linear weights, the generally accepted [if variously implemented] standard for measuring individual offense).

The award is named after two former players who rank historically high in this regard. It should not be taken to mean that the players on this list are good or bad hitters. It is simply meant as an entertaining (at least to me) year-end exercise to see which players’ RBI totals tend to outstrip their relatively context-free run production. The minimum qualification I have set is 90 RBI.

Without any further ado, here are your five 2012 Carter-Batista Award finalists.

5. Curtis Granderson, 1.118 RBI/wRC, 116 wRC+, .232/.319/.492
Any player who hits 43 home runs is going to have plenty of RBI, especially when hitting behind a revived Derek Jeter. What is more interesting is that Granderson managed only a 116 wRC+ despite all of those bombs. Granderson has hit 84 home runs over the last two years, and it will be interesting to see where his offense goes given his dropping BABIP and rising strikeouts. The Yankees picked up his option for 2013, which makes sense. Whether he stays in center or moves to a corner to accommodate Brett Gardner (assuming Gardner can stay healthy) is another issue worth tracking.

4. Mark Trumbo, 1.169 RBI/WRC, 122 wRC+, .268/.317/.491
Trumbo put on a show at the Home Run Derby, and was pretty fantastic through July. Then he pretty much completely fell apart in August and September, with a 55 and 51 monthly wRC+ respectively. His walks dropped, his strikeouts skyrocketed, and his power died. What is amazing about that slump is that his BABIP was not all that bad — around .300 both months (after being around .260 in June and July). Batting in that Angels lineup is nice for the ribbies, though. Trumbo’s plate approach leaves something to be desired, but if he keeps hitting for power, he is going to be useful for at least a few years.

3. Josh Hamilton 1.172 RBI/WRC, 140 wRC+, .285/.354/.577
Speaking of players with up-and-down 2012s… For example: Hamilton had a 208 wRC+ in April, and a 49 wRC+ in July. What happens with him in free agency is anybody’s guess. Whatever doubts one might harbor about his future, he really did have a heck of a 2012 season at the plate. It would be crazy to complain about a 140 wRC+ from any player. While Ian Kinsler‘s .326 on-base percentage was a letdown at the top of the batting order, Elvis Andrus gave Hamilton plenty of RBI opportunities with a .349.

2. Ike Davis 1.214 RBI/WRC, 110 wRC+, .227/.308/.462
Ike Jacobs! Okay, that is not really fair, as Davis took his share of walks. The problems for Davis this year in relation to his on-base percentage were contact and a low BABIP, which resulted in a very low batting average. It is difficult to tell how good Davis might be in the future. As far as his RBI go, having a .235 ISO while hitting behind David Wright and his .391 on-base percentage will tend to inflate those numbers.

And now, your 2012 Carter-Batista Award winner:

1. Alfonso Soriano 1.238 RBI/WRC, 116 wRC+, .262/.322/.499
The all-or-nothing cleanup hitter strikes again! Really, though, it was a nice rebound year for Soriano. He seemed to play better in the field, and played more than 150 games for the first time since 2006 — the year before his fateful contract with the Cubs. There is some hope here, although there are some superficial similarities with Vernon Wells‘ last season in Toronto, too. Soriano has a no-trade clause, but, as hard as it is to believe, he only has two years on his contract (albeit two years in which he is owed a total of $36 million). Having Mike Rizzo and David DeJesus getting on base about 35 percent of the time definitely helped his RBI numbers. Anything can happen, of course, but it is pretty unlikely that, at this age and given his recent performance, Soriano is going to hit as well as he did this in the future. And it is not like he was awesome. Outside of a Wellsian miracles, only two years left, Cubs fans!