RBI, What Is It Good For?

We are standing at the precipice of a Cuban Missile-like conflict that could ruin the game of baseball as we know it. I’m talking about these old-school math-nerds clamoring about the RBI. RBI stands for “runs batted in,” but it should stand for “R.eally B.ad I.nformation” if you ask me. According to RBI, Kyle Seager was a better player than Joe Mauer last season. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard since someone try to tell me Dan Fogelberg deserved a Grammy. Check out this explanation of RBI in section 10.04 of baseball’s official rule book:

A run batted in is a statistic credited to a batter whose action at bat causes one or more runs to score, as set forth in this Rule 10.04.
(a) The official scorer shall credit the batter with a run batted in for every run that scores
(1) unaided by an error and as part of a play begun by the batter’s safe hit (including the batter’s home run), sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, infield out or fielder’s choice, unless Rule 10.04(b) applies;
(2) by reason of the batter becoming a runner with the bases full (because of a base on balls, an award of first base for being touched by a pitched ball or for interference or obstruction); or
(3) when, before two are out, an error is made on a play on which a runner from third base ordinarily would score.
(b) The official scorer shall not credit a run batted in
(1) when the batter grounds into a force double play or a reverse-force double play; or
(2) when a fielder is charged with an error because the fielder muffs a throw at first base that would have completed a force double play.
The official scorer’s judgment must determine whether a run batted in shall be credited for a run that scores when a fielder holds the ball or throws to a wrong base. Ordinarily, if the runner keeps going, the official scorer should credit a run batted in; if the runner stops and takes off again when the runner notices the misplay, the official scorer should credit the run as scored on a fielder’s choice.

Sounds like a real snooze-fest, am I right?

Does this stat even make sense? It appears that you don’t even need to “bat” in a runner in order to receive a run batted in. If a player draws a bases-loaded walk, they get credited with an RBI even though the bat never left their shoulder. And what about on a double-play? A hitter gets no RBI for driving in a run after “batting” the ball. This stat is more convoluted than Delta’s boarding policy.

Hey sportswriters, get your head out of the rule book and actually WATCH a game.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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Brad Johnson


Brad Johnson

In case it’s not clear (and it’s not), I almost never +1 anything on the interwebs. I have decided to use many years worth of +1 that I have stored in my inventory on this one post. Congratulations.