By In Baseball


You might have seen it — I just wrote a piece about Albert Pujols that was mostly intended to celebrate the player that Pujols was not so long ago. It seems amazing to me that Pujols is coming to the end of his fifth season with the Angels, which means that there are is a whole new generation of baseball fans who have never seen anything other than THIS Pujols — aging, one-dimensional, a DH, beat up, limited as a hitter. They should hear about the real Albert Pujols.

In doing so, however, I did want to ask the obvious question: Why do we keep believing that baseball players age better than they do?

I’ve gotten quite a bit of response — with much of the response insisting that Pujols has aged just fine and is obviously having a SUPERB year because he has a lot of ribbies. I don’t believe this to be true at all, and included why in the piece. Pujols’ 101 RBIs look great to the naked eye, but they are in large part an illusion. Pujols is now a roughly league average hitter who gets to hit in the middle of the Angels lineup, meaning he comes to the plate with many more men on base than anyone else in baseball.

The fact people still want to believe so deeply in the power of RBIs — “Runs win games, not your stupid statistics,” as a brilliant reader so eloquently put it — tells you the power of conditioning. We of a certain age grew up being told that only three hitting statistics last forever — batting average, home runs and RBIs — and the greatest of these is RBIs. The gospel was hammered in out heads, again and again, by newspapers, by television, by radio, by magazines, by conversations, by math teachers.

In 2005, the Kansas City Royals gave the everyday left field job to a minor-league journeyman named Emil Brown. He had kicked around baseball for a decade or so. He was drafted by Oakland, taken by Pittsburgh in Rule 5 draft, traded to San Diego, at which point he signed free agency deals with Tampa Bay, with Cincinnati, with St. Louis and with Houston. He had played ball in Modesto, in Nashville, in Grand Rapids and Durham and Louisville and Memphis, in Campeche of the Mexican League, in New Orleans and Portland, not to mention San Diego and Pittsburgh. He was 30 years old when he came to Kansas City.

Royals general manager Allard Baird loved giving guys like Emil Brown a chance. There were a couple of reasons for this. One, Baird loved (and loves) the process of discovery, of seeing something more in a player. He helped save the career of Raul Ibanez by giving him an everyday job when Raul was on the brink of being washed out of the game.

Two, the Royals didn’t really have anyone else to play left field.

So the Royals gave Brown the full-time left fielder’s job — and he was terrible. In early May he was hitting .194 with five extra-base hits. It was exactly as you would have expected — up to that point, Brown had been given 450 career plate appearances and his lifetime average was .200. Brown, as Denny Green might say, was who we thought he was.

Only, he wasn’t. The Royals stuck with him. And something funny happened. Thirty-year-old minor league journeyman Emil Brown started hitting. Over the next two months, he hit .319/.384/.484, hit a bunch of doubles, brought his season average to .286. He kept his average there for the rest of the year, hit with a bit more power as September came along, and finished with surprisingly decent looking counting numbers: .286, 17, 86.

He led the Kansas City Royals in RBIs.

A year later he had almost EXACTLY the same year — .287, 15, 81 — only with a few more doubles and walks. He again led the Royals in RBIs, this time by a lot.

Now, it should be said that when you took everything into consideration, Emil Brown’s flaws countered his hitting. He was, by the numbers and the eyesight, a subpar defender. In his first year, his 2.4 offensive WAR was wiped out by his -2.8 defensive WAR.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that the single most valuable thing for an everyday player in baseball is opportunity. It is plate appearances. It is the chance to hit with runners on base. When Emil Brown got those plate appearances — and kept getting them even after he struggled — he put up numbers. When there were runners on base, he drove in runs.

Albert Pujols will keep getting plate appearances — and keep getting them in the middle of the Angels lineup — because he’s Albert Pujols. But, based on pure performance, should he?

He’s hitting .259/.321/.446.

League average is: .258/.321/.424.

Even giving Pujols a few points because he does hit in a tough home ballpark, league average hitting is usually not good enough to get someone the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in a lineup behind Mike Trout. Plus, it’s important to mention that Pujols’ only value is as a hitter; when you look at league average you are including all the positions that are demanding defensively. Here is the American League average for players who play DH, 1B, RF and 3B:

Average: .261/.330/.449

Pujols has come to the plate with 431 runners on base, that’s 51 more than any other player in the American League. He has done a nice job of hitting with runners on base — he is Albert Pujols, after all — but not significantly better than Emil Brown did in 2005.  If Brown came to the plate with as many people on as Pujols has, you would expect based on his numbers to drive in 100 runs this year. True, Pujols will drive in 120, mostly because he hits more home runs. But, again, we are comparing Albert Pujols and EMIL BROWN.

I wrote in my piece that there are a half dozen sluggers in Triple A who, given Pujols’ spot every day in the middle of the Angels lineup, would thrive and knock in a bunch of runs. Some took offense to that, and I can understand that it doesn’t sound all that polite, but I feel sure it’s true. Emil Brown convinced me of that. There are a handful — not a lot, but a handful — of minor league players who will never get the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues because of defensive liabilities or age issues or something else that’s lacking. But if given 600 plate appearances in the Angels lineup, they probably could hit about as well as Albert Pujols is hitting this year. I don’t say that to insult Pujols — he is one of the greatest players in baseball history and it has been an honor watching him.

But he is 36, and he is aging because even the greatest players do. Ben Lindbergh reported on Twitter that in the Detroit broadcasting booth they were actually arguing whether Pujols or Trout is having the better year, and someone apparently said: “Pujols has better numbers–24 and 100 — Trout at 24 and 82.” Nonsense like that doesn’t do anybody any good, and it insults the memory of Albert Pujols when he really was the best player in the the game.


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179 Responses to Ribbies

  1. Gordon Hewetson says:

    So Albert Pujols is hitting .259/.321/.446. What are the second and third numbers? Guess second is on base percentage and the last is slugging (% hits > single)? I am of an age where RBI’s dictated my favorite players. Sometime in the early eighties my dad gifted me the Bill James baseball abstract. Opened my mind. Looked forward to every edition.
    Can you suggest a primer on current baseball stats I should know please?

  2. Duke says:

    Actually, the article is of no surprise to me because it is spot on. I am a lifelong Phillies fan; that is important because I do not look at baseball through rose colored glasses. I thought Ruben Amaro was crazy when he signed Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Holiday, and Cliff Lee to long-term contracts when they were in their early 30’s. My opinion has been borne out. It is my belief that once a player hits 30, contracts should not go much past 33 because 33 seems to be the end of the road for most ball players. The David Ortiz’ of the world are rarities and a huge gamble. As surprised as I was to see the Cardinals trade Pujols, clearly the GM had the same idea. Build young, invest young, stay relevant.

    • Not Jennifer Gibbs says:

      The Cards didn’t trade him. They got very, very lucky when the Angels offered him more money as a free agent than the $200+ million that the Cards offered him

    • SDG says:

      I think with Pujols people thought he would get to Ruth/Aaron/Bonds totals and they wanted to cash in. Kind of how like some team would probably still take A-Rod.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Any team that takes A-Rod is looking for a quick jump to attendance while he chases a number. That team will not be in the playoff hunt. He provides zero value towards winning. Negative value, in fact. Pujols still has some value left based on his ability to hit HRs. I’m sure he’ll reach the point where he’s a side show chasing a number, but he still can help a team win today. Just not as much as he used to help.

    • David says:

      Why does Joe attract the most arrogant,self important letter writers? Anyway,if rbi’s are meaningless than stats like ba with risp or with two outs are also meaningless. Players are people and some do perform better under pressure and do drive in more runs. No stat or stat line tells the whole story. They have to be looked at as a whole,not picked apart to prove a point.

      • Scott P. says:

        “Anyway,if rbi’s are meaningless than stats like ba with risp or with two outs are also meaningless. ”

        They are, at least as a predictor of player ability.

        “Players are people and some do perform better under pressure and do drive in more runs.”

        Actually, people have looked into this many, many times, and the answer appears to be: no, they don’t, at least not at the MLB level. Data trumps intuition.

        • David says:

          That’s just so silly.I guess ex-players don’t know anything about their peers either (watch the MLB Network). I wonder what data and studies would have said about the chances of the Cleveland Indians sweeping the Red Sox and taking 3 of 4 from the Blue Jays. Or Ryan Merritt shutting them down into the 5th inning.

      • DaveD says:

        The reason that RBIs are so meaningless is that it is a counting stat that depends heavily on context (runners on base). “ba with risp or with two outs ” is at least a rate state that mostly strips that away.

        Players’ performance in pressure is a different thing that can best be measured by other stats. WPA is a good one (Win Probability Added). It is context-dependent but at least it measures players performance against past player’s performance in the same situations.

    • Jeff A. says:

      I would add that not only is David Ortiz a rarity, but the Red Sox have always treated him as though they expect his production to fall off as a normal post-32 year olds numbers would. David has had numerous loud, public comments about the lack of “respect” the red sox give him by not offering him longer contracts, but let’s face it: the Sox have done it right (with Ortiz, at least).

  3. invitro says:

    It takes such a tiny amount of intelligence (and data) to understand that RBI’s measure opportunity at least as much as performance. I’ve understood this since I was a young teenager, and while I’d like to think this was me being smart, it’s probably because Bill James’ books had more of an influence on me then than TV/announcers/friends/Illuminati.
    I am very happy to see this kind of article from Joe. He used to write these articles every week (and in hot periods, every day) not so many years ago, and they’re why I became a Joe addict in the first place. Joe may not be an original saber researcher, but for my money he explains these things better than anyone ever, including Bill James and Rob Neyer, who are no slouches. (A challenge: explain platoon differential and whether it’s an individual skill. Bill has gotten hammered by his readers with it in the last week, and he seems unwilling to explain in a way that the readers will understand, or maybe the readers are just unwilling to understand.)

    • SDG says:

      I don’t think you need complicated stats to get why RBIs are dumb. They depend on factors out of the hitter’s control. As a kid I never understood why they were a thing.

      I think the popularity of RBIs is due to how we like to create morality plays about true teammates and bands of brothers. You know, how Derek Jeter inspires the Yankees and is fit to wear the honourable pinstripes and A Rod is selfish.

      • invitro says:

        I agree that silly morality judgements are part of RBIs’ appeal. But I don’t think it’s the main reason. The main reason is that RBI’s DO measure something very important, to a significant degree of reliability. Offense can be divided into two pieces: getting runners in scoring position, and driving them in (this is a Bill James mantra). RBI’s measure the second of these. So if someone thinks RBI’s tell you something about a player, it’s not (necessarily) because they’re dumb or making moral judgements, it’s probably because they’re right.

        I don’t know if anyone else still reads the Bill James Baseball Abstracts regularly. I am always re-reading one (I’ve read each dozens of times now). Bill never omits RBI’s, never says they’re dumb, never says they’re meaningless. On the contrary, he always DOES use them when describing a player’s offense.

        RBI’s are similar to pitcher wins & losses in this way. Both have often been raised to an exalted status by baseball insiders and outsiders. Neither is. Both have about a 50% (maybe much more, with W/L) reliance on teammates. But both do have significant meaning, especially when used in the right way, especially when used to compare apples to apples (two players who hit in the same spot in the lineup and have about the same number of runners on; two starting pitchers with about the same number of starts, amount of run support, and team defense support).

        • SDG says:

          RBIs correlate with good hitting, but they are a far worse measure of it than the traditional hitting for average and hitting for power (or OBP, SLG). All it does is maybe take into account sac hits, whether intentional or lucky, and well-timed groundouts.

          The best thing you can do, at the plate, is hit a grand slam. But we don’t measure those as anything except a curiosity, because we understand that the odds of even having an opportunity to hit one dependent on more luck that skill. And skill-wise, it’s as easy as hitting any other homer (well, the pitcher might be more likely to pitch to you with the bases loaded, depending on the score, blah blah blah, but – essentially). Same with RBIs. They measure your ability to drive in runs, which you do by hitting well. They aren’t even good at measuring that. If you draw a walk, which moves a runner into scoring position, who scores on a double by the guy behind you, it doesn’t show up in your RBI stats.

          • invitro says:

            “All it does is maybe take into account sac hits, whether intentional or lucky, and well-timed groundouts.” — This is false. RBI’s take into account situational hitting, which BA/OBP/SLG ignores completely, and which we have been talking about below –v ;).

            “They aren’t even good at measuring that.” — I suppose it depends on your definition of “good”. I think RBI’s do a good job of measuring the ability to drive in runs, at least when opportunities are considered. Your example would go into a third category of offense, that of moving runners on 1st base into scoring position. RBI’s aren’t supposed to measure this. In any case, I’d guess that this category is quite a bit less important than the other two.

        • Patrick says:

          The problem with RBIs is that it doesn’t even do what it claims to do and tell us how good a hitter someone is with runners on base/in scoring position.

          If you come up with a runner on 2nd and hit a single, and there’s a throw to the plate, you don’t magically become a better hitter if the runner beats the throw home, except in the world of RBIs.

          • invitro says:

            Say what? If the runner beats the throw home, then it’s likely that the batter hit a single in a position where a runner on second could score, and thus the batter did a good job of hitting with a runner in scoring position. The batter gets a deserved RBI. How can you have a problem with that?

          • James Bills says:

            invitro – seriously? a screaming line drive single that one hops into the OF’s glove is more likely to get a runner thrown out than a Texas-league blooper that the OF has to charge and field. So the bloop is an RBI and the line-drive isn’t, which tells us absolutely nothing about the hitter or that at bat.

          • invitro says:

            “James”, I don’t see where you’re disagreeing with me. But I didn’t try too hard, I kept thinking about Screaming Singles, you know, that awful ’90s rock band.

          • Pat says:

            James Bills (nice—but shouldn’t it be “Jame Bills”?),

            No, invitro never says anything “seriously”. There’s a word for the kind of commenter he is… I’ve temporarily forgotten it.

          • invitro says:

            Oh, snap! Someone’s being a cheeky little monkey!

        • NevadaMark says:

          Mr. James also said there is no such thing as a meaningless stat. If you think a stat is meaningless, that means it is only meaningless to you. Of course RBIs have value. It’s just that they are not the most important stat in the game, no where close. But no stat (except homers) gets more pub.

          • invitro says:

            So why don’t people just say RBI’s are overrated, or one of many other describing words on this page, instead of meaningless. Saying what you mean and what is right… is that so hard? (Don’t answer that.)

      • KRP says:

        RBI aren’t completely dumb. Certainly, they can be misleading when one batter gets way more RBI opportunities than another batter. However, clearly, some hitters are just better at getting RBI than others. Guys who hit a bunch of HR will get more RBI given the same opportunities than guys who are singles hitters. Guys with higher averages will get more RBI than guys with lower averages (all else held equal). Sure RBI aren’t as important as the the emphasis that used to be placed on them, but they do have importance.

        • invitro says:

          Of course this is all true, except for one mistake. RBI aren’t misleading. Someone may feel that they’ve been misled, if they believe that more RBI always implies a better run-driving-in performance. But that’s the person’s fault, not the statistic’s.

          • KRP says:

            My mistake is clearly in wording, not in understanding. Perhaps I should have said something like “looking at RBI alone is not sufficient, but RBI (as a stat) are not completely dumb.” I would have thought you knew what I meant since my point was very similar to yours.

            BTW, your post hadn’t yet appeared when I started writing mine.

        • SDG says:

          Well, yes, so that’s why we measure averages (or OBP) and homers (or SLG). RsBI are redundant. If you really wanted a complete picture I suppose we could have a category for “sac hits, walks, etc when a man was on third or maybe second” but that seems a bit cumbersome.

          • KRP says:

            @SDG, Averages, OBPs, and SLGs are not enough. The timing of hits does matter too. That’s why you have to look at things like performance w/RISP, w/ men on, and in leverage situations. Sure, some of those may even out over a career, but in any given season, those things make a huge difference in run creation.

          • Richard says:

            I’d like to see a stat like “bases produced”. Start with Total Bases. Add 1 for each sacrifice (anything where the batter is out but runners advance (and make it a +1 per advancing runner)) and stolen base. Subtract one for each caught stealing or hit into double play. Add 1 for every runner that goes from first to third or second to home on a single, etc….

            The formula will be really complicated, but I’m curious as to what the results would be.

          • Pat says:

            Richard, look up a semi-old stat called “secondary average.” It’s a rate stat, not a counting stat, but in conjunction with batting average, it gives you something kinda/sorta like what you’re describing.

    • steve says:

      Joe, unfortunately for me (but I hope fortunately for him), used to be a baseball writer. Now he is a sports writer. I hope years from now when he looks back he doesn’t think, “I coudda been a contender.”

  4. Bob says:

    Whether he was THE greatest at the time, I don’t know. But he certainly was one of them. A player you respected and admired…and who performed. He’ll be missed when he retires.

  5. Mark Daniel says:

    Pujols this year is has put up a .202/.246/.336 line with nobody on base this year. That’s in 246 plate appearances.
    But with men on base, he’s hitting .309/.381/.541.
    That’s in 299 plate appearances.

    Quite a drastic split. Odd, too. I can’t imagine it’s just luck, though it probably is.

    • DjangoZ says:

      I’d bet it is.

      I had a related question: has any player significantly and consistently hit better with runners in scoring position over their whole career?

      My guess is that there isn’t. But I’d love to read the research.

      • Patrick says:

        Most hitters are better with runners on base, not to the extent of Pujols split for this year, but better. There are more holes in the infield for ground balls to get through when 1B is holding a runner, and up the middle are playing for the DP. There also may be a bit of a drop off for some pitchers going from the stretch as opposed to the windup.

      • KRP says:

        Pujols hits .322 with a .596 slugging with RISP for his career. Without RISP he hits .305 wit a .566 SLG. That’s a pretty significant difference.

        • KRP says:

          *typo…Pujols hit .302 with no one on for his career.

        • Cliff Blau says:

          With no one on base, Pujols’ career slugging average is .570. WIth runners in scoring position, it is .596. That looks like a significant difference, until you remember that all sacrifice flies occur with runners in scoring position. Once you charge Pujols with at bats for his 99 sac flies, his slugging average with runners in scoring position becomes… .571.

          • invitro says:

            This is a good catch. I wonder how much of the difference between hitting with runners on/off is due to fly balls not counted in the former due to sac flies.

          • KRP says:

            Yeah, ordinarily I’d say that’s a good point. However, hitters often also change their approach with a runner on third with less than two outs. They just try to hit a fly to score the run, meaning they may miss out on hits by doing so (that’s why it’s called a sacrifice fly…because the hitter is making a sacrifice to drive the run home). In addition, often they try to hit the ball to the right side when with a runner on third but no one on first. Pujols did that really often with the Cards because he was a team player. In other words, looking at the stats in that case very well may be misleading.

          • KHAZAD says:

            Many people think players as a whole hit better with RISP, but it is mostly an illusion. In 2015, players hit .248 with the bases empty and and .257 with RISP. If you add in the sacrifice flies that goes down to .251.

            But if you don’t stop there, you could say that batters actually hit worse with RISP, it is just that they are defended differently. For instance, teams are less likely to shift with runners on base, and even if you are not shifting, 35% of RISP PAs come in situations where the infield is playing in or at double play depth, which increases the number of balls that get through. There are also more sac bunts. While successful bunts are not counted in average, they are usually attempted by poorer hitters, and they hit about .400 on the “unsuccessful” ones getting bunt hits nearly as often as the defense gets the lead runner.

            Teams do hit with less power with RISP, with an adjusted ISO of .144 compared to .150 with the bases empty, despite the fact that sometime the infield and outfield plays in a way that could increase extra base hits. Home runs are 8% more likely with the bases empty than RISP.

            The one thing players do better with men on is walk more, getting an adjusted (IBBs taken out) 8.2% walk rate with RISP, compared to 6.9% with the bases empty. I put this down to the pitcher concentrating on staying out of the middle, as HBPs take an even bigger leap.

          • Bpdelia says:

            Damn. Nice job buddy.

    • David says:

      Of course last year, Pujols hit .237/.361/.430 with RISP, and .260/.297/.513 without… so either he just learned to be a clutch hitter this year, he forgot last year… or this split is, in fact, meaningless.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        You know, some people might actually conclude he is having the better year this year. That happens too you know.

      • Bpdelia says:

        I don’t see why it can’t be ACTUAL variation? Players have good and bad years. This year he’s gotten better results.

        Much of this boils down to the fip/Era divide.

        I’m interested in a Stat that will do a better job stripping out luck when deciding who I’d like my team to get .

        But when I’m deciding who should win the CTA I don’t care about what should have happened. I’m just interested in who prevented the most runs

  6. Dent Lynch says:

    Then Ryan Zimmerman must be having a great year, much better than Albert,
    because he leaves EVERY runner on base, driving in no one…the Angels should trade for him right now!

  7. KRP says:

    I agree with almost everything you said, except the comment about making tons of soft outs. Pujols’s hard-hit percentage is essentially identical this season to his career average (36.0% this season vs. 35.9% for his career). The reason his batting average and doubles are down is due to his loss of any foot-speed he had and due to defensive shifts that weren’t utilized when he was in his prime. Sure, he’s not the player he once was, but he hits the ball hard a lot still (hard enough to be a .300-hitter). His soft-hit percentage is about what it was in 2010 and 2011. Also, the fact that he’s hitting about .330 with an OPS around .950 w/RISP may be somewhat random, but it explains his high-RBI total as much as hitting with lots of runners on base. Besides, he deserves to hit with runners on for once in his career; during his peak, he hit with way fewer runners on base than the vast majority of middle-of-the-lineup hitters. It’s just finally evening out for him.

    • Richard Aronson says:

      There is also a huge home ball park difference. The Cardinals play in a good offensive park; the Angels play in perhaps the worst park for hitters in the American League.

    • Richard Aronson says:

      The thing is, the numbers don’t back up your claim. Pujols has an OPS+ of 110, or 10% better than league average. He has 1.1 WAR. A replacement player would (almost by definition) have a WAR of 0; a league average hitter would have an OPS+ of 100. And this is his worst season with the Angels.

      More then that, he returned off of foot surgery, had an awful April (OPS+ of 62) and has been decent ever since. His numbers are the best they’ve been all season.

      Does that mean he has found the fountain of youth? Of course not. Pujols has gotten older, and he’s just a DH, even though he wants to play the field (his WAR would be much higher if he DH’ed full time). But he hasn’t gotten average. Note that in the Angels lineup, he has zero protection, or did so for most of the year. Defensive specialist Andrelton Simmons has batted behind him frequently. And Pujols still has an OPS+ of 110. He’s far from Pete Rose’s last several years, hurting his team in pursuit of an individual record. 110 is pretty good. It’s better than 15 of the other 21 position players who have taken at bats for the Angels this year. They have Trout at 170, and then half a dozen guys from 110-120. Yes, Pujols is 30 point of OBP behind Kole Calhoun. But he also has 35 more points of SP. He leads the team in home runs, is third on the team in slugging. Perhaps there are better players in AAA, but the Angels also have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

      I don’t think Pujols’ feet will ever be healthy enough to carry him to a 5 WAR season again, not unless you get at least one better hitter to protect him (the hitter the Angels hoped Josh Hamilton would be). But Pujols is still above league average, still above team average. His ballpark suppresses his numbers. When his OPS+ drops below 100, then I’ll agree that he’s washed up. But not until then.

      • invitro says:

        All this looks good to me, except one thing. You’re being unfair to the Hated Pete. When Pete was Albert’s age (36), Pete was still a great player. Heck, Pete was great at ages 37 and 38, too, and solid at 41. If Albert doesn’t quit before his contract expires, he’ll rack up a couple of below-replacement years, too.

        And if you’re going to moralize, the amount that Pete hurt his team in pursuit of a record is far less than Albert is hurting his team in pursuit of ultrabucks. And the fans got a heck of a lot more out of Pete’s record pursuit than they do watching Albert spend his hundred millions.

      • KRP says:

        Richard, you say the numbers don’t back me up. The numbers you cite are not numbers that indicate how hard Pujols hits the ball. Numbers like WAR and OPS+ are results oriented. They are not pertinent to my point. The numbers I cited are numbers that show he still hits the ball hard. When using numbers pertinent to my argument,the numbers DO support my argument. I also said the reason his results aren’t as good as they used to be is due to loss of speed and defensive shifts that were not utilized against him when he was in his prime. WAR doesn’t tell you how hard he hits the ball. For example, Ichiro had great WARs in his prime but only hit the ball hard about 22% of the time. Currently, Pujols hits the ball hard 36% of the time. i never said his results were as good. I simply said that much of his decline is explained by things other than how often he hits the ball hard.

      • What is WAR good for? Absolutely...something. says:

        Richard, I think you’re looking at WAR in the way that WAA (wins above average should be used). Pujols’ current WAR is 1.0, making him 1 win better than a replacement player (any 1B you could call up from Triple-A or get on the waiver wire), rather than 1 win better than average. His WAA is -0.9, so he’s almost a full win worse than an average player. For WAR, 2+ is considered starter-level, and he’s highly unlikely to make it to 2+ WAR this year.

        • invitro says:

          “What is”, you need to read what Richard said again. He’s not using Pujols’ WAR to conclude that he’s above average. He’s using Pujols’ OPS+ of 110 to do that.

          A good exercise for a WAR newbie: reconcile the facts that Pujols’ WAR is below average, but his OPS+ is above average.

  8. Ray C says:

    New Englanders of a certain age (not much older than Joe) remember the similar long, dark teatime of Yaz’s aging soul. But that cost a LOT less.

    • Binyamin says:

      Meh. At age 42 and 43 Yaz was still an above average hitter. And at age 37 he was a legitimate all-star, hitting .296 with 28 homers, and finishing 14th in the AL in what we now call OPS.

  9. Rick Rodstrom says:

    Yes, the fact that Albert Pujols hits behind the guy with the highest OBP in the League means he has lots more opportunities to drive in runs. Yes, Albert Pujols is a fraction of the hitter he once was, and has become more of a one-dimensional slugger than he ever was. True true and true.

    But you know what? If there was a guy on third with less than 2 outs and the Angels were trailing by one run in the 9th inning, I would still rather have Pujols up at the plate than Mike Trout. Why? Because Mike Trout strikes out twice as much as Pujols, and to drive in a run you need to put the bat on the ball.

    We are living in the age of the whiff. That ability to put the ball in play when you need to is not such an everyday skill. I get Angels games, so I’ve only gotten to see the shell of Albert Pujols, who suffers from everything mentioned in the article and then some, but he’s still a damned smart hitter who will change his approach to drive in a crucial run. Maybe go the opposite way against the shift, hit that lazy fly to deep enough center field. Every time I see someone stranded on third because of an ill-timed whiff, I think let’s not denigrate the RBI too much. Yes, the numbers need to be seen in context, but then again, so does everything.

    • Patrick says:

      For his career, Mike Trout is a .451/.461/.903 hitter in his 180 career plate appearances with a runner on 3rd base and less than two outs.

      FWIW, I doubt Trout has come up in the absurdly specific scenario you of: “9th inning, down by a run, runner on 3rd, one out” often enough to make some sort of larger observation about his performance in those situations

  10. Chris says:

    I recently explained the concept of runs batted in to a friend who had very limited knowledge of baseball. Her immediate response: “Wouldn’t those just be tied to how many people were on base before you, something you don’t have any control over?” I told her, “You just figured out in a minute why RBI is a junk stat…something that it’s taken baseball over 100 years to do (and much of it still hasn’t figured it out).”

    • invitro says:

      This, and other comments, are a perfect example of how most stupid fans just go 100% the opposite direction, and stay stupid. Most of you guys would’ve been squarely in the camp that says more RBI’s means better player, for most of baseball history. This was stupid.

      You have gone the other way, and now say RBI’s are junk. This is EQUALLY stupid. You are just as stupid as anyone described in Joe’s article.

      It is not a junk stat, it’s just massively dependent on number of opportunities. If you equalize opportunities, presto! you have a very useful stat. And even if you don’t, RBI’s still mean something. It’s still likely that someone with tons of RBI’s is a good hitter, who batted well when runners were on base, and it describes what the player did, which is all you can ask from a stat.

      Unfortunately, simple-minded people can only think in binary terms. Best stat ever, or junk stat. On or off. Everything or nothing.

      • KRP says:

        Very well said, @invitro. It’s absolutely ridiculous to say RBI is a meaningless stat. Just because a stat by itself idoes not tell the WHOLE story, doesn’t make it useless or meaningless. As you say, the sole objective in baseball is to score runs on offense and prevent runs on defense. What’s the key word in RBI? Runs. As a result, RBI has to be a meaningful stat. To make it even more meaningful, all we need is stats like RBI divided by runners on base (for that hitter) and RBI divided by runners in scoring position for that hitter. Those would be extremely meaningful stats to measure how well a hitter produces runs, and what’s in common to both of those stats? RBI.

      • Patrick says:

        But you don’t need RBIs to tell you how well a player hits with runners on base. We have other stats that can do that without needing to be adjusted for opportunity

  11. KRP says:

    Interestingly, the author implies that Pujols has driven in runs mostly because he has hit with so many runners on base. Yet, Rizzo (an All-Star), whom the author lists as hitting with the second-most runners on base has actually driven in fewer runs per runner on base than has Pujols. Also, Pujols has driven in more runs per man on base than Correa, whom the author lists as hitting with the third-most runners on base. Funny, if Pujols this year is as bad as the author says, then why is he more efficient at driving in runs than an All-Star and another near All-Star? Sure, looking at RBI alone is simplistic, but ignoring RBI efficiency is just as is just as unwise.

    • invitro says:

      Pujols is having a bad year because his 1.0 WAR says he is. His OBP is poor, not abysmal, but way below Rizzo and Correa. His defense is waaay down in 2016 according to WAR, by about a win. And the good situational hitting that you mention is not included in WAR. Pujols has a +1.3 Clutch rating (per bbref), that’s the best it’s been since 2006. If we ignore his defense and include his clutch hitting, presto, Pujols becomes a pretty good regular, still way below his first ten years of brilliance of course.

      • KRP says:

        First of all, you are completely ignoring my point which was that Pujols was more RBI-efficient than even an All-Star and that the author had a flaw in the article in that regard. I never said anything about overall play, so I don’t know why you are bringing that up. However, to your point, as I said earlier, I know Pujols isn’t the player he once was, but he’s also not as bad or as you as WAR say. That’s a major flaw with WAR that it doesn’t include timing of hits. Sure, perhaps over a career things even out, but in any particular year, don’t you think a better measure of actual performance would be to include “clutch” stats (timing of hits)? Also, BTW, Rizzo actually hits the ball hard less often than Pujols. Rizzo hits the ball hard 34.7% of the time, while Pujols does so 36.5% of the time. Also, Rizzo puts the ball in play less often (striking out 15.6% of the time compared to just 11.7% for Pujols). Based on those numbers, on could easily argue Pujols has hit at least as well as Rizzo; Pujols just hasn’t had the results. All that said, Pujols hasn’t performed poorly at all for at least two reasons: one, WAR is a flawed measure as I said, and two he’s hit the ball much better than the results indicate. I never understood why those who create the two different WAR measures do so in a very sophisticated manner but have a major flaw in not including the timing of hits. Timing does matter, especially in any given season.

        • invitro says:

          “he’s also not as bad or as you as WAR say” — I may reply to your other stuff later, but first: (a) I’m not making any claim at all to whether Albert is good or bad. The 1st sentence I wrote is poorly written. I meant to imply that Joe thinks Albert is having a bad year because WAR says he is.

          (b) I’m not promoting WAR either, although I’m fine with it for the most part. But you have a serious problem in your argument where you say that WAR has a major flaw by not including situational hitting. WAR isn’t SUPPOSED to include it; one of the two key ideas behind WAR is to reinterpret performance as close to context-neutral as possible, and situations are context. You may be able to argue that someone using WAR to prove that hitter A is more valuable than hitter B, but you can’t say WAR is flawed for this reason. Again, all you can ask of a statistic is that it does what it says it does. (I pushed on this blog long and hard for people to include clutch hitting in their ideas about MVP candidates, but that got nowhere. BR’s are pretty much either all-in for WAR, or are Luddites.)

          • KRP says:

            My understanding is that WAR is intended to measure performance which leads to wins. After all, the “W” stands for wins. In that regard it is definitely flawed since situational hits are EXTREMELY important to wins. Regardless, people, including the author, use WAR all the time to talk a bout a payer’s value. Now, I understand why the author thinks Pujols is having a bad year, but my argument is that there are flaws in his article/analysis.

          • invitro says:

            But situational hits are viewed as LUCK, not skill. They are deliberately washed away; their absence from WAR is not a bug, it is a feature. (Again, if you don’t like that, take it up with the WAR authors, not me. :))

          • KRP says:

            I’m not arguing with you about WAR at all, and I never have been…I’m pointing out its flaws and trying to continue an interesting discussion. BTW, their theory is that situational hitting is luck, but bloop hits are luck too, yet they are considered hits just like ropes are, so calling situational hits “luck” is really ridiculous. Stat junkies also say things like it doesn’t matter when a run is scored or a basket is made. That’s plain wrong and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of sports. That statement makes a lot of sense in a close game. However, there are plenty of basketball players who pad their stats in garbage time, for example. The bottom line is, no one measure will ever suffice in summarizing performance…especially if statisticians don’t include all the necessary data. Scientists sometimes lack common sense. Here’s an example. Physicists still insist a baseball cannot curve. Sure, that’s true in a vacuum, but games aren’t played in vacuums. Stats can be really helpful, but some common sense and knowledge a bout the particular sport is necessary too. Last year, I performed an interesting study. I correlated the sum of individual WARs for each team with team wins. The correlation was decent (0.61) but not great. Again, I’m not arguing with you at all…I’m just pointing out that no one stat in any sport will be that good of a measure. It’s better to look at multiple stats and actually watch someone play too.

            Here’s another example of a flawed summary stat. Total QBR. That stat actually penalizes a QB for each time he’s sacked. Sure, some sacks are a QB’s fault, but the stat penalizes QBs even for sack that are clearly the fault of poor offensive lines. Bottom line, again a lack of common sense.

          • invitro says:

            I want to first apologize if I’m being a jerk by picking out one thing in a long post and criticizing it. I guess I do that a lot. But I am not saying that this means I don’t like the rest of your post. Only this part. And we’re all adults here, we can handle criticism. OK.

            “Stat junkies also say things like it doesn’t matter when a run is scored or a basket is made.” — This is just totally wrong. I’m not sure what a “stat junkie” is, maybe it’s the people that get high on AFLAC Trivia questions, but I think you mean sabermetricians. If so, then no. Sabermetricians do not say anything like this AT ALL. What they/we (hey, I’ve done a few original studies myself) say is that situational performance is not an individual skill; if a player has a good clutch performance one game, month, or year, it doesn’t mean they’re any more likely to in the future than if they had a bad clutch performance. This is in contrast to true individual skills like hitting homers, striking out batters, having a high or low field goal percentage, snagging rebounds, etc.

            And when we say this, it is NOT because of some philosophy or gut feeling. It is solely because an analysis of events tell us that this is the truth. If someone one day proves that clutch performance is an individual skill, we’ll be happy to accept that. (But that’s getting real close to being impossible, as such a result would have to account for the hundreds of studies that have already been done and say “no significant effect”.)

            And I’ll say again that I am in the camp that advocates that clutch hitting should be used when deciding who wins awards — like MVP’s and Hall of Fame. Both positive and negative clutch hitting. This is a tiny camp, in fact among BR’s it’s almost a camp of one. Joe is certainly not in this camp, but he doesn’t even think playoff performance is worth anything at all toward his HoF voting, or his Baseball 100. Oh well!

      • KRP says:

        BTW, Pujols’s OBP is not poor; it’s exactly average. Students would sure hate if you were a teacher because I guess you’d give a “D” or an “F” for average performance given what you said about his OBP.

        • invitro says:

          Well, I WAS a teacher for many years, and while a couple of students hated me, they were a distinct minority. 😉

          • KRP says:

            I certainly understand about that…I taught college for 11 years with excellent ratings, but almost every semester, there were one or two students that hated me. BTW, I meant no offense…I was joking with my wise crack…my point was simply that an average OBP is not poor…as I just assumed you just didn’t look into the fact that Pujols’s OBP is average prior to what you wrote. It was just supposed to be a funny way to point out that average is not poor.

          • invitro says:

            I suppose I was wrong about Pujols’ OBP. I didn’t compare it to anything, it just looked low to me. Or maybe I was mentally comparing it to other DH/1B’s OBP, which is probably appropriate, isn’t it? Is his OBP still average compared to other DH/1B’s?

          • KPR says:

            @invitro, the OBP for the DH “position” is .322. For the 1B position in the AL it’s .327 (it’s higher in the NL, but that wouldn’t be as fair a comparison since the pitching is different). So, yes, Pujols’s OBP is essentially average for both the position (which this year has been almost entirely DH for Pujols) and for batters in general.

        • Anon says:

          Pujols’ OBP is league average but that includes pitchers and weak hitting C and glove first SS. Pujols compared to other DH:
          Pujols 261/322/444
          DH in total (including Pujols remember) 255/327/452

          But that includes a lot of teams who use DH as a “day off” for regulars. If you look only at the players who have played more at DH than elsewhere, there are 9 guys who have qualified for the batting title whose primary position is DH. Pujols’ BA ranks 6th of 9, OBP is 7th of 9 and SLG is 8th of 9. However, simple ranking doesn’t tell the whole story – there are huge gaps between Pujols and the guys above him. Now to be fair, he gets some of that deficit back because of his home park which bad overall and worse for HR, but not nearly enough to make up for his really pretty poor numbers. His wRC+ (which combines OBP and SLG and adjusts for ballpark) is 107 which is 7 of 9 among DHs.

          As to clutch – using the “Clutch” stat at fangraphs (which measures not only runners but game state so it gives extra credit for hits late in close games), Pujols was not clutch his 1st five years, then seemingly overnight morphed into mega/super-clutch in 2006 (2nd best year among all players the last 25 years), then spent the next 8 years kind of, sort of clutch but with a couple un-clutch years thrown in. Last year he was terribly un-clutch before becoming very clutch again this year. Sooo, is he clutch or not? Remember, Pujols had remarkably consistent numbers the 1st 10 years of his career but his clutch ability kind of wandered all over the place. Clutch just doesn’t exist in any sustainable fashion. (BTW, Derek Jeter is another great example of how unreliable clutch is. He put up very consistent numbers over the prime of his career but his “clutch” wandered all over the place. In the end, Jeter was about the same in clutch and non-clutch situations.)

          For a guy whose sole purpose is to hit, he’s just not that good at it anymore. Shifting just killed him and he never adapted. His decline in BABIP tracks perfectly with the rise in shifting which has gone from about 2,357 shifts league-wide in 2011 to 13,298 last year. That number will be crushed this year as it was 10,262 through the All-Star break this year.

          Combine fewer hits on balls in play with his BB rate cratering in 2011 and his loss of any speed whatsoever and you have an aging slugger who just isn’t that good any more.

          (Side note: Another reason that Pujols dropped in the draft is because scouts all assumed he was a few years older than his stated age. Nothing solid like that has ever come up about his age but much like Cesar Cedeno 35 years ago, his decline would make a lot more sense if he were 2-3 years older than his stated age. Pujols started chasing a lot more pitches out of the strike zone starting in 2010 which sounds a lot like a slowing bat cheating to catch up to fastballs.)

          The problem with making these points is that the RBI folks just simply aren’t going to listen. RBIs are self-evident – a guy who drives in RBIs is good no matter what. I’m not as down on RBIs as some statheads, but it’s just inescapable that guys that have more RBI opportunities are going to drive in more runs.

          • KPR says:

            Anon, you can’t just look at those guys you listed. There are plenty of guys who have significant amounts of at bats (or PAs) at the DH position. Often, they don’t have enough PAs to qualify for the batting title because they are platooned…because they’re not good enough to bat against all pitchers. It’s unfair to exclude those guys since the reason they don’t play as much is they are not good enough…more precisely, they are inferior to Pujols. Another way to look at it is, when talking about an average DH, you can’t just include 8 or 9 guys when there are 15 full-time DH positions in the Majors. A more fair representation would be to look at guys with significant numbers of ABs or PAs. Among guys who have at least 300 ABs, Pujols ranks 6th of 11 in OBP (exactly in the middle). Among guys with at least 200 ABs, Pujols ranks 7th out of 15 (just above the middle). The latter seems a fair way to do it as there are 15 teams in the AL, and I believe each team is represented (one guy from each team, so you are getting the most full-time DH from each team). Again, if you don’t exclude guys who don’t get as many ABs as Pujols, you are excluding guys who are inferior to him. Pretty much, no matter how you slice it (as long as it’s fair), Pujols is no worse than average in OBP, whether including all AL players or just DHs.

          • KPR says:

            Incidentally, I just found the OBP for the DH position this seasons. It’s .322, compared to Pujols’s .323…again, average…just as I said.

          • KPR says:

            Anon, I’m going to have to argue vehemently about the age thing regarding Pujols. First of all, he came to this country with his family when he was 16, and he was not a baseball prospect at the time, so what incentive would he have had to lie about his age? (BTW, the primary reasons he wasn’t drafted higher were that scouts were afraid of his body type and his perceived lack of athleticism.) Secondly, according to every study I’ve ever seen, the mean peak of a baseball player’s performance is between the ages of 25 and 28, and the vast majority of players’ performances begin to decline by age 30. In other words, Pujols trend falls in line with the studies…actually, he might be a little better than the average trend line. Of course there are always outliers, but all the guys people think of who play well into their mid-to-late 30s are just that, outliers. People tend to ignore all the guys who weren’t good by their early 30s and forget that a ton of players actually retire by age 35. Nothing at all points to Pujols having lied about his age.

          • KPR says:

            As far as Cedeno goes, you are making assumptions without having any information on what really happened. Firstly, Cedeno was 23 when he drastically declined, so even if he were 2-3 years older as you said, he shouldn’t have begun declining so fast. Secondly, the widely attributed reason he declined so suddenly is that he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend. He was never able to recover from that mentally. I remember it really well as he was one of my very favorite players at the time, and many thought he was the “next Willie Mays.”.

          • Anon says:

            I don’t know where you’re getting your numbers from but the DH slash line for all teams this year is 254/326/449:
            For just AL teams it’s 254/326/451:

            However those numbers include pinch-hitting for the DH which isn’t an apples to apples comparison and guys pinch-hitting have atrocious numbers. Since that isn’t too many appearances, you can add a point or two to each slash stat. Feel free to calculate the exact numbers.

            Even using your criteria of guys who have 200 PA and have played 50% or more of their games at DH, he’s 7th of 15 in OBP, 9th in SLG, 8th in OPS and with a good night last night bumped up to 6th in OPS+. However that list includes: Byung Ho Park who was sent to the minors by the Twins, Prince Fielder who was playing with a neck condition so severe he eventually retired, and ARod who was so bad he was released. It also includes Pedro Alvarez who only platoons against righties and Evan Gattis who is primarily catcher now. Your initial position was that he is good. Now it’s that he’s kind of average-ish. I stand by my position – compared to other guys who are only DHs, Pujols is not that good.
            As to the age thing, that was definitely a part of the draft narrative. You can find many things on it if you search but start with his Wikipedia page where it notes that other teams in high school intentionally walked him in protest because everyone assumed he was older than stated.

          • KRP says:

            @Anon — Firstly, my discussion with @invitro was strictly about OBP. You decided to introduced the other two parts of the slash line. Secondly, even using your OBP numbers, for DHs they are not statisitically different from Pujols’s. Thus, as I said, Pujols’s OBP is average. As far as the earlier and more general discussion of me saying Pujols was having a good season, that takes into account situational stats. Now, sabermetricians can say there is no such thing as clutch, and that situational hitting is luck because it tends to equalize over the long run, and statistically speaking they are right (when looking at the long run). However, we are talking about THIS season’s ACTUAL PERFORMANCE/RESULTS, NOT the long run, and his hitting “in the clutch” THIS SEASON has been great. When evaluating a player you have to include that “clutch” performance because, whether it’s luck or not, it did happen. If you want to talk strict sabermetrics, then you’d have to look deeper at things like how often he hits the ball hard and how often he puts the ball in play. My point way above in that regard is that he has hit better than Rizzo in that regard. You can’t just pick-and-choose a fairly unreliable stat like WAR that ignores situational performance because that performance actually did happen. Lastly, even if situational performance is luck (good luck in Pujols’ regard this season), how can you disregard it when it actually happened and disregard his “bad luck” in that his average, BABIP, etc. are considerably lower than would be explained by how hard and how often he hits the ball? The bottom line is some of his numbers look average, but when you include his great situational performance (hitting with runners on and in scoring position THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED), he’s having a good season.

            As far as Pujols’s age, I still call BS for the reasons I gave. Also, if you look up concerns about Pujols for the draft, they talk about his performance FOR HIS AGE GROUP (he had not performed well relative to others of his reported age) and about his body type and athleticism. There is no reputable information on him being older than reported, and his draft position was reflective of the concerns I listed. He didn’t start performing better until after the draft. As far as Cedeno goes, you pulled that completely out of your backside without any regard for facts. You’ve completely lost credibility for that reason alone, and you are starting to sound like you are prejudiced against people form the DR. Also, you lose credibility for picking-and-choosing stats instead of looking at the overall ACTUAL performance of Pujols. Even if, for example, you believe WAR is a good measure (and it’s only moderately reliable if you correlate a teams’ total WARs (the sum of the WARs of each team’s individual players) with actual team wins), it still does not include situational performance that actually happened. If you want to talk actual performance/results, Pujols is having a good year, and if you want to talk theory and sabermetrics, Pujols is still having a good year because his hitting results are far-lower than would be explained by how well he actually hits the ball. Call that bad luck, or whatever, but it is no more or less luck than is situational hitting in any given season.

          • KRP says:

            As far as where I got the numbers for DHs, it was from ESPN. I used team stats, and used the split for DH. At the bottom of the team stats are totals for each league and for the MBL. If you look it up today, the OBP at the DH position is .321. Now, where did you get your stats? Mind you, whether you use the stats I got or the ones you got, Pujols’s OBP is still average as there is no statistically significant difference.

          • KRP says:

            ESPN has it at .256/.321/.428 for the MLB. In just the AL, it’s .253/.325/.450
            Oh, well, who are you going to believe? I guess that’s a new twist on the phrase, “there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics. 🙂 However, more importantly, as I said before, regardless of which DH stats you choose to believe are correct, Pujols’s OBP isn’t significantly different from the league or the MLB average.

          • Knuckles says:

            Cedeno didnt decline after killing his girlfriend. He declined after destroying his ankle. Rob Neyer discussed this myth in one of his books. Think it was in making a point about people thinking drugs ruined Gooden, when it was actually shoulder problems and the obscene workload the Mets threw on him at a young age.

          • KRP says:

            @Knuckles, yes, he developed bad ankles and knees, and that certainly contributed to his decline. However, the knee/leg problems weren’t until 4-5 years after the significant decline in his hitting performance, which started the very season that followed the off-season that he killed his girlfriend. He continued stealing bases at a great clip (the same great clip as before) the 4-5 years after the girlfriend incident, and leg/ankle injuries would first affect his running before they would have any effect on his hitting (or possibly both could happen at the same time, but hitting would almost certainly NOT be affected before running with chronic leg injuries). Not until he hurt his ankle badly, did his running decline, but his hitting started declining before that, right after the off-season during which he killed his GF. Again, there was absolutely no drop-off in his stealing numbers or percentages in the 4-5 years between when he shot his GF and when he hurt his legs.

          • KRP says:

            @Knuckles — You said, “He declined after destroying his ankle.” Here are the facts. He “destroyed his ankle” in 1980. He did have a minor knee injury in 1972, but as I said above it clearly didn’t affect his running and didn’t affect his hitting in 1973. His hitting decline began at the start of the 1974 season (right after the incident with the GF) when his OPS declined from significantly over .900 to .799 and hovered around .800 the next few years, while his WAR declined between 20 and 40% depending on the year. However, he stole bases at the same furious rate from 1972 through 1977, clearly not being affected by his knee injury. In 1977, he developed two sore knees and a sore ankle and didn’t steal much thereafter, and in 1978 he tore a knee ligament making him miss 2/3 of the season and got hepatitis in 1979 causing him to play poorly, but he bounced back with his best season since 1973 with a great season in 1980. He was never a good player again after 1980 as injuries and illness apparently took their toll. The Astros did also move the fences back in 1977, and that affected his power a little too but not that much as it had already declined several years earlier. In a nutshell, yes, injuries definitely contributed to his decline, but not until 4-5 years after the shooting of his GF. The bottom line is, the evidence points to the GF incident changing the trajectory of what was a budding-HOF career, and later, injuries made the decline even more drastic. Sure, it’s possible something else caused his initial decline after 1973, but it’s far more likely that he never recovered mentally after killing his GF since the decline began IMMEDIATELY after that.

      • SDG says:

        Isn’t his defense waaay down because he plays a position that by definition doesn’t require it? And the occasional game playing a position that barely required it.

        At this point it doesn’t make sense to analyse Pujols by using anything that has a defensive component. That’s not what he’s being paid for. And his offensive stats are decent.

    • Patrick says:

      “If Pujols this year is as bad as the author says, then why is he more efficient at driving in runs than an All-Star and another near All-Star?”

      Because if RBIs are a meaningless stat, then driving them in at a better rate than someone who won a popularity contest is similarly meaningless. But ignoring that for a second, all men on base are not created equal. A runner on third is better than a runner on 1st. Fast runners are more helpful than slow ones. Good outfield arms often make runners stay at third

      • KRP says:

        Well, the simple answer is RBI are NOT a meaningless stat when standardized for opportunities. The fact that you think so shows an extreme lack of understanding. Think about what you are saying. It’s absolutely ridiculous and would be analogous to saying it’s meaningless how many runs a team scores. RBI by themselves don’t tell the whole story, but that is far from saying RBI is a meaningless stat.

        • SDG says:

          RBI is a, lets not say meaningless, let’s say inefficient, stat, not because runs aren’t important, but because RsBI don’t tell us much about an INDIVIDUAL’S (individual stats are different from team stats) ability to drive in runs. They are too dependent on non-individual factors. If you take someone who hist a lot of homers for the 1956 Yankees, he will probably hit a lot of homers for the Cleveland Spiders. But he will drive in far, far, fewer runs.

          • KPR says:

            I would have thought with my last sentence it would be obvious I knew that the RBI stat had limitations. Thus, I’m not sure why you are replying to me with your post.

  12. Only as hitter Pujols is having a good but not great season.
    His RBI are very contextual: he has very good points in favor, as the fact of his very low strikeout % at bats with runners in scoring possition (8%) meaning a lot of balls put in play.
    However his at bats has the good luck for him to have two of the best players running the bases in the AL: Mike Trout , who is among the best basestealers is the best runner scoring from second with a single and Yunel Escobar is third in that list; and Trout and Calhoun are among the best runners in the AL scoring with a double when they are on first base. In other words, is not only that
    Trout and Calhoun and Escobar gets on base a lot of times, they are very good runners on base when the ball is putting on play.
    Pujols probably is doing better than a what a quadA who strikesout a lot will be doing in this year LAA team but his hitting skills shows a lot of RBI with singles and balls in play that have a lot of help of his teammates.

    • KPR says:

      His average and slugging percentage are very high with runners on and in scoring position. That doesn’t sound like he’s hitting a bunch of singles (as you say) when presented with RBI opportunities. His RBI are a product of some of what what you said AND ripping during RBI opportunities. 80% of his doubles and over 60% of his HR are with runners on, and a disproportionate share of them are w/RISP, in addition to the high averages in both situation.

      • Compare Mookie Betts with Pujols in clutch situations:
        Men on:
        Pujols 309 AP 12 2B 0 3B 16 Hrs 96 rbi 36 SO 309/379/532
        Betts 234 AP 15 2B 3 3B 13 Hrs 72 rbi 29 SO 332/380/611

        Betts is having a better year than Pujols (who is having a great year in this situation) but yet has 24 rbis less than him. Why? I suspect the quality of the guys hitting, getting on base and running behind Pujols have a lot to do with this and because Betts has 108 of those 130 games played hiiting as leadoff man againts 103 games fo Pujols hitting as cleanup hitter as fourth of the order.

        Now with not runners on base:
        Pujols 243 AP 3 2B 0 3B 10 Hrs 10 rbi 28 SO 209/251/352
        Betts 370 AP 21 2B 3 3B 17 Hrs 72 rbi 44 SO 313/349/536

        Pujols without men on base is a handicap for the lineup practically not creating run opportunities probably becasue he is not running anymore and as hitter and shiffting against him without runners on base is very effective. Betts in the other hand is a force creating runs opportunities for the rest of his teammates.

        How manny runs will drive in a QuadA in the same context of Pujols this year? probably a 20 or 30 less but still wil be having a great RBI year.

        • KRP says:

          I agree, Betts is having an awesome year (and in cidentally is a top contender for MVP), but that doesn’t mean Pujols isn’t having a good one. Thus I have no idea why you are bringing Betts in to the discussion.

          • If you read my previuos post I wrote that Pujols is having a very good year with the bat with runners on base, but that is not a great year as a whole: he is a defensive liability, he is a running liability and he is a liability creating oportunities when his teammates are not on base. I use Betts as comparison of a great year becasue he is having similar year than Pujols with his teammates in base but also he is a force getting on base when anyone is on base and one hell of defensive and runner player . Betts is having a great year and yet has not the rbis Pujols has because he has not the same quality of teammates batting ahead of him

  13. St Paul says:

    Twins fan here. I would like to compare Pujols to our $20 mil 30-something player: Joe Mauer.

    Pujols: .261/.322/.444 — 25 HRs and 101 Rbi’s
    Mauer: .275/.375/.401 — 10 HRs and 46 Rbi’s (batting mostly 2nd and 3rd, average fielder)

    Is the argument that Mauer is having a slightly better year? I think average Twins fans would prefer having Pujols statistics.

    • Patrick says:

      If Twins fans would prefer Joe Mauer to drive in runs like Albert Pujols, they should ask why the Twins let Eduardo Nunez (Career OBP: .312) hit leadoff for half the season.

    • invitro says:

      I don’t know how you define “slightly”, but I’d say Mauer is having more than a slightly better year, before looking at clutch hitting. His 53-point edge in OBP is worth about twice Pujols’ 43-point edge in SLG, and this is a big edge. (I’m pointing this out because many people mistakenly think equal-point differences in OBP and SLG are of the same importance.)

      There’s trouble for Mauer if we look at clutch hitting, though. His Clutch number is a stinky -1.6 wins, by far the worst of his career. Albert is at about +1.3, so if we include clutch, Albert is actually having the better year. And the huge RBI advantage is a hint! 🙂

  14. Tom says:

    What if we measured percentage of runners scored from third base and/or percentage of runners scored from second base, during Pujols’ at bats? Or at least some kind of RBI by percentage of runners in scoring position who scored? Or maybe RBI by category – hits, walks, sac flies, groundouts? Or maybe result of the AB by nobody on vs runners in scoring position – how many singles, doubles, triples, homers, walks, flyouts, groundouts, etc. This should give us some more insight, no? Although I tend to side with Joe – I don’t see any way to separate RBI from the context.

    Have to give props to the Cards, who I am not a fan of, for properly reading the future. Also, I was surprised not to see the PED issue at least raised with regard to career arcs. Maybe the people who accused Pujols back in the day can retract those accusations now? I think part of the issue is that he signed that deal when users of PEDs had distorted the traditional career arc and it was hard to tell how much was PEDs and how much of that was modern training, better nutrition, etc. And doesn’t somebody need to at least ask whether Ortiz may be getting a little extra help?

    • Rob Smith says:

      These numbers are under “Splits” in BBR. Pujols is hitting for a much higher average with Runners in Scoring Position, and in various situations with multiple runners on base. I do think Joe kind of glossed over that. The reason he did is that there is an overall thought that players generally hit about the same with runners in scoring position as they do generally. Any improvement in that is reflective of a smaller sample size, is temporary and more likely due to luck or randomness. Over time, the thought is that these numbers even out. I don’t know that I buy that entirely. But that’s the theory…. that “clutch hitting” is not a real thing, over time. Clutch hitters are already good hitters, and therefore more likely to hit well with runners on base.

      • invitro says:

        “there is an overall thought that players generally hit about the same with runners in scoring position as they do generally” — no, this is NOT an overall thought, and anyone thinking it is wrong. Players generally hit significantly better with runners in scoring position. This was mentioned previously on this page.

        Also, “the thought is that these numbers even out” is wrong, too. The idea that anything “evens out” is a myth; it’s mathematically and statistically false. It’s correct to say that these numbers are believed to be due to luck, but not that a good number can be expected to be followed by a bad number, which is what “evening out” means.

        “that “clutch hitting” is not a real thing, over time” — I won’t pick too much on this one, but it’s also wrong, depending on what “real thing” means. Clutch hitting is most definitely a “real thing”, in that it exists, both in the short term and over time. What it isn’t believed to be is an individual skill. You could say that clutch hitting exists, but clutch hitters don’t. You need to be specific with sabermetrics; details matter.

        • SDG says:

          You’re being purposefully obtuse. You know full well that in discussions about clutch hitting, it’s about whether or not some players fold under pressure like big babies and other players reach deep down and discover something inside them that makes them champions. Yes, of course “clutch hitting” exists. Joe Carter or Bill Maz or Kirk Gibson made the clutchest hits of all time. The point is whether that was a combination of very good baseball players and luck, or whether that was because of something unique to these individuals, something other players lack, that makes those three hits the result of a skill or attribute that can be statistically measured and replicated, in a way that goes beyond measuring hitting ability.

    • Patrick says:

      We could do that but I mean, even in your examples, wouldn’t we then have to adjust for hits with 2 outs, where the runner can break on contact? Hit-and-runs? How good an outfielder’s arm is? The speed/awareness of the baserunner? The current score? (For example, a 3rd base coach might be less aggressive sending a runner home on a hit in a certain situation, like a single with 2 outs in the 9th with the team down by three.)

  15. Rob Smith says:

    You can look at lack of RBI production in the same way. Freddie Freeman is hitting .289/.385/.552 with 27 HRs and only 64 RBIs. There are several factors in that. One, Freeman is hitting .245/.412/.541 with runners on base. A lower BA, a higher OBP and the same Slugging. Why? Because the Braves haven’t had much hitting behind him (Kemp is an improvement). So, predictable his walk rate goes up with runners on base and his BA goes down as they try not to give him much to hit.
    Also, Freeman has come to bat with 225 runners on base. He’s come to bat 131 times with Runners in Scoring Position. If he was playing on the Angels, he’d have both a better lineup around him that requires the other team to pitch to him, as well as more runners on base. But I still hear people complain about his RBI numbers, including on the Braves broadcasts. Everyone should instinctively know that he gets few RBIs because the team is the worst hitting/run scoring team in the league.

    • invitro says:

      Freeman’s Clutch number this season is -1.8 wins, which is very bad, and indicates that he has indeed hit very poorly in clutch situations.

    • KRP says:

      Also, if you want to talk about guys hitting behind Freeman, Pujols has had Simmons hitting behind him much of the time this season. Go look at his numbers. Besides, I think that protection stuff may be overrated. I’d love to see a study. With Pujols, for example, in his prime, it never mattered how good the guy behind him was. He always put up essentially the same great numbers. I’m guessing the protection stuff is similar to “clutchness,” it won’t bear fruit over time.

      • invitro says:

        If you want studies, they’re easily found. I goggled “baseball hitter protection study”, this is from the first result:

        ‘Tom Tango suggests that lineup protection positively manifests in just one measurable way, and it relates to what Bumgarner alludes to. Protection leads to a slight uptick in walks, which very well might be Bumgarner’s “giving in.”‘

        The above quote links to an extract from Tango’s execrably-titled The Book. (I’m not including URL’s because that puts a post into limbo.)

        • KRP says:

          Good info…thanks. I don’t have much of a chance to do research these days (really sever back issues and can’t sit for more than a minute or two), so your post really helps. It’s just what I thought, protection doesn’t really affect performance.

  16. Gooch says:

    I can’t believe there isn’t a statistic out there already that measures RBIs over RBI opportunities. Take the league average for getting a runner to the plate from third base, from second base, from first base, and from the plate (HR %). Add up the applicable percentages for the base runner situation to get an RBI opportunity for that particular at bat. Then keep a running total of RBIs over RBI opportunities. I know it’s not quite that simple, but something resembling this MUST exist somewhere already, yes?

  17. AdamE says:

    When I was a kid we moved to a new town. My dad took me to a church youth group function so I could start meeting other kids. When we got there an old guy up front was talking to a few kids. My dad said that’s preacher and then we grabbed a seat. Kids started asking the old guy questions. Did you ever pitch to Babe Ruth? (Answer: No but I saw him a few times) Who was the best hitter you ever faced? (answer: Stan Musial) It didn’t make any sense to me. The preacher was taking about playing baseball with all these mythical players and to my young brain he clearly couldn’t have done all the things he said. I told my dad, “he’s lying!” My dad shushed me and kids kept asking questions. Did you ever hit a home run? (Answer: I was a pitcher but I did hit one one time) Did you ever pitch to Micky Mantle? (Answer: Not only did I pitch to him but I pitched to him in the World Series) Even though I had been told to be quiet I couldn’t anymore. I said “Dad he’s lying in church to everybody and nobody is doing anything. They all think this old guy is telling the truth but he can’t be he is an old man, old men don’t play baseball and he says he even played in the world series! My dad looked at me like I was an alien. He said “Son, he wasn’t always an old man. That guy is Preacher Roe. He pitched for the Dodgers, he was famous all over the country. He did all those things he is saying.” That is the moment I found out baseball players get old. Not in the same sense that Joe is talking, just old. Before then they were these larger than life heroes; mythical beings that were forever young. Babe Ruth, Paul Bunyan, Ted Williams, Superman they were all the same. It crushed my way of thinking and reshaped the way I say sports stars on tv.

    • Anon says:

      You should read Josh Wilker’s excellent piece called “Cardboard Gods” (you can Google it). He talks about the same point – ballplayers always seem older than us. Kind of ties into Joe’s long-standing point that we all view baseball to some degree through the eyes of an 11 year old.

      I’m 48 and Jamie Moyer was the last player older than me and he retired 4 years ago now and I still have to remind myself sometimes that all the people playing baseball in the majors are younger than me, mostly by at least 10 years.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Worse than this is when players you grew up watching now are old men and are dying off. That’s happening to me. And every time I hear someone refer to Terry Francona as “Tito” I recall that I had Tito Francona’s baseball card when I was a kid in the sixties.

        • invitro says:

          Well, I remember when Terry Francona’s 1982 Topps rookie card had a bit of collector value when I was a kid in 1982. I think it was one of those Future Stars cards with three players?

  18. Gene says:

    I grew into a baseball fan in the era when avg, HRs and RBIs were everything, and I’m very happy we’ve gone beyond that. That’s not just throat-clearing, I really mean that.

    But …

    Joe, don’t tell me that if you were a player and finished the year with a .298 average you wouldn’t be thinking about the 2-3 extra bloops or swinging bunts that would have taken you to .301. And that if you finished with 99 RBIs you wouldn’t find yourself thinking about that screaming line drive you hit with the bases loaded, 2 outs in game 161 that ended up a brilliant out in Nolan Arenado’s glove.

    Or that you’d unimpressedly shrug your shoulders and mutter “whatever” if you were called a threat for the batting title or a great RBI man.

    I like watching lots and lots of hits (even singles!!) and I like seeing guys get 130 RBIs. If I was a player I would want to be a 2-hit-a-day Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew and compete for the damned batting title and threaten Ichiro’s single-season hits total every. single. year. If I couldn’t do that I’d want stratospheric RBI totals and if benighted old school fans patted me on the back and called me Captain Clutch I’d genuinely appreciate it and thank them for it. And damned if I’d apologize for any of those things either.

    People, we all get to be sports fans in our own way.

    • invitro says:

      You don’t get to say factually incorrect or stupid things and then demand that no one call you out on them.

      • Gene says:

        Well since I’m a free speech absolutist how can I do anything but agree with you? And thanks for your response to something I never said; I’ll add it to my non-sequitur collection.

        • invitro says:

          I’m glad you agree! And that non-sequitur collection sounds like a fun idea. I keep a logical fallacy collection but I bet yours is more fun.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        What “factually incorrect or stupid things” did he say?

        • invitro says:

          I didn’t say or imply that he did.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Then what was your comment directed at?

          • invitro says:

            It should be obvious that I was rebutting his claim of “People, we all get to be sports fans in our own way.”

          • moviegoer74 says:

            You did’t say it. But you did imply it. You changed Gene’s “We” to “You.” Gene said “We all get to be sports fans…”

            And you replied with “You don’t get to say factually incorrect or stupid things…”

            That statement very much did imply that Gene had said something factually incorrect or stupid. If you didn’t mean to imply anything about Gene you should have stuck with his choice of pronoun and said “We don’t get to say factually incorrect…”

  19. vtmike says:

    Anybody else being driven from reading the comments by invitro giving argumentative replies to not just every article, but every comment? On the Rio Diary Day 2 article, he has 32 of the 80 comments. That’s insane.

  20. JB says:

    Fascinating topic. I struggle with WAR. I need a college class on it and a deep dive into past seasons to get it pounded into my thick skull. WAR shows Babe Ruth seasons and Ted Williams seasons as valuable (rightly so) , but dismisses many others I’ve always thought were great.

    It seems WAR values walks and defense a bit too much and of course RBI has no meaning. The part I can’t get through the old thick head is how little WAR value David Ortiz has this year, or any year really. Also similar players through the years who play 1B, or DH. These guys rarely get respect. My eyes and gut tell me David Ortiz is WAY more valuable than Ian Kinsler, yet the WAR numbers are about equal.

    It just doesn’t compute. I’m looking for a better measurement on value. I know one thing for sure – I’d much rather have David Oritz hit in an important spot instead of Ian Kinsler. There may be reasons I’m wrong, but I can’t wrap my mind around any of them.

    • Karyn says:

      If there was a runner on second, and we needed one run–or two–I would far rather have David Ortiz hitting than Ian Kinsler.

      If I were building a team from the pool of MLB players, I would choose Kinsler over Ortiz. That’s true if my team was for 2016 and if it were for the next five years.

      WAR measures how well players do things that are under their control. They don’t control the park they play in, the times they come up with runners on base, or (for pitchers) the number of runs they get in support. WAR measures how well they hit for power and for average, how often they get on base, how well they field, how well they run the bases. You can argue the methods they use–and people do!–but that’s what it’s meant to do.

      David Ortiz hits the ball very hard. He draws a lot of walks, and he strikes out less often than does Kinsler. His plate skills are much, much better than Kinsler’s. But Kinsler isn’t terrible at these things, and he adds a bunch of value on the basepaths, and fielding a difficult position pretty well.

    • denopac says:

      Ian Kinsler has spent the bulk of his career as a 2B and David Oritz as a DH. Their similar WAR numbers simply mean that Kinsler has been better than a replacement level 2B to a similar degree that Ortiz has been better than a replacement level DH. It has nothing to do with who one would want at the plate with the game on the line.

    • KRP says:

      Great, gotcha.

  21. invitro says:

    Oh boy, Joe wrote about Colin K. I hope he posts a blog entry here so people can talk about it. Well, maybe not, I think it’s an almost stupendously silly thing to talk about. But I like talking about silly things. Anyway, since I’m a critic, I’ll just point out one stupendously silly thing Joe writes:

    ‘”These are political statements. … They might mean, “Oh, man, I forgot to let the office know to send out that email.”’

    No, Joe. No. That is not a political statement. Unless, I guess, you’re a Marxist and believe literally everything is a political statement. But I’m pretty sure Joe hasn’t stooped quite that low politically yet.

    (BTW, I’m probably in this camp: “Some disagree and don’t applaud his courage, but concede it is his right as an American to protest.” Except that I wouldn’t say I’m conceding anything… it’s his right, period, that’s a fact, he doesn’t need for me to concede it. I’m not even sure I disagree, as whatever Colin means by his sitting seems too vague to agree or disagree with. I do think it takes a bit of courage to sit, unless he’s doing it only because he’s about to get released, and is doing this so he can say he got released due to politics, rather than his poor play, as some cynics are suggesting.)

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Invitro, I have to say I had a similar thought to your last statement, that what if Kaepernick thought that taking a controversial political position would make it more difficult for the 49ers to cut him? I’m generally not that cynical and I doubt he did that, but it sort of puts the team in a bind; if they cut him, it looks like they did it because of the anthem thing. In San Francisco, that could be a big issue.

      • EnzoHernandez11 says:

        I’m usually on the cynical side of things, but not in this case. Even if his stance makes it harder for San Francisco to cut him, it doesn’t make it impossible. What it does do, however, is make it likely that if he is cut, no other team will pick him up. Thus, he put in jeopardy, if not his career per se, at least his ability to pick up the additional million or two he would have earned by carrying another teams clipboard for a couple of years.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Good points. As I said, I don’t really believe he did it for that reason, but it would be a very Machiavellian thing to do. For one thing, he may not have expected it to draw this much attention, although that’s hard to believe in the current environment. Frankly, I’m not sure he had a particular reason for not standing other than he was pissed off about the situation. I doubt that he set out to make a political statement to the public. The fact is, most fans that stand are just doing it perfunctorily because that’s what you are supposed to do and no one wants to be an outlier and they want to get the game started. And that’s what most of the players are doing too; they want to get the damn game on and just want to get the Anthem finished. As for showing respect, what about Baltimore Oriole fans who belt out “O’s” at the beginning of the last stanza (i.e, “Oh, say does that Star Spangled banner yet wave”)? How respectful is that. The point is, the anthem has become just a ritual that is performed before every game that has little meaning to most people-until they decide to get outraged about some player not standing, when half the crowd is probably out getting beer anyway.

    • invitro says:

      Here’s a sort of hilarious article on Colin I just read:

      It looks like the spin is already in. The article’s author is seriously dense: “Personally, I think the dislike of Kaepernick is inappropriate and un-American. I find it ironic that citizens who live in a country whose existence is based on dissent criticize someone who expresses dissent.” And many similar statements. I don’t think I need to point out the nonsense.

      I had forgotten about Chris Kluwe, who’s made a second career out of tramping around news studios whining that he got released because of his politics. Looks like another CK will soon be tramping in his footsteps.

      • Dan says:

        Yes, there is something itself ironic in finding irony in those who criticize Kap for his dissent in a country whose existence is founded on dissent… But the gist of the article, or at least the first part of it about Kap, is this: NFL execs despise Kap for doing what he did, and consider him a traitor:

        “He has no respect for our country,” one team executive said. “F–k that guy.”

        And it is noted that his sitting during the anthem has made him more despised than the drunk drivers, spouse abusers, etc. the NFL has signed. And I think that’s all pretty fair comment.

        What I’m interested in is how people get from “he won’t stand for the anthem” to “he must hate this country”. Personally, I don’t get it. For some people, maybe that’s what it is; but we’re all entitled to our views, and we don’t all have to ascribe the same meaning and significance to the anthem.

        • invitro says:

          “criticize Kap for his dissent” — I suppose that some people are doing this. Not me, though, I think dissent is a good thing (of course!). I’m criticizing him because he says that police officers are running around murdering black people. Which is BS, and leads to black people murdering police officers, which is NOT BS.

          • Dan says:

            Is that what he’s really saying?
            -Q: It can be seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement.
            -KAEPERNICK: As far as what? I don’t really understand what you’re trying to get at.
            -Q: You say people are getting murdered by police. You seem to indict all of police.
            -KAEPERNICK: There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it. And their government officials. They’re put in place by the government so that’s something that this country has to change.

            There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher.


          • Dan says:

            There’s more there, but I think that got the salient part of it. Of course, I welcome the chance to see where he says something more incorrect or irresponsible than that.

            Also: you seem to suggest that what Kap says (assuming for the moment he in fact says what you ascribe to him) “leads to black people murdering police officers”. I’m not sure that’s your intent, but that’s how it reads, and I would disagree. No police officer has been killed in the line of duty in the USA since July 19, 2016 (, which I think is before he sat and this became a thing.

          • invitro says:

            “KAEPERNICK: There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality, there’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable.” — You’re right… Colin is not saying anything at all like police officers are murdering people. What was I thinking?!

            ‘you seem to suggest that what Kap says (assuming for the moment he in fact says what you ascribe to him) “leads to black people murdering police officers”. I’m not sure that’s your intent, but that’s how it reads, and I would disagree.’ — You would disagree that these kinds of allegations led to the murder of those cops in Baton Rouge and Dallas?

            “No police officer has been killed in the line of duty in the USA since July 19, 2016” — So what?

          • Dan says:

            I don’t know what you’re thinking. But it looks to me like you’re misrepresenting Kap’s words. I don’t see him saying (as you put the words into his mouth) that “police are running around murdering black people” – why say”running around”, in fact, other than to give the impression that Kap is saying cops are by and large out of control and getting off scot free? I don’t see him saying or suggesting that. I *do* see him saying that black people are being murdered (by the police) and that the police aren’t held accountable. I don’t agree with that as a blanket statement, but I think it’s fairly clear it has happened in some cases and it’s wrong.

            As I read what he’s said (and I haven’t read it all), he thinks the killing by police of black men is too often unjustified and unpunished. As his other quotes make clear, he doesn’t intend his stance to be a blanket indictment of the police. I think that’s not unreasonable, and I doubt it’s led to the killing of any officers.

          • invitro says:

            “I *do* see him saying that black people are being murdered (by the police) and that the police aren’t held accountable.” — This is what I said he said.

            “I don’t agree with that as a blanket statement, but I think it’s fairly clear it has happened in some cases and it’s wrong.” — Do you have proof of this, or is it just a gut feeling you have? (I’m sure you at least have evidence, as accusing someone of murder without evidence is a scummy thing to do.) I haven’t done an exhaustive search, but I’m not aware of any police officers murdering a black person and not being held accountable for it. Please share your information. (And yes, if reporters did their job, they would ask Colin to do the same.)

            “I doubt it’s led to the killing of any officers.” — Didn’t comments similar to Colin’s lead to the murder of the police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas? Or at least a belief that police were murdering blacks and getting away with it?

        • Marc Schneider says:

          But just because the “country is built on dissent”-which I think is a questionable statement anyway-doesn’t mean that dissenting gives you immunity from criticism. Kaepernick has a right to dissent and people have a right to criticize him for doing so. I have read so many people, especially on the right, who say something and then, when people criticize them for it, say, “hey, what about free speech?” Your free speech doesn’t take away my right to free speech. You have a right to speak and you are immune from any legal consequences, but you don’t have a right to be immune from all consequences of that speech, i.e, people hating you and saying nasty things about you.

          So, in that sense, I don’t see why “the dislike of Kaepernick is inappropriate and un-American.” If an NFL player made a pro-KKK statement, would people say, “oh, he has a right to his opinion and you shouldn’t be criticizing him for it?” Of course not.

          As I have said, I don’t see the big deal about him not standing for a song. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what a professional football player thinks politically. But people have every right to dislike him for it. It’s utterly stupid to say that we have to like every form of dissent; if someone burns the American flag, as they did at Wrigley in 1976, we have to simply appreciate their right. No, we don’t.

  22. lazermike says:

    Whether RBI are meaningful or not depends on what we want them tell us. There’s nothing wrong with saying Pujols is having a good year because he has a lot of RBI — knocking in runs is a big part of his job, and he’s done it. What is wrong is concluding from his 100+ RBI that he is a good PLAYER — because, as Joe says, his RBI are so dependent on Trout and others hitting in front of him.

    RBI tell you what happened in a game. There is always a place for stats like that. But it just doesn’t do a good job of evaluating a batter’s ability to hit, or how he’ll hit in the future.

    • KRP says:

      Yes, what you say makes sense, and yes having high on-base and fast guys hitting in front of you is helpful. However, you are also conveniently excluding the fact that Pujols has had great averages, OBPs, and SLGs in run-producing situations this season. Those are just as important in the discussion, are independent of anything the guys in front of him do, and need to be included in the analysis. When you include them with his slightly above average overall slash line or with WAR, you have to conclude he’s having a good year.

    • KRP says:

      Oh, and we’re not talking about predicting the future; we’re talking about ACTUAL performance/results THIS SEASON.

    • invitro says:


  23. Pat says:

    “Pujols’ 101 RBIs look great to the naked eye, but they are in large part an illusion. Pujols is now a roughly league average hitter who gets to hit in the middle of the Angels lineup, meaning he comes to the plate with many more men on base than anyone else in baseball.”

    Anyone know how to find this data? Just from basic stats, the Angels don’t have the most hits, walks, LOB, or RBIs in the American League—they’re basically average in each. (Obviously the Angels are going to have a more-than-average tilt toward the top of the order due to Mike Trout. But after Trout, the drop-off is pretty severe…)

    One thing I figured out about RBIs a while ago is that they’re wildly unreliable for judging a player’s season, they’re not terrible at judging a player’s career. Swings go both ways, after all, and in the end things tend to even out. Tons of lousy MVP awards have been given to someone with 130 RBIs, but if you look at the career leader board, the players with 1500+ RBIs… look pretty much like the population of the best hitters in MLB history (the steroid era has complicated this, but less than you might think).

    • invitro says:

      “Anyone know how to find this data?” — I don’t know where to find the ranks. But here’s where to find the number for a hitter: go to his b-r page, go to his batting page, find the Situational Batting table, look at the BaseRunners subtable. For example, I see that Albert has had 444 runners on base in his PA’s so far in 2016, and he scored 18% of those. For comparison, Trout has had 353 runners on, and has scored 17% of them. (Also for comparison, I didn’t do the calculation, but the (444 BR)/(552 PA) ratio looks like the largest of Albert’s career. If it really is #1 in baseball in 2016, I wonder where it ranks over the last 10 or so years. Rizzo is 437/568.)

      “in the end things tend to even out.” — No, they don’t.

      • 444/552 is the highest ratio since Vinny Castilla in 2004 (via retrosheet data)

        • invitro says:


        • KRP says:

          444/552 = 0.8043437

          You reference an important website below. Not to be too technical, but, actually, we really don’t know based on the website you give below whether Pujols’s is the highest ratio since 2004. The table you reference below only gives the top 20 since 1970. The 20th on the list is 0.8131868, and Pujols’s is 0.8043437. so there could easily be some between those two values since 2004.

          • the link is addressing where to find data + code to answer this kind of question, and not specifcially the question of who was the last player to have a rate so high. but that said, I updated it to show all players since 1970 with more than 0.8 runners per PA (31 of them), which puts Pujols at 28th highest.

          • KRP says:

            Cool…Those are great stats. For the purposes of RBI opportunities, they could be misleading, though, because we don’t know how many runners were on base when batters walked (since that is not fair to include as an RBI opportunity, except perhaps in the case were the batter walked with the bases loaded). It would perhaps be more fair to show number of runners only in PAs that didn’t result in a walk (except when the batter walked with the bases loaded).

          • invitro says:

            I thought this was interesting enough to look at closer, and I haven’t done anything with Retrosheet event logs yet, so I thought this was a good opportunity to get my feet wet. I wrote my own code, and verified 521’s results. He set a cutoff at 300 baserunners… Charlie Hayes had 266 baserunners in 301 PA’s in 1999 for SF, giving a crazy .884 ratio that would be #1 from 1973 through 2015 if he was included. You can see the Barry Bonds effect with him, and Ellis Burks (2000) and Jeff Kent (1998) in the top 10. Another one: Carmelo Martinez for SD in 1989 had 259/301 = .861, which would be #3.

            I looked at %age of baserunners scored, too. Now I do consider this to be a bit of a freak or trivia stat, because it doesn’t include driving yourself in with a homer, and that really should be included somehow, but I got bored of thinking of a good way to include that. I ignored IBB’s (even if there was an RBI), but didn’t ignore regular BB’s, as I don’t agree that they should be skipped. The highest %ages of baserunners driven in (well, just scored, this isn’t just RBI’s) mostly belong to… you guessed it, hopefully: super-high average players. Brett’s megayear of 1980 was the champ, he drove in 29% of baserunners that year. Puckett 1994 is #2 with 28%, then Buckner 1981, Galarraga 1993, Gwynn 1997, Walker 2002, Galarraga 1996, Parker 1978, and Bagwell 1994.

            I ranked the same, but looking only at runners in scoring position. It’s not much different: Brett 1980 with 47%, then Buckner 1981, Gwynn 1997, Cooper 1980, Allan Craig 2013, Gwynn 1995, Galarraga 1993, Cooper 1976, Buckner 1978, and Leo Gomez 1994 in 334 PA.

          • KRP says:

            Nice analysis, @invitro. It’s a tough one with the BBs (non-intentional ones) because at least some of them are due to pitchers pitching around the batter even though they didn’t officially walk them intentionally. A guy like Votto is so picky when he’s up with RISP, that it might actually cost the team by drawing so many walks in those situations instead of trying to get a hit on pitchers’ pitches. WHo knows? However, with other guys, who are not very picky, walking w/RISP is often because the pitcher doesn’t throw them anything close to the plate (despite the catcher not rising to his feet to signify a formal intentional walk). I can see both sides of the discussion, whether or not to include walks. However, , at the risk of getting down to the borderline ridiculous, perhaps a good way to handle it is to exclude the walks w/RISP in close-and-late situations as that is when pitchers are most likely to pitch around batters, especially “dangerous” ones. The bottom line is, stats are really helpful, but they’re never perfect.

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