Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do RBI's Matter?

On my way home from work, I was listening to 670 The Score's Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein discuss some Sabermetrics. This got my Saberboner really working as Bernstein has widely accepted stat based baseball analysis, while the much older Boers remains a crotchety baseball fan (I still love him though).

Boers and Bernstein were deep into an argument about the validity of the RBI with respect to struggling White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin. Bernstein took the Sabermetric approach by saying the RBI is truly a product of your entire teams production, not an individual metric. Most of you are well aware that the batter has little to no control over the runners on base before him. If Player X hits 50 doubles and Player Y hits 40 the logical assumption would be that Player X has more RBI's, he has more hits that score runners. However, in all 50 of Player X's doubles no one was on base, and he has 0 RBI's while the bases were loaded for Player Y each time, and he has 120 RBI's. (Clearly this is an exaggeration, but it still proves the point.)

The old school Boers went with the philosophy that Carlos Quentin has so many RBI's this year (77) because he has been "clutch". While you can make an argument for this (and he did), "clutch" has been proven to be more of an illusion than a quantifiable metric. True, Quentin is mashing the ball with Runners in Scoring Position (1.073 OPS with RISP). Boers also seemed to indicate that because of Quentin's anemic batting average (.237) coupled with his performance with RISP is showing that Quentin may be a little bit clutchier than most.

Bernstein gave a typical retort back citing this being an anomaly, and Quentin being more of a "slugger" than an average hitter. Quentin has always been a low average, higher SLUG guy, so you would expect high RBI totals from a guy who, when he hits, get extra base hits.

I completely agree with Bernstein, but Boers did put up a nice fight, but I think these numbers say more about the White Sox baseball philosophy than either host acknowledged. When compared with Paul Konerko, who has had an amazing year with the bat, Quentin's 77 RBI's are comparable to Konerko's 87. Why is this, when one player is having a remarkable season while the other is having a remarkably bad season?

Besides the aforementioned argument you need to critically examine the White Sox lineup. Let me give you the wOBA (weighted On Base Average) for the typical White Sox lineup (if they have a typical lineup):

Pierre: .319 (Same as Gavin Floyd's)
Vizquel: .317 (Worse than Gavin Floyd's)
Rios: .345
Konerko: .411
Quentin: .357
Grindy McSuck (Kotsay): a cool .300
Ramirez: .327
Pierzynski: .282
Beckham: .304

The reason why Konerko has so few RBI's compared to his output this year is simple: his table setter's, the 1-2 guys, are absolutely terrible. How can you expect your 3-4 batters to drive in runs when no one is on base????? Granted, looking at the rest of the lineup, the wOBA's aren't much better, but pompous grinder ball philosophy that the White Sox have built this team on is absolutely hurting their production. This is evident when Quentin has a .237 BA (terrible stat) but is still producing runs. There are actually guys on base in front of him! So please, next time some idiot proclaims Pierre-Vizquel a great leadoff combo, spit in their face. Do not try to reason with them, because they are too stupid to understand baseball logic. Spit in their face and walk away.

And while we are at it, if I have to see Gordon Beckam sacrifice bunt a runner to second leaving Juan Pierre and Omar Vizquel to drive this runner in I'm going on a murdering rampage.

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