Padding the totals: highest percentage of low-leverage RBI

Here’s a very quick post that I still think you’ll find interesting. I found the top 100 players of all time in terms of RBI from low-leverage situations. Hank Aaron is #1, as you might expect, since he’s pretty much #1 in anything RBI-related. Then, I calculated the fraction those low-leverage RBI represented of their total career RBI. Let’s call this the “Alex Rodriguez RBI” stat, since he’s so often accused of driving in runs when they don’t really matter.

Click through for the large table of how these 100 guys stack up.

This table shows the player’s rank in raw total low-leverage RBI, followed by his name, his raw low-leverage RBI total, his raw overall RBI total, and the percentage of low-leverage RBI.

rank    player          llRBI   RBI     %
48	Jim Edmonds	376	1199	31.4%
80	Derrek Lee	333	1078	30.9%
77	Vinny Castilla	340	1105	30.8%
2	Alex Rodriguez	598	1950	30.7%
30	Graig Nettles	400	1314	30.4%
64	Steve Finley	355	1167	30.4%
93	Shawn Green	325	1070	30.4%
7	Sammy Sosa	503	1667	30.2%
85	Mark Teixeira	331	1101	30.1%
32	Paul Molitor	391	1307	29.9%
100	Mo Vaughn	318	1064	29.9%
40	Andruw Jones	380	1289	29.5%
92	Norm Cash	325	1104	29.4%
35	Ivan Rodriguez	389	1332	29.2%
28	Dwight Evans	404	1384	29.2%
17	Mickey Mantle	440	1509	29.2%
4	Frank Robinson	525	1812	29.0%
58	Bernie Williams	363	1257	28.9%
39	Carlton Fisk	383	1330	28.8%
22	Luis Gonzalez	414	1439	28.8%
38	Paul Konerko	384	1336	28.7%
42	David Ortiz	380	1326	28.7%
3	Barry Bonds	571	1996	28.6%
98	Frank Howard	319	1119	28.5%
9	Jim Thome	484	1699	28.5%
25	Albert Pujols	408	1434	28.5%
63	Derek Jeter	356	1254	28.4%
89	Rocky Colavito	327	1159	28.2%
69	Carlos Beltran	350	1243	28.2%
18	Jeff Bagwell	430	1529	28.1%
6	Ken Griffey	515	1836	28.1%
16	H Killebrew	444	1583	28.0%
10	Reggie Jackson	477	1702	28.0%
79	Ellis Burks	337	1206	27.9%
26	Eddie Mathews	406	1454	27.9%
41	Carlos Lee	380	1363	27.9%
33	Robin Yount	390	1406	27.7%
15	Chipper Jones	450	1623	27.7%
44	Orlando Cepeda	377	1365	27.6%
54	Mike Piazza	368	1335	27.6%
51	Darrell Evans	373	1354	27.5%
12	Frank Thomas	469	1704	27.5%
57	Al Oliver	364	1326	27.5%
37	Jose Canseco	386	1407	27.4%
5	Willie Mays	522	1903	27.4%
47	Johnny Bench	376	1376	27.3%
60	Pete Rose	358	1314	27.2%
72	Gil Hodges	347	1274	27.2%
99	Craig Biggio	319	1175	27.1%
81	George Foster	333	1239	26.9%
1	Hank Aaron	614	2297	26.7%
66	Ruben Sierra	353	1322	26.7%
75	Miguel Tejada	342	1282	26.7%
97	Lance Berkman	320	1200	26.7%
62	Todd Helton	357	1345	26.5%
8	Rafael Palmeiro	485	1835	26.4%
53	Juan Gonzalez	370	1404	26.4%
70	Duke Snider	350	1333	26.3%
83	Edgar Martinez	331	1261	26.2%
52	Mark McGwire	371	1414	26.2%
23	Al Kaline	414	1582	26.2%
55	Jason Giambi	367	1405	26.1%
19	Harold Baines	425	1628	26.1%
76	Larry Walker	341	1311	26.0%
86	Paul ONeill	330	1269	26.0%
29	Fred McGriff	402	1550	25.9%
87	Tino Martinez	329	1271	25.9%
84	Scott Rolen	331	1287	25.7%
24	Mike Schmidt	410	1595	25.7%
43	Billy Williams	378	1474	25.6%
74	Gary Gaetti	343	1341	25.6%
73	Bobby Abreu	345	1349	25.6%
11	C Yastrzemski	471	1844	25.5%
20	Gary Sheffield	425	1676	25.4%
90	Moises Alou	326	1287	25.3%
56	Jim Rice	366	1451	25.2%
13	Dave Winfield	462	1833	25.2%
36	Willie Stargell	388	1540	25.2%
82	Ted Williams	332	1324	25.1%
45	Jeff Kent	377	1518	24.8%
78	Garret Anderson	339	1365	24.8%
67	Andr Galarraga	353	1425	24.8%
50	Carlos Delgado	373	1512	24.7%
21	Cal Ripken	418	1695	24.7%
14	Manny Ramirez	451	1831	24.6%
27	Tony Perez	406	1652	24.6%
65	Joe Carter	354	1445	24.5%
34	George Brett	389	1596	24.4%
94	Ron Santo	324	1331	24.3%
59	Vlad Guerrero	361	1496	24.1%
88	Chili Davis	329	1372	24.0%
91	Brooks Robinson	325	1358	23.9%
61	Dave Parker	357	1493	23.9%
71	Rusty Staub	348	1466	23.7%
49	Andre Dawson	375	1591	23.6%
46	Ernie Banks	377	1636	23.0%
95	Yogi Berra	321	1431	22.4%
68	Stan Musial	353	1698	20.8%
31	Eddie Murray	396	1917	20.7%
96	Willie McCovey	320	1556	20.6%

So, wow, A-Rod really does rank pretty close to the top in terms of low-leverage RBI. Jim Edmonds, a guy often accused of show-boating, steals the top spot.

Hank Aaron, despite having the most llRBI of all time, finished middle of the pack.

It is killing me that Joe Carter has a very low percentage–just about a dozen spots from best.

This is pretty interesting, I think–what do you think?

24 thoughts on “Padding the totals: highest percentage of low-leverage RBI

  1. 1
    Colton says:

    Must be why the Yankees want Derek Lee.

  2. 2
    birtelcom says:

    Very interesting, both in concept and execution. It would also be interesting to see how this correlates with high-scoring environments and low-scoring environments. Hypothesis: low-scoring environments produce more close games and more high-leverage RBI.

    • 3
      Ed says:

      I was thinking something similar Birtelcom. Just looking at Edmonds and McCovey (the first and last players on Andy’s list), Edmonds had 44.1% of his PAs in low-leverage situations. McCovey only 36.7%. So we may not be seeing a true difference in “leverage performance” only a reflection of underlying PA dynamics. Or something like that.

    • 4
      Hartvig says:

      That was my first thought when I was Willie McCovey at the top of the list, plus you’ve got Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo & Ernie Banks up there towards the top as well. But you’ve also got Norm Cash, Mickey Mantle & Frank Robinson down towards the bottom too. Still, it seems to me fewer runs must play a role. I thought maybe playing on mediocre teams might also be part of it but then you’ve got to explain Yogi & the Man right at the top of the list. Type of hitter maybe? Stretch & the Killer are pretty similar and played in the same era but they’re a long ways apart on the list. You’ve got notoriously impatient hitters like Joe Carter & Garrett Anderson side-by-side with Ron Santo & Ted Williams. Derek Jeter & Edgar Martinez next to Jim Thome & Mark McGwire.

      I suspect if someone had enough time that some patterns would emerge but I’m thinking it’s going to take a lot of work & a fair bit of skill to unravel this pattern.

      • 7
        bells says:

        Would a quick and dirty way to assess that be to figure out the ratio of (Low Leverage RBI/total RBI)/(Low Leverage PA/total PA)? That would at least be interesting to compare that list with the list above, without having to get into the huge context of run environment, etc first.

    • 5
      Andy says:

      No question. It’s also true that playing for good teams correlates with more llRBI–note Jeter’s name pretty high on the list. And so as Hartvig says below at #4, I think it’s pretty interesting to see the guys who appear at one end of the list but are out of context. Norm Cash is way high up but didn’t play in a high-run environment. Vlad Guerrero is very low on the list despite playing in a high-run environment. Those are the two names that seem the most significant to me.

  3. 6
    Doug says:

    Other guys who, like Carter, have been dissed despite (or because of) being known as RBI guys are also near the bottom of this list, incl. Tony Perez, Dave Parker and Andre Dawson.

  4. 9
    PP says:

    Interesting list for sure, and one that includes a few of the most unloved by advanced stats. Never would have occurred to me that Joe Carter isn’t in the top 1000 career WAR.

    A side point, I remember when Brett and Schmidt each had 1595 RBIs. Now I see Brett has 1596 (confirmed by BBRef). Anyone know when that happened?

    • 10
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      Speaking of which – check out the 1961 AL Runs and RBI leaders:

      RUNS BEFORE:
      Mantle – 132 (tied)
      Maris – 132 (tied)

      RUNS NOW:
      Mantle – 132 (the leader!)
      Maris – 131 (2nd place)

      RBI BEFORE:
      Maris – 142 (the leader!)
      Gentile – 141 (2nd place)

      RBI NOW:
      Maris – 141 (tied)
      Gentile – 141 (tied)

      It’s hard to believe that there was a mistake in the record-keeping of a basic stat, of the league-leaders, in my lifetime. I think of those sort of mistakes as happening waaay back, in the era of Hugh Duffy (lost his 1894 Triple Crown) or Napolean Lajoie (his 1901 BA fluctuated from .422 to .405 to .422 to .426), not in the modern era.

      Well, at least Jim Gentile is still alive to enjoy his “new” RBI title.

      • 11
        Richard Chester says:

        When the 1912 season ended it appeared that Heinie Zimmerman won the triple crown. Years later it was discovered that his RBI total was overstated and accordingly reduced his total from 103 to 99. Thus Wagner was the RBI leader and Zimmerman lost his triple crown.

      • 13
        PP says:

        As I thought, it appears Mantle lost the run scored, which gave him “only” 5 run titles instead of 6. And congratulations to Gentile. I did not know that.

      • 17
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        I’ve read that Hank Geenberg “might” have an extra RBI in 1937, giving him 184 for the season and tying Gehrig (1931) as the AL season leader. It was during game two of a doubleheader on June 20th, 1937; he grounded out, a runner scored but it’s not clear if the runner was on second or third.

        It has not been certified as “official” yet by either B-R or Elias.

      • 20
        PP says:

        Could there be another hit in Teddy Ballgame’s bat to give him a 3rd triple crown in ’49? That would have made it 3 in 5 years (excluding the war, of course)!

        • 21
          bstar says:

          Two more hits in ’32 would have given Jimmie Foxx two straight Triple Crowns (he won in ’33 but lost the BA title in ’32 to Dale Alexander).

          • 23
            PP says:

            Hornsby missed a 3rd triple crown by 2 homers in ’21 when he lead the league in just about everything else. Are you listening in Miguel?

    • 19
      bstar says:

      Whoa, yeah I always thought Brett and Schmidt were tied in RBI too, PP.

      Chipper passed both of them last year and finished with 1623 RBI, but Schmidt still holds the record for RBI while playing third base at 1419.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120720&content_id=35283406&vkey=news_atl&c_id=atl

  5. 12
    no statistician but says:

    I’m not sure this chart illustrates much of anything, to sound the skeptical note. If a guy comes up with runners on base in a blowout, is he supposed to doff his cap to the opposite bench and do the gentlemanly thing? Sounds more like cricket to me.

    • 14
      Andy says:

      Well, it’s certainly true that the data above don’t tell much of a story. Clearly there are many factors that play in. At the very least, though, we can say that certain guys have been more impactful than others in terms of their RBI (although of course something like WPA tells us that already.)

      It’s interesting, though, to that McCovey, a guy who doesn’t stack up all that well compared to many other HOFers, does so well in this particular metric.

      • 15
        no statistician but says:

        I think if you compare McCovey and Sosa, whose RBI totals are fairly close but who lie at the opposite ends of the chart as well as having careers in low-scoring and high scoring eras, you can draw some sound conclusions.

        Others on the chart? Mantle walked a lot in high leverage situations, often semi-intentionally, so his opportunities for driving in runs in low leverage situations naturally went up, percentage-wise. As others have intimated, there’s a story about many of the guys here.

  6. 16
    bstar says:

    I agree with others that the era played in seems the dominant variable here.

    9 of the 10 worst at the top of this list played in the steroid era, with 8 of the 10 playing a high percentage of their career in this time frame (Molitor played ’til ’98, so he’s an iffy choice).

    9 of the 10 best DIDN’T play in the steroid era. The only other guy is Chili Davis, who is similar to Molitor in that he played ’til 1999.

    I also think the quality of team has something to do with it as well. If playing on good teams gives you a lot of low-leverage situations, is the same true for playing on really bad teams? Maybe guys who played for middle-of-the-pack squads have an advantage here. Maybe.

  7. 22
    John Autin says:

    I’m no Alex apologista, but:

    – 38% of his ABs came in low-lev;

    – his high-lev slashes are virtually the same as low-lev;

    – leverage index is partly determined by runners on base, so a comparison of his high-lev RBI rate (190 RBI per 500 ABs) to his low-lev rate (71 RBI per 500 ABs) is meaningless.

    This might be interesting: I would have guessed that his walk rate would be notably higher in high-lev spots. But it’s not — once you subtract the IBBs, his walk rate in high- and low-lev is the same.

    Give Alex this much, though: His HR rate with the bases full is WAY above any other situation.

    • 24
      mosc says:

      Sorry to go all non-stats but A-Rod hits mistakes out of ballparks. He is a guess hitter with good plate coverage laterally. If you put him in situations where he can reasonably expect a fastball in the strike zone and the pitcher puts it belt high, it’s probably going to get put in a different timezone.

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