Baseball Primer Newsblog
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Saturday, October 06, 2012
What happens when a professional hitter violates the RBI machine code? Get Carter (Joe Carter that is)!
But there are some batters who were not HR hitters who have impressive RBI Percentages. Hal McRae, the DH for the Kansas City Royals in the 1970s and 1980s, comes in at 18.0% even though he hit just 160 taters. That’s a better rate than more heraled RBI men like Frank Thomas, Dave Parker and McRae’s Hall of Fame teammate George Brett. Thurman Munson is another batter who has the RBI% of a slugger but wasn’t a slugger. Munson hit only 69 homers and he also had fewer RBI opps than most players, but his RBI% was 17%.
Probably the singles hitter who ranks the highest in RBI% since 1974 is Johnny Ray, a second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1980s. Ray had more than 3,200 runners on base for him in his 10-year career, and he drove in 16.5% of them while only hitting 53 homers. Maybe there’s some underlying reason why his RBI% is higher than we’d expect from a batter who hit mostly singles and mostly doubles? Maybe he was “clutch” or he bore down and really concentrated when runners were on base? Perhaps there were excellent hitters behind him which forced pitchers to throw good pitches to Johnny when there were runners on? Interestingly, Ray hit in the #2 spot (for a NL team) for more than half his career, so he had fewer RBI opps than a #3 or #4 hitter in his league or the AL. But he was excellent at driving in runs, and he did it while nearly 75% of his hits were singles.
Players like Mcrae, Munson, and Ray point to the possibility that there are some players who year-in and year-out perform well at driving in a high percentage of runners.
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