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Players with the most 90-99 RBI seasons and worst 100-RBI seasons

Posted by Andy on October 11, 2007

The talk of Josh Beckett possibly winning the AL Cy Young largely on the strength of 20 wins reminded me just how much we tend to judge ballplayers on fairly arbitrary numbers. Until the offensive explosion of the 1990s, if a guy hit 20 homers, he was a power hitter. If he hit 19, he wasn't. We stat-minded folks know that there's no significant difference between 19 and 20 homers, and that it's quite possible that the 19-HR guy had a much more productive season than the 20-HR guy.

These days, the 20-HR "barrier" no longer exists since just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry hits 20 HRs now and then. But one barrier that still lingers is the 100-RBI barrier. If a guy gets 100 RBIs in a season, he's a run-producer, and if he gets 99, he's not.

We all know that's ridiculous, and for the heck of it, I wanted to see which players got between 90 and 99 RBI the most. These are guys who, with a little luck, would probably be remembered much better than they are (for no particularly good reason.)

                   From  To   Ages Seasons Link to Individual Seasons
+-----------------+----+----+-----+-------+------------------------------+
 Billy Williams    1962 1971 24-33       7 Ind. Seasons
 Eddie Murray      1978 1992 22-36       6 Ind. Seasons
 Dave Parker       1976 1990 25-39       6 Ind. Seasons
 Ken Boyer         1956 1962 25-31       6 Ind. Seasons
 Robin Ventura     1992 2002 24-34       5 Ind. Seasons
 Chili Davis       1988 1997 28-37       5 Ind. Seasons
 Harold Baines     1983 1996 24-37       5 Ind. Seasons
 Keith Hernandez   1977 1985 23-31       5 Ind. Seasons
 Ted Simmons       1972 1982 22-32       5 Ind. Seasons
 Bobby Murcer      1971 1976 25-30       5 Ind. Seasons
 Lee May           1970 1977 27-34       5 Ind. Seasons
 Tony Perez        1968 1977 26-35       5 Ind. Seasons
 Frank Robinson    1963 1973 27-37       5 Ind. Seasons
 Eddie Mathews     1956 1965 24-33       5 Ind. Seasons
 Hank Aaron        1956 1973 22-39       5 Ind. Seasons
 Mickey Mantle     1953 1960 21-28       5 Ind. Seasons
 Rogers Hornsby    1920 1931 24-35       5 Ind. Seasons

Interesting. With the exception of a few players who certainly don't suffer from under-deserved reputations (Murray, Robinson, Mathews, Aaron, Mantle, and Hornsby) the rest of this list is comprised of guys who are thought of as being just a cut below when it comes to run-production. Even Murray is somewhat thought of that way, although he made the Hall of Fame easily based on great longevity and consistency. But some of these guys - Baines, Hernandez, Simmons, Murcer, Perez - are classic "almost greats" in terms of reputation. Frankly, I'd take any of them over most of today's alleged "stars."

Here's another interesting list among these seasons of 90 to 99 RBIs: highest OPS+

  Cnt Player            **OPS+** RBI Year Age Tm  Lg  G   PA  AB  R   H  2B 3B HR  BB IBB  SO HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions
+----+-----------------+--------+---+----+---+---+--+---+---+---+---+---+--+--+--+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+-----+-----+-----+-----+---------+
    1 Barry Bonds          231    90 2003  38 SFG NL 130 550 390 111 133 22  1 45 148  61  58  10   0   2   7   7  0  .341  .529  .749 1.278 *7/D
    2 Mickey Mantle        223    94 1957  25 NYY AL 144 623 474 121 173 28  6 34 146  23  75   0   0   3   5  16  3  .365  .512  .665 1.177 *8
    3 Rogers Hornsby       222    94 1924  28 STL NL 143 640 536 121 227 43 14 25  89   0  32   2  13   0   0   5 12  .424  .507  .696 1.203 *4
    4 Ty Cobb              206    91 1910  23 DET AL 140 590 506 106 194 35 13  8  64   0   0   4  16   0   0  65  0  .383  .456  .551 1.007 *89
    5 Mark McGwire         200    90 1995  31 OAK AL 104 422 317  75  87 13  0 39  88   5  77  11   0   6   9   1  1  .274  .441  .685 1.126 *3D
    6 Rogers Hornsby       200    94 1928  32 BSN NL 140 619 486  99 188 42  7 21 107   0  41   1  25   0   0   5  0  .387  .498  .632 1.130 *4
    7 Mike Schmidt         199    91 1981  31 PHI NL 102 434 354  78 112 19  2 31  73  18  71   4   0   3   9  12  4  .316  .435  .644 1.079 *5
    8 Joe Jackson          192    90 1912  22 CLE AL 154 653 572 121 226 44 26  3  54   0   0  12  15   0   0  35  0  .395  .458  .579 1.037 *98
    9 Arky Vaughan         190    99 1935  23 PIT NL 137 610 499 108 192 34 10 19  97   0  18   7   7   0   5   4  0  .385  .491  .607 1.098 *6
   10 Frank Robinson       188    94 1967  31 BAL AL 129 563 479  83 149 23  7 30  71  14  84   7   0   6  10   2  3  .311  .403  .576  .979 *97/3
   11 Mickey Mantle        188    97 1958  26 NYY AL 150 654 519 127 158 21  1 42 129  13 120   2   2   2  11  18  3  .304  .443  .592 1.035 *8
   12 Tris Speaker         188    90 1912  24 BOS AL 153 675 580 136 222 53 12 10  82   0   0   6   7   0   0  52  0  .383  .464  .567 1.031 *8
   13 Rogers Hornsby       187    94 1920  24 STL NL 149 660 589  96 218 44 20  9  60   0  50   3   8   0   0  12 15  .370  .431  .559  .990 *4
   14 Ed Delahanty         186    93 1902  34 WSH AL 123 539 473 103 178 43 14 10  62   0   0   4   0   0   0  16  0  .376  .453  .590 1.043 *73
   15 Ty Cobb              185    99 1915  28 DET AL 156 700 563 144 208 31 13  3 118   0  43  10   9   0   0  96 38  .369  .486  .487  .973 *8
   16 Babe Ruth            182    99 1922  27 NYY AL 110 495 406  94 128 24  8 35  84   0  80   1   4   0   0   2  5  .315  .434  .672 1.106 *79/3
   17 Bobby Murcer         181    94 1971  25 NYY AL 146 624 529  94 175 25  6 25  91  13  60   0   1   3   9  14  8  .331  .427  .543  .970 *8
   18 Mickey Mantle        181    99 1955  23 NYY AL 147 638 517 121 158 25 11 37 113   6  97   3   2   3   4   8  1  .306  .431  .611 1.042 *8/6
   19 Hank Aaron           178    97 1969  35 ATL NL 147 639 547 100 164 30  3 44  87  19  47   2   0   3  14   9 10  .300  .396  .607 1.003 *9/3
   20 Tris Speaker         178    90 1914  26 BOS AL 158 668 571 101 193 46 18  4  77   0  25   7  13   0   0  42 29  .338  .423  .503  .926 *8/13
   21 Hank Aaron           177    96 1973  39 ATL NL 115 465 392  84 118 12  1 40  68  13  51   1   0   4   7   1  1  .301  .402  .643 1.045 *79
   22 Boog Powell          176    99 1964  22 BAL AL 134 506 424  74 123 17  0 39  76   6  91   2   2   2   9   0  0  .290  .399  .606 1.005 *7/3
   23 Steve Evans          176    96 1914  29 BTT FL 145 580 514  93 179 41 15 12  50   0  49  10   6   0   0  18  0  .348  .416  .556  .972 *973/8
   24 Stan Musial          175    94 1944  23 STL NL 146 667 568 112 197 51 14 12  90   0  28   5   4   0   7   7  0  .347  .440  .549  .989 *98/7
   25 Willie Mays          173    97 1957  26 NYG NL 152 668 585 112 195 26 20 35  76  15  62   1   0   6  14  38 19  .333  .407  .626 1.033 *8

A lot of these seasons are by very productive players who ended up with 90-99 RBIs because of so many walks (and not enough opportunities to drive in runs.) But there are a lot of interesting seasons on there--I'm not going to make many comments, but give yourself a couple of minutes to take a look at it.

And now, the converse, the worst 100+ RBI seasons of all time, as ranked by lowest OPS+

  Cnt Player            **OPS+** RBI Year Age Tm  Lg  G   PA  AB  R   H  2B 3B HR  BB IBB  SO HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions
+----+-----------------+--------+---+----+---+---+--+---+---+---+---+---+--+--+--+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+-----+-----+-----+-----+---------+
    1 Joe Carter            76   102 1997  37 TOR AL 157 668 612  76 143 30  4 21  40   5 105   7   0   9  12   8  2  .234  .284  .399  .683 D379
    2 Vinny Castilla        82   102 1999  31 COL NL 158 674 615  83 169 24  1 33  53   7  75   1   0   5  15   2  3  .275  .331  .478  .809 *5
    3 Ray Pepper            82   101 1934  28 SLB AL 148 598 564  71 168 24  6  7  29   0  67   1   4   0   0   1  4  .298  .333  .399  .732 *78/9
    4 Ruben Sierra          85   101 1993  27 OAK AL 158 692 630  77 147 23  5 22  52  16  97   0   0  10  17  25  5  .233  .288  .390  .678 *9D
    5 Joe Carter            85   115 1990  30 SDP NL 162 697 634  79 147 27  1 24  48  18  93   7   0   8  12  22  6  .232  .290  .391  .681 *873
    6 Tony Armas            85   107 1983  29 BOS AL 145 613 574  77 125 23  2 36  29   0 131   2   0   8  31   0  1  .218  .254  .453  .707 *8D
    7 Marv Owen             85   105 1936  30 DET AL 154 655 583  72 172 20  4  9  53   0  41   7  12   0   0   9  6  .295  .361  .389  .750 *5/3
    8 Glenn Wright          86   105 1927  26 PIT NL 143 626 570  78 160 26  4  9  39   0  46   1  16   0   0   4  0  .281  .328  .388  .716 *6
    9 Tony Batista          88   110 2004  30 MON NL 157 650 606  76 146 30  2 32  26   4  78   4   4  10  14  14  6  .241  .272  .455  .727 *5
   10 Jeff Francoeur        89   103 2006  22 ATL NL 162 686 651  83 169 24  6 29  23   6 132   9   0   3  16   1  6  .260  .293  .449  .742 *9/8
   11 Paul O'Neill          89   100 2000  37 NYY AL 142 628 566  79 160 26  0 18  51   2  90   0   0  11  17  14  9  .283  .336  .424  .760 *9/D
   12 Ray Jablonski         89   112 1953  26 STL NL 157 640 604  64 162 23  5 21  34   0  61   1   1   0  15   2  2  .268  .308  .427  .735 *5
   13 Joe Carter            90   107 1996  36 TOR AL 157 682 625  84 158 35  7 30  44   2 106   7   0   6  12   7  6  .253  .306  .475  .781 *73D
   14 Joe Pepitone          90   100 1964  23 NYY AL 160 647 613  71 154 12  3 28  24   7  63   3   2   5  17   2  1  .251  .281  .418  .699 *38/9
   15 George Kelly          91   103 1929  33 CIN NL 147 632 577  73 169 45  9  5  33   0  61   1  21   0   0   7  0  .293  .332  .428  .760 *3
   16 Ernie Banks           92   106 1969  38 CHC NL 155 629 565  60 143 19  2 23  42   7 101   7   8   7  15   0  0  .253  .309  .416  .725 *3
   17 Travis Fryman         93   100 1996  27 DET AL 157 688 616  90 165 32  3 22  57   2 118   4   1  10  18   4  3  .268  .329  .437  .766 *56
   18 Joe Randa             94   106 2000  30 KCR AL 158 665 612  88 186 29  4 15  36   3  66   6   1  10  19   6  3  .304  .343  .438  .781 *5/D
   19 Willie McGee          94   105 1987  28 STL NL 153 652 620  76 177 37 11 11  24   5  90   2   1   5  24  16  4  .285  .312  .434  .746 *8/6
   20 Eddie Robinson        94   102 1953  32 PHA AL 156 685 615  64 152 28  4 22  63   0  56   5   2   0  13   1  2  .247  .322  .413  .735 *3
   21 Gee Walker            94   111 1939  31 CHW AL 149 645 598  95 174 30 11 13  28   0  43   7  12   0  16  17  6  .291  .330  .443  .773 *7
   22 Moose Solters         94   134 1936  30 SLB AL 152 676 628 100 183 45  7 17  41   0  76   1   6   0   0   3  0  .291  .336  .467  .803 *7/8
   23 Pinky Higgins         95   106 1938  29 BOS AL 139 603 524  77 159 29  5  5  71   0  55   1   7   0   0  10  9  .303  .388  .406  .794 *5
   24 Wally Pipp            95   108 1923  30 NYY AL 144 634 569  79 173 19  8  6  36   0  28   6  23   0   0   6 13  .304  .352  .397  .749 *3
   25 Andruw Jones          96   104 2001  24 ATL NL 161 693 625 104 157 25  2 34  56   3 142   3   0   9  10  11  4  .251  .312  .461  .773 *8

If you've been a reader for a little while, you'll know that I posted this already, along with some analysis, back here. These guys are almost all significantly overrated.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2007 at 6:23 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

27 Responses to “Players with the most 90-99 RBI seasons and worst 100-RBI seasons”

  1. I remember a lot of those seasons well. Good luck convincing anyone who grew up in the 80's that Joe Carter is overrated.

    Those speedy Cardinals teams always had interesting RBI stats. Tommy Herr had the 3rd lightest hitting 100 RBI season ever (based on Isolated Slugging), when he batted 3rd behind Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith. In '87, Willie McGee hit 5th in that lineup - of course, he often had an opportunity to drive in the leadoff men, but he was also right behind Jack Clark, who walked about 100 times before the All-Star break.

  2. Tony Perez strung together 11 straight 90+ RBI seasons from 1967 to 1977. That was in an era when 90 RBIs was the new 100 RBIs. Perez place in the NL top ten in RBIs in 10 of those years (1967 to 1976).

    All things being relative, 10 straight top-10 finishes in RBIs is very impressive. Is there a way to search for most consecutive top-ten finishes in RBIs?

  3. Not to my knowledge, although I like the way you're thinking--I agree that raw numbers don't mean as much as relative rank or other numbers normalized for context. That's one of the reasons why I like OPS+ and ERA+ so much...it corrects for a lot of factors.

  4. Slightly unrelated, but when is b-r going to make stats like Batting Runs sortable?

  5. That's a question for the Big Boss Man (i.e. Sean.)

  6. Yeah, I asked him a while ago.

    It feels like forever since the last baseball game was played.

  7. I would also like to see Runs Created have a larger presence on the site, not to mention Win Shares.

  8. Andy, great concept for this post. I abhor arbitrary number cut-offs. Why is it that so many people hate numbers, but then choose to use them in stupid ways?

    vonhayes, check out Sean's blog for updates on migrating the site to tables instead of fixed width text:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/

  9. OscarAzocar Says:

    Keith Hernandez also has 5 seasons hitting between .290 and .299.
    Only 4 players have as many as 6.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/shareit/HHkd

  10. BoondockSaint Says:

    This topic reminds me of the same discussion involving stolen bases. But something I found more interesting was that Eric Byrnes stole 50 bases this year at the age of 31, while his counterparts at the top of the stolen base list included nobody over the age of 28. I think it would be interesting to see who the oldest players to steal 50 bases were if that's possible with this stat-searching program of yours.

  11. OscarAzocar Says:
  12. Andy stole my idea for half of this post.

    Sky, that's kind of what I was talking about, not exactly, but it's cool nonetheless. I guess I should have been more clear - I was hoping we'd see yearly leaderboards for some of the less standard stats, like batting runs and win shares.

  13. BoondockSaint Says:

    Thanks for that Oscar. That's pretty incredible that Lou Brock stole 118 bases when he was 35.

  14. You hear coaches say all the time that basestealing has more to do with ability to read the pitcher than it does with actual speed (although of course speed helps.) At age 35, Brock probably had above-average speed (but not lightening-fast speed) so he could still steal quite easily. The same was true for Henderson, although by the time he was 35 the game had changed enough such that stolen bases weren't as common.

    Oscar, if I could make you an honorary poster, I would. Thanks for adding in the helpful links.

  15. Oh no, Paulie! Makes sense though. Lucky for Tommy Herr he notched career highs in doubles and walks in '85.

    What I'd love to figure out is displaying streaks of seasons. Consecutive years under 90 RBI, over 100, all careers with 300+ AB in every season... all that kind of arbitrary stuff.

  16. I did talk to Sean about streak season finders a while ago...it's on his radar, I know, but was just too much to implement with the initial release of the PI. The PI is pretty amazing, though, and just look at how much it has been improved since it launched. Within a few years, it will be the most powerful stat tool in existence.

  17. Yeah that Tommy Herr season wasn't bad, he just had no HR power.

  18. savoyspecial Says:

    Not to get off topic, but Beckett and Sabathia had remarkably similar seasons. There is no statistical difference between their ERA, ERA+, wins, K/9, BB/9, HR allowed, BAA, or WHIP. Sabathia has more IP, but Beckett has more CG and SHO. If Beckett wins the Cy, the question will be what gave him the edge over Sabathia with all statistical variables being equal. I would argue that his presence in the larger market of Boston carried more weight than the aura of 20 wins.

  19. vonhayes, I didn't steal your idea. I gave you full credit on the original post. I suggest you reign things in a bit.

  20. Just messing around. I will try.

  21. Above I mentioned Tony Perez's 10 consecutive seasons in the top-10 for RBIs. Chipper Jones has only been in the top-10 once! Which is more impressive? Chipper's seven straight seasons with 100+ RBIs, or Perez's 10 consecutive seasons in the top-10?

    Aaron, Mays, Ott, F Robinson, DiMaggio and Mize also had 10 consecutive seasons. Simmons had 11, Anson 12, Gehrig and Foxx 13, Musial, Wagner and Crawford with 15 consecutive seasons. So Perez's feat is awfully impressive.

  22. I agree in principle with your Perez/Jones comparison. Looking at OPS+, Perez was at 122 for his career while Jones is at 144. If you take out Perez' substandard performance from age 39 on, his OPS+ for his career through age 38 was about 125.
    So, I'd definitely say it's tough to tear down Chipper, or suggest he's not as good a player as Perez was.
    I also wonder about the current offensive environment, where we have more productive 6-, 7-, and 8-spot hitters than in Perez' era. Offense overall is increased, but I wonder how Chipper's total opportunities compare with Perez.
    With RISP, Perez had 1234 RBI in 3405 PA, or 0.362 RBIs per PA.
    With RISP, Jones has 880 RBI in 2344 PA, or 0.375 RBIs per PA.
    Pretty similar...

  23. A bit more data I should have included:

    Jones has had 8143 total PAs, and 2344 of those had RISP (28.8%)
    Perez had 10861 total PAs, and 3405 of those had RISP (31.4%)

    So, at least by that metric, Jones seems to have had fewer opportunities.

  24. It isn't about Jones having few opportunities than Perez. It's about Perez performing well in RBIs year after year among his peers. Jones was getting 100 RBIs, but not placing in the top ten each year.

  25. By the way, I am not saying Chipper Jones is a bad player. But I am saying that I find Perez's RBI numbers more impressive than Jones' because of the top-ten element.

  26. I think the issue I am trying to get at is that there are many more players nowadays that have a decent chance of getting in the top 10, whereas in Perez' day, only the 3, 4, and perhaps 5 hitters had a chance.

    And, look, I am not disagreeing with your overall point. I'm just saying that the top-10 metric is, like all other stats, limited.

  27. Interesting idea. I thought I'd look at 2007. Looks like the AL has more breadth because of the DH, while the NL is more about 3, 4, 5 hitters.

    2007 AL
    Rodriguez-NYY (batted 4th)
    Ordonez-DET (batted 4th)
    Guerrero-LAA (batted 3rd & 4th)
    Pena-TBD (batted 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th)
    Lowell-BOS (batted 6th)
    Ortiz-BOS (batted 3rd)
    Martinez-CLE (batted 4th & 3rd)
    Markakis-BAL (batted 3rd & 2nd)
    Morneau-MIN (batted 4th & 5th)
    Hunter-MIN (batted 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th)

    NL 2007
    Holliday-COL (batted 3rd)
    Howard-PHI (batted 4th)
    Cabrera-FLA (batted 3rd & 4th)
    Fielder-MIL (batted 3rd & 4th)
    Lee-HOU (batted 4th)
    Hawpe-COL (batted 6th)
    Beltran-NYM (batted 3rd & 4th)
    Atkins-COL (batted 5th)
    Wright-NYM (batted 3rd, 4th, 5th)
    Dunn-CIN (batted mostly 5th)