Posted by Andy on November 25, 2009
I got curious to see what players have had a lot of RBI without scoring all that many runs. Here is a list of players since 1901 to have more than double the number of RBI as compared to runs scored, ranked by most RBI in a season.
It's unsurprising that none of these guys had big HR totals. If a player hits 30-40 HR, he automatically scores 30-40 runs and, when adding in other runs scored will usually get a pretty decent total.
What I found somewhat more surprising is how many of these guys are catchers. Of the top 20 seasons, 13 of them saw the guy play significant time at catcher.
I know what you're thinking---duh Andy, catchers are usually slow and slow players don't score as many runs. While it's true that catchers are slow, I wonder why their plodding path around the bases causes fewer runs to be scored. I don't think it's just because slower runners take the extra base less often and therefore score less often. I think it has more to do with where these guys bat in the lineup. The fastest guys on the team, as long as they are decent at getting on base, usually bat leadoff. The 2-5 hitters are usually good hitters and fairly rarely are very slow. But if a manger has a good hitter who is slow, I think he tends to put that guy in the 6th or 7th hole more often. That means that he has the weakest hitters in the lineup following him, and that means he scores fewer runs.
Here's what I'm trying to say by way of example. Let's imagine two identical hitters except that hitter A is an average runner (speed-wise) and hitter B is a slow runner. If they both bat 3rd in the same lineup over the course of 150 games, my guess is that hitter A would score 10-20 more runs. So maybe he finishes with 100 RBI and 80 runs scored, while hitter B finishes with 100 RBI and 60 runs scored. I don't think this is enough of a difference to account for the performances we see on the list above. But in reality, a manager wouldn't bat hitter B in the 3-hole unless he was an incredibly good hitter, like Mike Piazza. Instead, the decent but slow hitter bats 6th or 7th, has fewer RBI chances but scores MANY fewer runs.
That's my guess--anybody have a different theory?