Albert Pujols' 100 RBI Aren't a Big Deal
In sabermetric circles, the run batted in has been relegated to second- or third-class citizenship. Once one of the most important statistics on the back of the baseball card and a key component in baseball's fabled Triple Crown, sabermatricians now treat the innocent little RBI as a red-headed stepchild.
Why? Well, RBI tells us only one thing about a hitter -- how he has done over the course of a season at driving in runners on base ahead of him. But it's now largely understood that the players hitting in front of that player have as much to do with those RBI as the batter himself. It's also understood the RBI is a minuscule part of what a player needs to do in order to be considered, y'know, good.
Which brings us to Los Angeles Angels first baseman/DH Albert Pujols, who drove in his 100th run of the season on Tuesday. It is the 14th time he has knocked in 100 runs, tying him with Alex Rodriguez for the most 100 RBI-seasons in a career.
Clearly, Pujols is on track to being a first ballot Hall of Famer, but at 37-years-old, it's impossible to say Pujols has had a traditionally good season in Los Angeles. When factoring in every aspect of the game, one can see those 100 RBI don't mean a whole heck of a lot.
Pujols has a slash line this season of .242/.288/.389 with 23 home runs and 52 runs scored in 617 plate appearances. He has a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 79 and a weighted on base average of .288. He is the first player in Major League history to total 100 RBI in a season, yet post an OBP below .290 and a slugging percentage under .390.
Most importantly, he has a WAR of -1.6 this season. Among 147 qualified MLB hitters, that ranks dead last. In fact, among the 957 MLB players to receive any at bats this season, it still ranks last. And in terms of WAR, he's having one of the worst seasons anyone 37 or older has ever had in the history of the game.
|Shano Collins||Red Sox||1923||37||-2.5|
|Juan Castro||2 Teams||2010||38||-1.8|
|Carlton Fisk||White Sox||1986||38||-1.7|
It's unusual for a player to tally enough plate appearances to compile a WAR that bad, but as can be seen on the above list, many of these players were once very good -- like Pujols.
Pujols is, without question, also headed to Cooperstown. His 614 home runs through Tuesday's action rankes seventh all-time. His 1917 RBI are tied with Eddie Murray for ninth. His 617 career doubles are 12th-most, and his .948 career OPS is tied for 19th. And to be clear, RBI aren't worthless -- after all, someone has to knock in those runs.
But he's also signed for the next four years at $114 million, a contract that takes him up to his age-41 season. Sure, he'll continue to pad some of his counting stats between now and then, but if this season is any indication, his career WAR totals are going to continue to decline.
Nevertheless, he has 100 RBI this season. And that's fine and dandy. It's just not as fine and dandy as it used to be.