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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Can you suck with 120 RBI? Does Albert Pujols suck?

There have been 463 player seasons with at least 120 RBI. Some players did it multiple times.

We all know that RBI depends a lot on opportunities. But does a certain threshold indicate that the batter must have at least not sucked?

By Joe Posnanski
Albert Pujols used to be amazing

Albert Pujols is about to finish his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels... an overpaid designated hitter in the middle of the lineup for a going-nowhere Los Angeles Angels team.

there will be an effort by some to say Pujols is actually having a pretty good year because, you know, RBIs. He has 100 of them as of August 26, just one off the American League lead, which means he could end up with 120 or so by year’s end. He could lead the American League. We are so conditioned to think of RBIs as a meaningful statistic that it seems illogical that someone could put up 120 RBIs and have a bad year. But that’s the case with Pujols.

He has all these RBIs for two simple reasons:

1. He comes to the plate with more runners on base than any player in baseball — and it isn’t even close. It’s nice to hit behind Mike Trout, who leads the league in on-base percentage...
2. Pujols does still swat the occasional homer (he’s got 24 of them), and he has timed his hits pretty well. Sixteen of his 24 homers are with runners on base. He’s hitting .310 with men on base, .200 without. You can chalk this up to his clutch hitting abilities if you are in that camp ...


Here are the lowest OPS+ for seasons with 120 RBI:

Only two are below league average, OPS+ 100, both in the 1930s with 95 and 99. Ten are below OPS+ 110, ten percent above league average. Does 10% above suck? We quickly progress to number 30 worst at 20% above, which certainly does not suck. Five of the 31 worst led their league in RBI. Only Preston Wilson led his league in SO: 187, the most of the 31. Dante Bichette led his league in hits. None of the 31 worst led in HR; Jeremy Burnitz had the most HR: 38; Larry Gardner and Pie Traynor the fewest: 3 HR. Most recent of the 31: Vinny Castilla 2004. First: Larry Gardner 1921. Cecil Fielder had the lowest BA: .244. Lowest OBP: Joe Carter: .312; no OBP over .391. Eleven SLG over .500; lowest: Rusty Staub .435.

Albert Pujols has OPS+ 110. Albert Pujols is having a good season and not simply because he has Mike Trout getting on base in front of him. His five Angels season OPS+: 138, 116, 126, 118, 110. In 3,004 Angels PA: OPS+ 123.

Pujols was better with the Cardinals when he was younger. Duh. 7,433 PA, OPS+ 170. That's why the Cardinals let him go.

The biggest bopper free agent in the off season was the much maligned first baseman Chris Davis who re-signed with Baltimore. Conventional wisdom was that he was a bad option. Conventional wisdom was that free agent OF Jason Heyward was a great value because of his fielding.

Davis leads in SO with 175 but his OPS+ is 113 and he has 32 HR, 72 RBI. In 2013 and 2015 Davis led in HR with 53 and 47.

Heyward OPS+ 70. That's 70% of league average in the batter's box.

WAR in 2016:
Davis: 2.9
Pujols: 1.0
Heyward 0.9

In 2016 neither Pujols nor Davis suck but Heyward does suck.

Conventional wisdom isn't something to flaunt. It can make you look silly.

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