Despite plenty of advances in the analytical side of baseball over the years, I still continue to hear the benchmark of a good season is 100 RBI's.
Watch a baseball game on television or go to a game in person and I bet you'll hear announcers and fans alike talking out how "this guy's on pace for over 100 RBI's this year" or how "that guy's been a real good RBI-guy this season."
There is something about 100 RBI's in a season that still puts fans in a frenzy. Regardless of a player's rate stats, home park, the player's hitting in front of them or any other reason, many people still believe if a player equals or eclipses the 100 RBI total he has had a good season.
While many fans still abide by this notion, others have acknowledged the fact RBI's tell you very little about a hitter's true ability when compared to other statistics.
How many RBI's a player accumulates is very dependent on the hitters hitting in front of them, or their number of RBI opportunities. Even the most mediocre of hitters can accumulate 100 RBI's in a season if he has a couple of solid on-base threats hitting in front of him.
I don't want to totally discredit the RBI. In extreme cases, like when Miguel Tejada racked up 150 RBI's in 2004, you can tell a player had a very good year just by looking at their RBI total alone.
But plenty of other statistics in the game are more useful and even the most casual baseball fans have started to realize this over the years.
Because I wasn't creative enough to think of anything cool for today's piece, I figured I'd give praise to those who have had excellent seasons over the past decade, but weren't fortunate enough to equal or eclipse the sacred 100 RBI mark.
Let's take a look:
1. 2003: Barry Bonds (90 RBI, 105.9 VORP):
The best non 100 RBI season we've seen in recent memory. Bonds only drove in 90 runs in 2003, but he hit .341/.529/.749 along with 45 big flies that year. He led all of baseball in VORP and his WARP3 that season was a ridiculous 13.4 wins.
2. 1996: Chuck Knoblauch (72 RBI, 94.0 VORP):
Despite knocking in only 72 runs, Knoblauch hit .348/.448/.517 with 16 homers for the '96 Twins. He lead the team in WARP3 by a large margin with 12.5 wins even though both Paul Molitor and Marty Cordova each eclipsed the 100 RBI mark. Only Alex Rodriguez had a higher VORP than Knoblauch that season.
3. 2000: Nomar Garciaparra (96 RBI, 93.8 VORP):
Garciaparra came close to the famed 100 RBI mark in 200 and missed out by only four runs. Regardless, he had an outstanding season hitting .372/.434/.599 with 21 home runs all done as a shortstop. His WARP3 that season was 11.4 wins, the high mark of his career, and he was fourth in baseball in VORP.
4. 1998: Craig Biggio (88 RBI, 82.3 VORP):
Biggio's 1998 season might not even be the best non 100 RBI campaign he's had over his career. He hit .325/.403/.503 with 20 home runs all done at second base. His WARP3 that year of 10.1 is the third highest single-season mark of his career and his VORP was fifth in baseball.
5. 1996: Barry Larkin (89 RBI, 81.7 VORP):
Quite possibly Larkin's finest offensive season, he hit .298/.410/.567 with a career high 33 home runs for the Reds all done without 100 RBI's. His EqA of .325 was a career best and his WARP3 was 10.8 wins. His VORP that season ranked ninth in all of baseball.
6. 1997: Craig Biggio (81 RBI, 81.5 VORP):
Biggio appears on the list for the second time, but this season might have been his best non 100 RBI year. His VORP of 81.5 runs was a shade lower than that of his 1998 mark, but his WARP3 of 13.1 wins was a full three wins better and the high point of his career. His VORP of 81.5 runs was sixth best in baseball.
7. 1996: Roberto Alomar (94 RBI, 81.0 VORP):
Alomar had a fantastic season with both the bat and the glove hitting .328/.411/.527 with a career high 22 home runs along with playing gold glove-caliber defense (108 Rate). His WARP3 of 11.7 wins was his second highest single season mark of his career and his VORP of 81.0 runs ranked eleventh in baseball.
8. 2001: Rich Aurilia (97 RBI, 80.8 VORP):
Aurilia missed the 100 RBI mark by only three runs in 2001 but managed to set career highs in every rate statistic hitting .324/.369/.572 along with setting career highs in EqA (.315) and WARP3 (12.2). His Rate of 108 was very good coming from a second basemen and his VORP of 80.8 runs was good for ninth in baseball.
9. 2006: Derek Jeter (79 RBI, 79.2 VORP):
In my opinion Derek Jeter was robbed of the AL MVP Award last season and that might very well be because his RBI total wasn't quite "sufficient" enough. Whatever the case, Jeter hit .343/.417/.483 with 14 homers and played solid defense (100 Rate). His WARP3 of 12.0 wins is a current career high and his VORP of 79.2 runs was good for fourth in baseball and best in the AL.
10. 2000: Edgar Alfonzo (94 RBI, 78.3 VORP):
The tenth best non 100 RBI season over the last decade, Alfonzo truly had a "one-hit wonder" type season hitting .324/.425/.542 with 25 home runs. He didn't come close to his 2000 EqA (.325) and WARP3 (11.9) at any time before of following his breakout season and his VORP of 78.3 runs was good for thirteenth in baseball.
As we can see 100 RBI's aren't needed for a player to have a good season. In fact, 100 RBI's aren't needed for a player to have an outstanding season.
Every player listed posted VORP's better than 75 runs and WARP3's better than 10 wins.
It's time to put the 100 RBI threshold to bed if it already hasn't been. I feel dumber when people tell me "Player X" is a good player but just doesn't drive in enough runs. You don't need to rack up gaudy RBI totals to excel in this game.