RBIs For Fielders

One of the toughest aspects of crediting fielding is putting it on the same scale as offense.  Whereas hitters hit for AVG, tally HRs, and knock in RBIs, fielders try to avoid committing errors and range after out-of-zone plays (OOZ).  Raise your hand if you intuitively know how many OOZs equal one HR?  Anybody?  Yeah, didn't think so.

So the next step is to translate everything onto the same scale -- runs is a popular choice.  After all, a run saved is a run scored.  On offense, we've been doing that for a while in the form of linear weights.  On defense, it's all relatively new.  My favorite method is to convert zone rating into runs saved.  (You can read about that method here.)  But still, how intuitive is it to say that Hitter A has create 50 runs or that Fielder B has saved 20 runs?  Most people aren't familiar with that scale.

My proposal, which I outlined last week, is to translate production onto the RBI scale, which even BBWAA members can understand.  From my first article, each additional run created (or prevented on defense) is worth 1.6 RBIs.

As an example, Mark Ellis has a .897 BIS zone rating and .868 STATS zone rating -- not very helpful.  Compared to the average second baseman, he's made 27 and 19 extra plays respectively -- more helpful.  Converted to runs and averaged, he's saved 18 runs -- we're almost there.  But converted to RBIs, Ellis' fielding is worth 29 RBIs.  Yes, twenty-nine RBIs.  That's pretty signifcant, right?  That's the difference between Ryan Howard and Aramis Ramirez on the RBI leader boards.  Adding 29 RBIs to Ellis' own offensive total of 41 RBIs yields a new total of 70 RBIs -- makes him seem like a decent ballplayer, right?  Well, he is.

Ok, time for some tables.  Here are the players who gain the most RBIs from their defensive contributions (where defense = position + fielding your position):

Player defRBI
Adrian Beltre 37
Jason Kendall 32
Chase Utley 29
Mark Ellis 28
Marco Scutaro 28
Scott Rolen 27
Carlos Beltran 26
Franklin R Gutierrez 26
Carlos A Gomez 26
Yunel Escobar 25
Kurt K Suzuki 23
Willie Harris 23
Grady Sizemore 23
Jose Molina 22
Joe Mauer 21
Adam Kennedy 21
Cesar Izturis 21
Placido Polanco 20
Omar Vizquel 20
Brian Giles 20

And here are the players who lose the most RBIs based on their defensive shortcomings:

Player defRBI
Bobby Abreu -47
Brad B Hawpe -38
Jason Bay -37
Mike Jacobs -34
Delmon D Young -33
Raul Ibanez -29
Jorge L Cantu -28
Manny Ramirez -28
Justin Morneau -27
Prince Fielder -27
Jason J Kubel -25
Richie Sexson -24
Casey Blake -24
Jose Guillen -24
Jason Giambi -23
Edwin Encarnacion -23
Milton Bradley -23
Alex J Gordon -23
Ross Gload -23
Aubrey Huff -22

How about the overall RBI leaders if RBIs were actually an accurate measure of overall value, including both offense and defense?

Player dRBI
Albert Pujols 157
Grady Sizemore 140
Lance Berkman 138
Mark Teixeira 136
Chipper Jones 125
Chase Utley 125
Hanley Ramirez 122
Alex Rodriguez 118
Carlos Beltran 108
Matt T Holliday 108
David A Wright 104
Dustin L Pedroia 103
Brian Giles 101
Curtis Granderson 101
Manny Ramirez 99
Brian Roberts 98
Joe Mauer 97
Josh H Hamilton 96
Adrian Beltre 96
Ryan J Braun 95

Adrian Beltre and Ryan Braun have been equally valuable?  Crazy!  Brian Giles has been Manny Ramirez's equal -- why haven't I read that article at ESPN.com yet?  Matt Holliday's still one of the best players in baseball?  Nobody told me that!

How about the players who are most underrated by their actual RBI total compared to what they're actually worth?

Player dRBI-RBI
Hanley Ramirez 60
Albert Pujols 59
Grady Sizemore 56
Chipper Jones 55
Brian Giles 47
Brian Roberts 45
Curtis Granderson 44
Rafael Furcal 39
Lance Berkman 38
Ichiro Suzuki 37
Chone Figgins 35
Ivan Rodriguez 32
Chase Utley 32
Jose Reyes 31
Mike A Aviles 28
Gabe J Gross 27
Matt T Holliday 27
Jody Gerut 27
Rajai Davis 26
Kurt K Suzuki 26

Funny enough, the most productive players in each league appear near the top of this list: Albert Pujols and Grady Sizemore.  Great and underrated?

Finally, here's the Ryan Howard list -- players who are most overrated by their actual RBI totals:

Player dRBI-RBI
Ryan J Howard -84
Jose Guillen -84
Mike Jacobs -75
Jeff B Francoeur -74
Mark A Reynolds -70
Garrett Atkins -64
Ryan F Garko -62
Jorge L Cantu -57
Melvin Mora -57
Bobby Abreu -57
Carlos Delgado -53
Brad B Hawpe -52
Delmon D Young -52
Miguel Cabrera -52
Justin Morneau -51
Robinson Cano -50
Prince Fielder -47
Jose Vidro -46
Jason J Kubel -46
Bengie Molina -45

I count three guys on that list who are receiving way more MVP support than they deserve: Howard, Carlos Delgado, and Justin Morneau.  This table also answers the questions, "should the Yankees bring back Bobby Abreu?", "do the Rays miss Delmon Young?", and "was not re-signing Jose Guillen the reason the Mariners stunk it up this year?"

If you read this post, some of these lists should look familiar.  I've just re-scaled Justin's stats onto the RBI scale and compared it to actual RBIs.  All fielding stats through September 5th.  All actual RBI stats through September 9th.  Thanks to The Hardball Times for providing most of the stats Justin uses in his calculations.

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