Arenado driven to drive in runs for the Rockies
By Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
RBIS have been used to help define baseball greatness since before Babe Ruth trotted around the bases. But in recent years, some respected baseball writers, with a much deeper understanding of baseball statistics than me, have sought to diminish RBIS as a defining statistic.
Two years ago, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote a column titled “10 Degrees: The hard truth about RBIS.”
If you are so inclined, I suggest you read the knowledgeable Passan for a more detailed argument. But to sum it up, he wrote: “RBIS are a team-dependent statistic. They often say as much about a situation in which a hitter finds himself as they do a hitter himself.”
I was curious to see what Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thought about the RBIS argument. He is, after all, the majors’ reigning RBIS king.
“I guess I kind of look at things the oldschool way, looking at batting average and home runs and RBIS,” Arenado said Saturday. “And, of course, slugging (percentage) and OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging) are really important stats. At least they are important to me.
“I guess I have more opportunities than some other guys to drive in runs, so I don’t know, maybe the argument is true, maybe it’s not. But for me, the best hitters in the game drove in a lot of runs. And that’s how I want to be.”
Arenado is a special player with a profound love and respect for the game. Even at age 26, he is fully aware of his place in baseball history. He doesn’t define himself by RBIS, but driving home teammates is certainly at the top of his daily to-do list.
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “If I go 2-for-4, but in the two at-bats where I go ‘oh-fer’ there are men on second or men on third, I’m probably not going to go home very happy.
“So even though I had two hits, and I had a good day, and even though I’ll be able to sleep that night, I still won’t be happy. Because I’ll feel like I didn’t pro- duce. It’s important for me to produce with runners in scoring position. I take a lot of pride in that.”
Entering Saturday night’s game against the Marlins, Arenado was batting a major league-best .446 with runners in scoring position. That average included 10 home runs, 13 doubles and three triples for a big league-best .884 slugging percentage. With runners in scoring position and two outs, he was batting .409 with 29 RBIS, also the best in baseball.
“That’s important to me,” Arenado said. “Like I said, the best hitters in the game come through with a man on base.”
Arenado, a legitimate National League MVP candidate, drove in two runs Friday night to reach 100 RBIS for the third consecutive season, becoming the first National League player to do that since Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Willie Stargell accomplished the feat from 1971-73.
Now he has a chance to do something that no other player has ever done: drive in at least 130 runs while also leading his league in that statistic for three consecutive seasons. Ten players before Arenado drove in at least 130 runs in three straight years, but none of them led their league in each of those three seasons.
Those 10 players? Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Sammy Sosa, Vern Stephens, Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr., David Ortiz and Ryan Howard. That’s pretty good company.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three players have ever led their league in RBIS three times in a row: Joe Medwick (NL, 1936-38), George Foster (NL, 1976-78) and Cecil Fielder (AL, 199092).
Arenado’s bottom line: “I don’t know what other people think, but I think RBIS say a lot about a player.”
Patrick Saunders is the president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America: email@example.com or @psaundersdp