Friday, August 1, 2008

Summing up RBI

Keith Law in a chat today on ESPN:
Todd (MA): Perhaps the RBI stat is overvalued, but it's hardly meaningless. The team that scores the most runs wins the game, and the RBI stat helps to identify what players succeed at tallying runs for their team. The ability to hit with runners on base is arguably one of the most important abilities in baseball, perhaps second only to proficiency in getting on base.

SportsNation Keith Law: All it does is tell us who happened to come up to the plate with men on base. This is not valuable information. And there is no evidence that "the ability to hit with runners on base" is at all distinct from "the ability to hit."
It's that last sentence that basically sums it up. Every single time the issue is really studied, one of two conclusions is made:
  1. There is no ability to hit with men on base that is in any way distinct from simply the ability to hit.
  2. There is an ability to hit with men on base, but its discernible impact is so small, that you're better off just proceeding as if #1 were true anyway.
I'm not sure if it can be summed up any better than Keith did.