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June 12, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Unfun with RBI Opportunities

by Christina Kahrl

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OK, I've been amusing myself with seeing how Gordon Beckham and Geovany Soto have both struggled to plate their baserunners, because both haven't been especially effective at it this season. As I catch the trio of Sox/Cubs games here in Wrigley this weekend, I'm futzing around with the data of the two teams, and it's a mixed bag, to be sure, but let's just goof off with Becks and Soto as a starting point, because it led me to notice something that still just stuns me.

Becks is seen as one of the season's great disasters for the White Sox, having delivered a .202 TAv through Friday's action while hitting a ghastly .204/.283/.250. He's driving in 9.4 percent of the runners on base when he's batted. Over on the North Side, Soto was in contrast hitting a productive-looking .265/.405/.456, for a lovely .306 TAv. He's an asset at a position where it's hard to find hitters who help you, but interestingly enough, he's also plated just 9.5 percent of his baserunners. While he's spent a good chunk of the season batting eighth, he's yet to draw an intentional pass to easily explain away some chunk of his failure to plate people; his 9.5 % clip is the same while batting eighth, so while you can certainly credit pitchers for pitching carefully to Soto, it hasn't made that big a deal.

Now, those numbers are below-average, but how low did they rank among their peers in the seasonal action so far? All major-league hitters who aren't pitchers are driving in on average 14.2 percent of the men on base when they bat. Taking a look at the leaderboard, or--before any aspiring Larry Andersen types crack wise--the trailerboard, check out the 10 least effective batters with 100 PAs when it comes to scoring baserunners, and you won't find Soto or Beckham on the board:

Batter
Team
ROB
OBI
OBI%
Dexter Fowler Rockies 74 3 4.1%
Alex Avila Tigers 72 3 4.2%
Jeff Clement Pirates 92 4 4.3%
Brendan Harris Twins 52 3 5.8%
Juan Pierre White Sox 118 7 5.9%
Gerald Laird Tigers 82 5 6.1%
Jim Edmonds Brewers 80 5 6.3%
Brandon Wood Angels 79 5 6.3%
Mike Aviles Royals 63 4 6.3%
Prince Fielder Brewers 184 12 6.5%

Now, not that Sesame Street ever gave us a 10-way split-screen to really puzzle the little people, but very obviously one of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same. Well, sort of--there's no joy in Beertown that there are two Brewers are on this list, and probably even less happiness over the fact that one of them is Prince Fielder. And what isn't like the others is opportunities. Where a couple of these players have already been demoted (Fowler, Clement) or are on the DL, most of these guys just aren't being asked to do something involving scoring their teammates in the same way that the Brewers' and many of them aren't being tasked with high-profile roles on offense, the Brewers were certainly expecting a lot more than this from their Prince among men. (For a full list, click here.)

Not much to say about this, other than that it's bad news in Milwaukee. Edmonds is being touted for just being here, and given that Carlos Gomez isn't exactly nailing down the job in center, having the former Cardinals great around can't be written off as a bad idea, not by any means. But what can you do about Fielder? In his frustration, skipper Ken Macha has flip-flopped Fielder and Ryan Braun, moving the hefty lefty into the three-hold after not liking what he was seeing from Fielder in the cleanup slot. But what else you gonna do?

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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