CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Th... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Seidnotes: A Streak of... (09/02)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Seidnotes: A Triple Sh... (09/30)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: A Leg... (09/10)

September 10, 2010

Seidnotes

Loney Loves Ribeyes

by Eric Seidman

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

James Loney is somewhat of an odd player. Despite hitting .321/.372/.543 in 486 plate appearances across the 2006 and 2007 seasons for the Dodgers, his power output has resembled that of Placido Polanco lately. While a short supply of power isn’t always a death blow to success at first base, it usually means that the top notchiest of defensive ability is required to make up the difference. Loney realistically doesn’t fit that bill either. He might be smooth with the glove, and he might not have a glaring weakness such as Ryan Howard’s inability to throw a baseball, but it isn’t as if we’re talking about the first-base equivalent of Franklin Gutierrez or Jack Wilson here. Despite the shortcomings in his game, there is one area in which Loney has excelled, even if it is a stat kept only in my strange head: the ratio of RBI to home runs.

In 2008, Loney hit just 13 home runs but knocked in 90 runners. Last season, he did the exact same thing by launching 13 dingers and plating 90 runners. This season, he appears to be on pace for very similar numbers, as he hasnine home runs and 80 RBI. Recording that many RBI with so few home runs is one of those jarring parts on a batting line. It doesn’t really tell us anything revolutionary about a player, but it looks off, just like when an on-base percentage exceeds its slugging counterpart. A disproportionate number of RBI relative to home runs might suggest that we are dealing with more of a slap hitter who happens to come up with runners on very frequently, and if he were to be moved down in the order the ratio might decline. After all, Loney continues to bat in the middle of the order even if Martin Prado can out-homer him.

Upon thinking of the disconnect between the HR and RBI, I asked my father if he could recall anyone with similar numbers. He immediately brought up Tommy Herr, and while he was unable to quote the numbers off the top of his head, he vividly remembered Herr recording close to 100 RBI with fewer than 10 home runs. I instantly thought of two seasons: one belonged to Jeff Cirillo who, through my ownership of the Brewers in APBA leagues in the early part of this decade, became one of my favorites. For the record, Matt Mieske and Dave Nilsson were also favorites. I remembered Cirillo having something like 11 home runs and 110 RBI. I also remembered Tony Gwynn doing something similar, with around 15 homers and 120 runs batted in.

A quick check of their stats confirmed that all three of these players had low HR but high RBI totals. In 1985, Herr hit eight home runs and knocked in 110 runners. In 1997, a 37-year-old Gwynn hit 17 balls out of the yard and plated 119 runners. And in 2000, Cirillo hit 11 home runs and recorded 115 RBI. The exercise got me thinking about how rare it is for a player to have so many rib-eyes with so few home runs. Since 1974, here are the lowest home run totals for a player with at least 90 RBI:

Name

Year

HR

RBI

Julio Franco

1985

6

90

Keith Hernandez

1982

7

94

Garret Anderson

1997

8

92

Tommy Herr

1985

8

110

Michael Young

1997

9

94

Paul Molitor

1996

9

113

Tony Gwynn

1995

9

90

Jeff King

1993

9

98

Rod Carew

1976

9

90

These nine were also the only players to hit home runs in the single digits in their disproportionate year. What if we phrase the question differently? It’s obvious to see that Molitor’s 113 RBI produces a higher ratio to the nine home runs than Carew’s 90 steaks. What if we look for the highest RBI/HR ratio since 1974 for players with 90 RBI or more? The table below shows the players with the highest such ratios:

Name

Year

RBI/HR

Julio Franco

1985

15.00

Tom Herr

1985

13.75

Keith Hernandez

1982

13.43

Paul Molitor

1996

12.56

Garret Anderson

1997

11.50

Jeff King

1993

10.89

Jeff Cirillo

2000

10.45

Michael Young

2007

10.44

Willy Montanez

1975

10.10

Tony Gwynn

1995

10.00

Rod Carew

1976

10.00

And what about the last few years? Here are the highest ratios from 2005-09:

Name

Year

RBI/HR

Michael Young

2007

10.44

Michael Young

2006

7.36

Delmon Young

2007

7.15

Bobby Abreu

2006

7.13

Derek Jeter

2006

6.93

James Loney

2008

6.92

James Loney

2009

6.92

Bobby Abreu

2009

6.87

Ryan Garko

2008

6.43

Bobby Abreu

2007

6.31

Jorge Cantu

2009

6.25


Plenty of repeat offenders here. Seems that if your last name is Young, you excel in this area. Loney’s 2008 and 2009 seasons each show up, which isn’t surprising, though I was a bit worried after seeing the returns in the previous table. Abreu shows up a lot as well, as even though his home run totals have dwindled since leaving the Phillies, he is still knocking in a lot of runners. Here are the current leaders for the 2010 season with at least 60 runners batted in:
 

Name

PA

RBI/HR

James Loney

569

8.89

Joe Mauer

534

8.75

Ben Zobrist

553

7.00

Howie Kendrick

566

6.50

Delmon Young

521

6.06


Suffice to say, my instincts are correct and Loney has the highest such rate over the last three years. I knew I wasn’t crazy. Well, maybe I am, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t right! Howsabout the opposite to all of this hullabaloo? In all likelihood, lower ratios likely mean a lot of solo dingers, but we’ll see. Here are the lowest ratios since 1974 for anyone with 400 or more plate appearances.
 

Name

Year

HR

RBI

RBI/HR

Barry Bonds

2001

73

137

1.88

Barry Bonds

2003

45

90

2.00

Rob Deer

1992

32

64

2.00

Hanley Ramirez

2008

33

67

2.03

Alfonso Soriano

2006

46

95

2.07

Mark Bellhorn

2002

27

56

2.07

Ron Gant

2000

26

54

2.08

Brad Wilkerson

2004

32

67

2.09

Ruben Rivera

1999

23

48

2.09

Mark McGwire

1998

70

147

2.10

Adam Dunn

2003

27

57

2.11

The list appears to be dominated by both leadoff hitters with power and freakish home run seasons. It’s incredibly difficult to hit 70 or 73 home runs without racking up a good number of solo homers. It’s also difficult to expect the likes of Ramirez, Soriano, and Wilkerson to amass a ton of RBI when the preceding hitters are usually the likes of a backup catcher and a pitcher. See what I mean about how some of these numbers look strange? It just seems wrong to me to see 26 HR attached to 54 RBI or 23 HR with 48 RBI. It’s as if someone made a typo and the first digit should be about three or four numbers higher. Either way, it has to be just as tough to produce a high ratio as it is a low ratio, given the relationship between dingers and RBI.

So there you have it. Loney isn’t exactly breaking records with his RBI/HR ratio, but he appears to be a recent outlier. And in the tradition of this Seidnotes column, here’s to hoping that he hits four more home runs with 10 RBI from here on out to once again finish with 13 HR-90 RBI. Now that would be a Dunn-esque feat! 

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

Related Content:  Jeff Cirillo,  Tony Gwynn,  James Loney,  Home Runs,  Rod Carew,  1985

5 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Th... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Seidnotes: A Streak of... (09/02)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Seidnotes: A Triple Sh... (09/30)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: A Leg... (09/10)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: The Ace Chase, the Rays' Face...
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Jon Lester's New Peers
Premium Article Prospect Mechanics
Moonshot: A New View of Plate Discipline, Pa...
The Lineup Card: Nine of the Worst Baseball ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Yasmany Tomas is a Dia...

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 10, 2010
Premium Article Future Shock: Scouting Report: Shelby Miller
Premium Article Prospectus Perspective: Man Up, Mariners!
Prospectus Q&A: Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs
Prospectus Hit List: AL: September Song
Premium Article Under The Knife: A Leg and a Prayer
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: The Biggest ERA-SIERA Di...
Premium Article On the Beat: Going Out with Class

MORE BY ERIC SEIDMAN
2010-09-17 - Checking the Numbers: CarGo on the Road
2010-09-16 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Chipper, Eddie, and Pe...
2010-09-15 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Say Goodbye to the Tri...
2010-09-10 - Premium Article Seidnotes: Loney Loves Ribeyes
2010-09-08 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Triple Crown Update
2010-09-07 - Checking the Numbers: Freaky Concerns
2010-09-03 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Who is the Best Switch...
More...

MORE SEIDNOTES
2010-12-30 - Seidnotes: WARP Speed
2010-12-23 - Premium Article Seidnotes: The Rodrigo Lopez All-Stars
2010-09-30 - Premium Article Seidnotes: A Triple Short of Driving Me Insa...
2010-09-10 - Premium Article Seidnotes: Loney Loves Ribeyes
2010-09-02 - Premium Article Seidnotes: A Streak of Myers
2010-08-20 - Premium Article Seidnotes: What Did Brown Do for You?
2010-08-18 - Seidnotes: Those Who Don't Need Support
More...