Comments on The SABR Baseball List and Record Book, Part 3
Here is PartÂ 3 of my postings (updated from original posting at my personal blog in 2007) on what I find interesting and worthy of comment while browsing through the 2007 SABR book, The SABR Baseball List and Record Book (available at Amazon). This time around I comment on some lists about RBIs.
On pg. 28 is list 066 “Longest Gap between 100-RBI Seasons”. Number one on the list is someone I might have guessed: Harold Baines. He had 105 in 1982, 113 in 1985, but then didn’t top 100 again until 1999 when he 103 (while playing for two teams, the Orioles and the Indians). So that is a 14 year gap, during which time he had three seasons with 90+ RBIs.
Second on the list is Willie Horton, whom I would never have guessed, but it makes sense. A slugging OF for the Tigers for the first half of his career, he played mostly DH during the latter half. In 1965 he had 104 RBI, then in 1966 he had 100. From 1970-78 he only topped 140 games played once, but then in 1979 he played all 162 games as DH for the Mariners, and still swung a powerful bat, hitting .279, with 29 HR, and 106 RBI. So that is a 13 year gap.
And third on the list is Ken Keltner with a 10 year gap. He smashed 26 HR and 113 in his rookie season in 1938. Although a regular All-Star for the Indians, his power numbers didn’t reach such heights again until 1948 when he hit 31 HR and had 119 RBIs. FYI – He missed 1945 due to the war.
List 067 is “Retired Players with Fewest Career RBI that Had a 100-RBI Season”. Tops on this list is OF Ray Pepper who had 101 RBI in his full season in 1934 for the St. Louis Browns. Amazingly, he achieved this total while only hitting 7 homeruns. He only played two more partial seasons after that, and hence ended up with 170 career RBI.
A bunch of little-known old-timers from the 1920s to 1950s are next in this list, so I’ll just mention some more recent names that caught my eye — players that readers of this posting are more likely to recognize. Slugger Phil Plantier had 100 RBI for the Padres in 1993 (along with 34 HR), but only had 293 for his entire career. Fernando Tatis has 107 RBI in 1999 for the Cardinals (also hitting 34 HR that season), but accumulated only 339 RBI for his career. Geronimo Berroa managed 106 RBI for the A’s in 1996 to go with 36 HR that year. He also had 88 RBI in 1995 and 90 RBI in 1997, but ended up his career with 382 total. And Butch Hobson had 112 RBI for the 1977 Red Sox, his first full season when he also hit 30 HR. He had 80 RBI the next year, and 93 the year after that, but then retired in 1982 with only 397 RBI for his career.
It seems there are only three players who had two 100-RBI seasons but ended their careers with less than 400 total RBI. They are Smead Jolley (1930-33) with 313 RBI, Luke Easter (1949-54) with 340 RBI, and Del Bissonette (1928-1933) with 391 RBI.
List 069 is “Players with 500 RBI in Two Different Leagues”. This is a fascinating one for sure. There are six such hitters. It was easy to guess the top three of them: Dave Winfield (1207 AL, 626 NL), Frank Robinson (744 AL, 1068 NL), and Fred McGriff (664 AL, 886 NL). Those are obvious. But the other three are much less so, in part because they had fewer career RBIs.
Lee May played from 1965-74 in the NL, with the Reds and Astros, accumulating 737 RBI. Then he was traded to the Orioles and played there for many years and finally ended up for two seasons in Kansas City, retiring in 1982. He managed to get 507 RBI during these years in the AL.
Next is Ellis Burks, who most remember as a promising and then productive OF for the Red Sox from 1987-92. He spent one year with the White Sox in 1993, and later returned to the AL with the Indians from 2001-2003, and even had 33 final at-bats for the Boston (though only 1 RBI) in 2004. That totals 655 AL RBIs. But from 1994-2000 he played for the Rockies and Giants in the NL, and managed 551 RBI in that league. Most importantly of course was his career year in 1996 hitting in the light Colorado air, when he smashed 40 HR, 128 RBI, and batted .344. He also scored 142 runs, had 45 doubles, and stole 32 basis — all of which added up to placing third in the MVP balloting that year. For being a career .291 hitter with 352 HR, 181 SB, and 1,200+ Runs and RBIs, it is somewhat strange that he only made two all-star teams in his career.
And the last of the six to make this list is Reggie Smith. The first half of his career was as a Red Sox (1966-73), and there he had 536 RBI. Then he played for the Cardinals, Dodgers, and one final season in 1982 with the Giants. In the NL he had 556 RBI. To note how relative raw offensive numbers are in baseball, Smith had about the same number of career at-bats as Burks. But he played in a different era. While he had somewhat lower career totals — 314 HR, 1,092 RBI, 1,123 Runs, 137 SB, and a .287 AVG — he was an all-star seven times. Oh, and both Smith and Burks had one Gold Glove Award each, so its not as if Smith was a far superior defender compared with Burks. What was different was the eras, e.g., the league batting average for Burks was 12 points higher than for Smith over his career.
And lastly, for now, list 070 is “Most Career RBI without ever Leading League”. Who is tops on this list? Just Willie Mays! He had 1903 RBI, but never led the league. In fact, he only came in second twice and third three times. He scored more runs (2,062) than he drove in, leading the league twice and coming in the top three 11 times (including ever year from 1957-65).
Next on this list are Rafael Palmeiro (1835) which is not a surprise, and then Cal Ripken (1,695), Tony Perez (1,652), and Harold Baines (1,628) — also all not surprises to me.