Appels de Collette: Steaks

Editor’s Note: The stats included in this article are updated through May 18.

Everything in baseball has a nickname. George Herman Ruth was called “The Babe”, double bloopers are “Texas Leaguers” and RBI’s are called steaks. The story of how Ruth earned her nickname is infamous, and while the Texas Leaguer’s origin is somewhat bizarre, it’s easy to see how RBIs came to be known as Steaks for Players. “RBIs” sounds like “ribeyes”, and ribeyes are steaks. Steaks are filling the box score and players’ bank accounts as they head to refereeing or free agency.

This season, it’s been well documented how slow the attack got off to a good start, though it shows signs of life as the season progresses. The week after Mother’s Day was the biggest scoring period yet for batting average as well as home runs, but it still lagged behind previous seasons and similar dates. Last week got off to a good start thanks in part to Houston’s second-inning efforts against Nathan Eovaldi among others. If the May numbers are a return to normal and the league moves away from the Premier League score (h/t Joe Sheehan), then that’s what I’m here for. I love throwing as much as the next person, but regularly seeing rockets die short of the wall is more annoying than watching popups find the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium or fly over the Green Monster at Fenway. There are

Editor’s Note: The stats included in this article are updated through May 18.

Everything in baseball has a nickname. George Herman Ruth was called “The Babe”, double bloopers are “Texas Leaguers” and RBI’s are called steaks. The story of how Ruth earned her nickname is infamous, and while the Texas Leaguer’s origin is somewhat bizarre, it’s easy to see how RBIs came to be known as Steaks for Players. “RBIs” sounds like “ribeyes”, and ribeyes are steaks. Steaks are filling the box score and players’ bank accounts as they head to refereeing or free agency.

This season, it’s been well documented how slow the attack got off to a good start, though it shows signs of life as the season progresses. The week after Mother’s Day was the biggest scoring period yet for batting average as well as home runs, but it still lagged behind previous seasons and similar dates. Last week got off to a good start thanks in part to Houston’s second-inning efforts against Nathan Eovaldi among others. If the May numbers are a return to normal and the league moves away from the Premier League score (h/t Joe Sheehan), then that’s what I’m here for. I love throwing as much as the next person, but regularly seeing rockets die short of the wall is more annoying than watching popups find the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium or fly over the Green Monster at Fenway. There has to be a middle ground somewhere, so let’s hope the league finds it sooner rather than later.

When looking at a particular stat, a singular player comes to mind. Last week, as I was discussing the hunt for wins, one of you no doubt looked up the article for the name of Jacob deGrom, or more recently, Brandon Woodruff. Juan Soto is certainly the most notable passenger on the RBI fight bus this season, but he’s certainly not the only one. We have two ways to look at this: how batters behave with runners in scoring position and how often those opportunities arise for batters.

The league as a whole has a slash line of 0.248/0.328/0.398 with runners in scoring position in 2022, which is the lowest it has been in the past four seasons:

SEASON

BA

OBP

SLG

2019

.264

.345

.447

2020

.256

.345

.429

2021

.252

.337

.418

2022

.248

.328

.398

Given what we know about the current attacking environment, the drop in squad shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. It just helps frame what you think will be a disappointing season from your favorite player. We have a Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) report here on our site that allows you to research any player to see how they have fared in that situation this season. Using the filter feature on the page to show only players with at least 25 at-bats with RISP, here’s what the top rankings in batting average look like at the start of the game on May 19:

  1. Andres Gimenez: .464
  2. Jose Iglesias: .462
  3. Yadiel Hernandez: .444
  4. Tyler Stephenson: .423
  5. Will Smith .407
  6. Ty France: .400
  7. Brandon Marsh: .400
  8. Michael Brantley: .400
  9. Bryce Harper: .393
  10. Jeff McNeil: .389

It’s not exactly the list of names we’d expect to find at the top of this list, but they are there. Gimenez also leads all batters in slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, by a considerable amount:

  1. Andrés Gimenez: 1,071
  2. Jose Ramirez: .900
  3. Willy Adames: .821
  4. Giancarlo Stanton: .811
  5. Bryce Harper: .786
  6. Christian Yelich: .759
  7. Pete Alonso: .750
  8. Yadiel Hernandez: .741
  9. Rowdy Tellez: 0.731
  10. Tyler Stephenson: .731

This list contains more names than we expect to see, but also features some of the same surprises as the previous ranking. Batting averages and slugging percentages only tell part of the story; how that hitter has done at that time to date. There is no year-to-year or even day-to-day rigidity with a player’s metric with runners in scoring position. RBIs are more about opportunity than skills. This is how Shohei Ohtani has more RBI than Andres Gimenez despite batting nearly 180 runs lower than Gimenez with runners in scoring position. This is also how Eric Hosmer has one more RBI in the same situation as Ohtani despite the latter having beaten almost 190 points more than the former. It bears repeating: RBIs are a skill of opportunity. Luckily, Baseball-Reference has an easy way to show us where the opportunities were and where they could go.

This report is one you should be familiar with when doing your own in-season research on teams and players. It shows you how teams are doing in particular hitting situations.

As of this writing, the Dodgers are well ahead of the pack, leading the league in both points and runners-scoring percentage. It’s a chilling fact given that Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger are still performing well below market expectations while Justin Turner is clearly making the most of his opportunities. There are times when players are feasting on filet mignon while others are dealing with table steaks.

First, here’s your ranking for Baserunner Scoring % (BRS%) for all batters with at least 50 at-bats and their current RBI total, coming into play on May 19:

Cleveland’s offense was better than expected, and Naylor hit the ground running around a fight with Covid-19. Two different Cincinnati players also made the roster, and neither was in many draft plans last spring. In fact, at least three of the names on the list only went to a 50-round draft and held on when maybe only Chisholm was someone with double-digit ADP. This is the kind of list that should give you pause if you see multiple names from one of your teams on it because these hitters are well ahead of their projected pace as well as league pace (14.1%) . Unless that player’s expected playing time or roster spot has changed drastically, you should plan ahead for future sources of RBI and not get greedy with those players in the future. Other hitters currently performing 50% or better than the league average in driving their baserunners include:

Conversely, the names below are at the other end of the standings who are performing well below the league average and not making the most of their opportunities:

These numbers speak to the amount of meat Soto has left on the bone this season. Gallo also had his fair share of opportunities to lead his Yankee teammates to success, but only managed to do so twice during the season. The New York and Washington offense are right on the league average for runners to score percentage despite two of their standout bats doing so poorly at driving runners so far in 2022. The batters currently have performance 50% below league average while driving runners can be found below:

No team owner is likely to trade Soto, but you could most likely get Gallo or Schoop for sixty cents on the dollar and reap the benefits of their RBI production as it returns to normal. If you’re feeling rather adventurous and hoping for a summer comeback from Bobby Dalbec like we experienced in 2021, he’s likely hanging on the waiver wire in many leagues after his hugely disappointing start to the season.

There are opportunities in commercial leagues to acquire premium cuts at a discount. Enjoy your lunch!

Dino S. Williams