Jersey Matt mentioned an article about Jorge Cantu’s 10 games of at least one hit and one RBI to start the season (or maybe it was only 9 at that point in time). I’ve been hearing about this for days and what a hot start Cantu is on. It’s true: his OPS+ is 143 and he has 9 extra base hits. The attention, of course, has all been on the RBI streak. This frustrates me.
I love statistical oddities. I’m giddy every morning to read another ridiculous small sample size statistic that you can only get early in the season, like which players are on pace to hit 274 home runs this season or hit .450 or strike out 350 times (although Mark Reynolds might actually get to that one). So it’s interesting to me that Cantu is the first guy to reach this mark, but it’s only interesting as an oddity, not interesting because it’s important. Cantu is a fine player, but he’s nothing special. RBI don’t matter.
Cantu is far from the top ten in the league leaders in OBP. He is outside of the top ten in Runs Created. During his streak he had multiple RBI only twice. In fact, three times during that span his Win Probability Added was negative.
He’s hitting .292. Pudge Freakin’ Rodriguez (not his actual middle name) is hitting .419. The #10 guy in the league leaders in BA is hitting .378. In other words, any of those guys would probably have had an RBI in every game too if they were hitting behind some guy named Hanley Ramirez and Possibly Finally Living Up to His Potential Cameron Maybin, who have OBPs of .474 and .368, respectively.
I know RBI are a traditional statistic. I was even persuaded to, against my will, include them in our fantasy league stats (which I’m strongly regretting). I see their value as something fun to look at and talk about, but it’s like saying a good coach can take a lousy team to the Super Bowl. No matter how good of a coach he is, he still needs good players to win. Without good players, he goes nowhere. Without guys getting on base in front of him, Cantu doesn’t have any RBI (well, he’d have three, since he has three home runs). He certainly would not have a streak.
I blame Tim McCarver.