Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, and RBIs

It’s a been argued over and over again, especially in Philadelphia, where Ryan Howard–one of the best RBI men in MLB over the years (2nd overall to only Miguel Cabrera since 2006) calls home.

And no, I’m not talking about whether to refer to multiple runs batted in as “RBI”, or “RBIs” (I’ll be using the latter in this post). I’m talking about the meaning of the stat.

“RBIs don’t matter!”, say many believers in advanced metrics and Sabermetrics.

Those that disagree tend to favor, from what I’ve seen, all the more traditional statistics, like batting average, pitcher wins, and things of that sort.

But I tend to not lean 100% one way or the other. I don’t think RBIs are meaningless, but I also don’t think that they are a good metric to use to form an opinion on a player. I treat them for what they are: a measure of what happened.

Two players on the Phillies are currently making a strong case to discontinue the use of RBIs as a value indicator: Ryan Howard and Ben Revere.



Howard, as of writing this post, has 80 RBIs, and fourth in the National League. He’s hitting .222/.309/.379. He’s striking out at the 4th-highest rate in the NL (27.9%), and is in the bottom 16 in OPS (among qualified hitters). He chases pitches outside of the zone 33.9% of the time (21st highest), but only makes contact on 53% of those swings (3rd-lowest).

About the only thing he’s done well in 2014 is collect RBIs. Here’s why: he’s had 290 plate appearances with men on base (highest in the NL), and 172 plate appearances with men in scoring position (2nd highest in NL). His average in those situations isn’t abnormally higher than his season average. He just has more chances to knock guys in.

Conversely, Ben Revere has 15 RBIs, last in the NL, and 12 lower than the next highest. But he’s in contention for the NL batting title, has swiped 38 bags, and puts the ball in play at an extremely high rate. Why does he have so few RBIs? Because he’s only had 145 plate appearances with men on base, and just 74 with runners in scoring position. Both of those aren’t even enough to qualify for leaderboards.

So, while Revere can make contact with the best of them, the RBIs just don’t happen because of the lack of runners on base when he’s at bat.

And that is why he and Howard are proving that RBIs aren’t a good determinant of value on offense. Revere is far more valuable than Howard offensively this year, but Howard is far, far ahead of him in RBIs. Howard is on pace for one of the worst-hitting high-RBI seasons of all time. Revere is on pace for one of the lowest RBI seasons of a all time for a player with 175+ hits.

I get it, Ryan Howard is supposed to have tons of RBIs because he bats fourth, and Ben Revere shouldn’t because he’s a lead off hitter. And that is 100% correct. It also furthers my point that RBIs, especially in the cases of Revere and Howard–are simply a measure of what happened. Not a measure of value.



  1. PaMikeyDC

    August 26, 2014 at 11:11 am

    It’s boring when my reply is just going to be “yes, I agree w u, great article!” But, haha, that’s all I can say. Well said!

  2. Brian

    August 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    As an older, long time baseball fan advanced metrics are sometimes confusing to me, but are a much better indication of value than many of the old time stats. Very correct and good article.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Glad you agree!

      One thing I don’t like about a lot of the new metrics is how they are treated. Lots of people tend to want them to be the end-all-be-all, and choose to ignore traditional stats. That’s why I mentioned I don’t like to lean completely one way or the other. I believe there’s a place in baseball for all kinds of stats and metrics, but they need to be used carefully & correctly.

  3. Laura Hoogerwerff

    August 26, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Ryan Howard is in the fourth hole bc he drives runs in,thus allowing the team to score runs and hopefully win games. That’s what he gets paid to do. Revere’ s job is go get on base and mame things happen. That’s why he is lead off hitter, that is his job. When Ryan went down and we had others on the fourth hole, the team had a difficult time scoring runs bc the big man was not in the line up. How Ryan goes the Phillies go it is that simple.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      I think it’s the other way around. He drives in runs because he is in the cleanup spot. The numbers don’t lie: he’s been pretty bad at the plate this year. But he has a ton of RBIs. That’s why RBIs aren’t good to value him

      • Hogey's Role

        August 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm

        Well Ryan has 80 rbi’s and the phillies aren’t going much of anywhere at the moment…. It takes a total team effort to win ball games.

  4. Bob

    August 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    While I get the point you are trying to make, I am not sure you are comparing apples to apples. Your point is negated at the end when you recognize Revere bats lead off and Howard bats clean-up, seems pretty obvious that if you bat lead-off you can’t knock in runs. Now if you want to compare those apples, lets look at the RBI production Jimmy Rollins had over the years when he was the consistent lead off batter and see how Revere’s number match up to Jimmy’s. Better yet, compare Marlon Byrd or Chase Utley’s percentages to Howards. Finally, imagine Howards numbers if he was to cut out the K’s and swinging at pitches out of the zone.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      My point was that comparing Howard’s RBIs to Revere’s is apples to oranges, and therefore proving that RBIs don’t say too much about a players value. They are too dependent on the situation, rather than the hitter

      • Patti K

        August 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

        Definitely apples to oranges, because if you do the math and figure out how many RBIs Ben Revere would have had if he had 290 chances (with runners on base), he would have had 30 RBIs (290X15/145) or with runners in scoring position 172 chances, he would have had 35 RBIs (172X15/74), it’s much lower than Howard. They both add a certain value…Ben getting on base and possibly to 3rd, while Howard hits a deep fly ball so Revere can tag in. I don’t know the stats on that: to see how many SFs Howard has compared to Revere, but I bet it’s a big difference. I don’t think Ben hits many deep flies.

        Clean up hitters are notoriously strike out kings: Mike Schmidt, Babe Ruth…But they create runs, with help from .300 hitters who get on base a lot.

    • Laura Hoogerwerff

      August 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Bob I agree with u Ryan does swing at bad balls all the time, why I don’t know. But I do know that he has carried the team for a lot of years.

      • Hogey's Role

        August 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        Lol yeah Ryan Howard carried the team for 5 consecutive playoff runs, give me a break

  5. Scott Waz

    August 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    The only issue to discuss is how many more RBI ryan Howard would have if he just hit well. Lou Gehrig often said his job was to drive in runs, that’s it. Put Revere in the same spot and I say he falls off the table of effectiveness. No. 3&4 hitters don’t see the same amount of fastballs as others. It’s far more difficult to bat in that part of the order. Revere would always see more fastballs in his current position in the order because he’s not a threat to hit anything but a single.

  6. Bill

    August 26, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I’m not going to say that Revere is a great player, but he certainly isn’t the problem with this team as much as the WIP hosts would disagree. Ask yourself this: if Rollins and Howard’s batting averages were both 50 points higher does this team have a much better record. I’m willing to bet yes

    • schmenkman

      August 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Agree on Howard, but if you’re saying that (unlike Revere) Rollins IS part of the problem, that’s way off base.

      He is already having one of the best seasons of any SS in the NL.

      If his batting average was 50 points higher (with the same power and walking he’s shown this year), he would be hitting .290, with a .363 OBP and .824 OPS. At shortstop. That would be one of the greatest seasons a 35 year old has ever had in the history of the game.

      • Bill

        August 26, 2014 at 2:55 pm

        I’d still like to see Rollins hitting at a .275 clip. .240 is too low for your two hole hitter.

      • schmenkman

        August 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        We’d like to see a lot of things, but the point is that even a .275 average (for a shortstop, with his walks and power) would put him in MVP territory. It would make his OPS+ 116. In his 2007 MVP year, it was 119.

      • Bill

        August 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

        I don’t think wanting your shortstop to hit .275 is asking too much. Rollins power numbers are good this year, but his on base percentage is around 20 points lower than where it should be for a 2 hole hitter. No real contender is going to have a two hitter with a .240 batting average and a .315 OBP. That’s not a knock against Jimmy Rollins’ career, but moving forward those numbers simply aren’t good enough, anywhere.

      • schmenkman

        August 27, 2014 at 8:27 am

        You want an MVP candidate hitting second. Who doesn’t?

        The problem isn’t Rollins per se, who’s producing more than the vast majority of shortstops, and is having about as good a year as could be expected. The problem is that he’s in a lineup where he’s still a good option for the 2 spot.

      • gibbs57

        August 27, 2014 at 9:42 am

        Sorry, I’m missing your point. IF Rollins was hitting 50 points higher…. why would he be? How many times has he? If Howard hit 50 points higher, people wouldn’t be having discussions about releasing him. I’m not arguing, just wondering where the extra 50 points in average came from.

      • Bill

        August 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

        Look at both Rollins and Howard’s better years. Howard was hitting in the .270 range with power and Rollins was between .275 and .290. I don’t expect them to do that anymore, but the organization apparently did. Otherwise, what you have is a two hitter batting .240 and a power hitter with mediocre power numbers and no batting average. This team is going nowhere with the numbers that these guys are putting up. I single them out because the organization singled them out at the start of the season.
        At that, I don’t feel that a SS hitting .275 is an MVP candidate, but a player being a professional hitter. .240 isn’t good enough. .220 isn’t good enough. I can’t remember many contending teams with two/four hole hitters with those numbers

  7. Zach Lucas

    August 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Based on those RBI opportunities, I wonder what the Phillies record would be if Marlon Byrd hit cleanup the entire season instead of Ryan Howard.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Based on Byrd’s numbers this season, I’d say he’d probably lead the NL

    • schmenkman

      August 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      We can guess that their record would be about the same. Byrd has actually been less effective than Howard in capitalizing on his RBI opportunities.

      Howard has come to bat with 395 runners on base, and knocked in 61 of them, or 15.4%.

      Byrd has come to bat with 372 runners on base, and knocked in only 52 of them, or 14.0%.

      If hypothetically Byrd had been in Howard’s spot and saw 395 base runners, but knocked in only 14.0%, that would have been 55, or 8 fewer than what Howard knocked in.

      Theoretically, 8 runs over 130 games is worth about 1 win, so all else being equal they may have won 1 less game.

      • Rick in RI

        August 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        This is exactly the analysis in which I was interested. Thanks for the post.

        Did you calculate those percentages or did you pull them from a reference site? I’m interested to see other players’ RBI/Opportunities percentages. Also interesting to see would be RBI/Scoring Position Opportunities.

        I’m curious to see if the percentages are similar between Byrd and Howard while men were in scoring position.


      • John

        August 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        I don’t suppose there’s a way to isolate the base running ability of the 395 runners on base for Howard (mostly Revere/Rollins/Utley) vs. Byrd (batting with Howard on base)? I’d settle for finding out how many of the 372 runners on base for Byrd were Howard, if you’re feeling kind enough to figure that out. Howard’s reached by walk or single 90 times this year, and he seems pretty hard to drive in from first an anything that stays in the park.

      • schmenkman

        August 26, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        I can answer some of that. Stats are from baseball-prospectus:

        Howard and Byrd have been the same in knocking in runners in scoring position, with both at 25.0% of RISP knocked in.

        The difference between the two, to John’s point, is that Howard has knocked in a much higher % of runners from first. It’s not clear how much of that is due to the hitter vs. the runner.

        By the way, the only batter who has come up with more runners on base than Howard is Casey Mcgehee, who has knocked in 14.8% of the 400.

      • tbarr

        August 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm

        but you don’t factor in the amount of times howard was on 1st base with byrd batting. takes 2 extra base hits to score howard from 1st on a good day.

      • schmenkman

        August 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        @tbarr, you’re right, and it has cost Byrd 3 RBIs this year.

        Howard was on first 9 times when Byrd has doubled this year, and he only scored on one of those. The average MLB runner scores 41% of the time on that play, i.e. about 4 of 9, so give Byrd 3 more RBIs assuming the average MLB runner (really less, but we’ll round up to 3).

        In addition, just for completeness, Howard was on second base twice when Byrd singled, and he scored on one of those two. The average MLB runner scores 59% of the time on that play, so someone could also give Byrd a fraction of an RBI there if they really wanted to.

  8. TID

    August 26, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    What’d I say, Laura?! GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN.


    • Steve

      August 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      That’s uncalled for dude. Get back in your mom’s basement. NOW.

  9. photoFred

    August 26, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Okay, but consider:

    Every time Howard comes to the plate (PA), while hitting 4th, he produces ((RBI+R)-HR) runs at a .225 clip.

    The MLB RBI leader among cleanup hitters, Victor Martinez, produces runs at a .248 clip.

    I don’t know. A run is a run. We used to call it clutch hitting. If you’re holding Howard up as a reason to devalue RBIs, especially as he plays for the 26th best (or, 5th worst) OBP team in all of MLB, I think you may be trying too hard.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      I’m not trying to devalue to RBI itself. It’s useful. What I’m trying to say is, based on RBIs, Ryan Howard is one of the best in the league and Ben Revere is one of the worst. Which is far from the truth

  10. George

    August 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Using Revere as an example of the non-value of RBI is ridiculous. He’s a leadoff hitter; it’s not his job to drive in runs but to be driven in by others. It’s like complaining that a 20 game winner had limited value because he only batted .147.

    In Howards case, his job IS to drive in runs. With 80 so far, and his ability to drive in 15.4% of runners, he’s doing the job, although not as well as he used to. I blame that partly on the fact that he doesn’t seem to have real home-run power any more.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      I think you’re missing the point, George. Since there is a disparity in RBIs based on batting position order (as you just pointed out), it shouldn’t be used to value a player.

      • George

        August 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

        Bull. Put a leadoff hitter in the four hole and see what you get. No one is going to pay Revere to bat cleanup, because he can’t do it. A non-power hitter can rarely drive in a runner who’s on first; sometimes he can’t even get one in from second because his singles are not deep enough. A power hitter, even one with a low average, many times can do both. RBI might not be the best stat, but it’s still an important one. Teams aren’t generally built around 8 banjo hitters, and teams that don’t recognize the importance of the RBI are destined to have losing seasons.

  11. mudmin

    August 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    The team with the most runs, wins. Unfortunately, that is not usually the Phillies, but that’s besides the point. In simplistic terms the 3 actions that are involved in scoring runs are

    Scoring the runs
    Advancing the runner
    Driving in the runs

    Revere’s job is to get on base and score runs. He’s 40th in that category in the NL (75th in MLB).

    Howard’s job is to drive them in. He’s 4th in the NL.

    Howard’s having an abysmal year in nearly all categories, but RBI isn’t one of them. Just because that’s an aberration doesn’t invalidate the stat.

    • Jonathan Nisula

      August 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      I think it’s more than just an outlier, to be honest

    • photoFred

      August 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      No, I respectfully disagree. While I have not done any research, it sure feels like an outlier. It’s been a truly bizarre season for TBP; that’s why we’re all talking about it. 🙂

      • Jonathan Nisula

        August 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

        I haven’t done any extensive research on it, but I’d bet it’s been a trend for Howard to have high RBIs and sub-par stats everywhere else.

        I love the guy, though–don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think he’s as good as his RBIs would suggest

  12. Tampa B

    August 26, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I respectfully, yet completely disagree. RBI’s are not the perfect stat because they rely too much on your teammates getting on base, but RBI’s are still a good indicator. Howard gets more RBI’s and is a better player because he has hit 19 HRs, 35 extra base hits, 44 more walks, and long fly balls for runners to tag up. Meanwhile Revere with his 42 extra hits has only 1 HR and less than half as many XBH (17). Based on the numbers you produced, Revere had 145 opportunities to drive in a runner and only has 15 RBI’s. Howard has had exactly twice as many opportunites (290), yet has more than 5x the amount of RBI’s (80). It doesn’t take Advanced Sabremetrics to see who gets the job done.

  13. photoFred

    August 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    He’s neither as good as his RBIs would suggest, nor as bad as many of his other stats suggest. And I love the guy too. After all his health issues it’s got to be really frustrating for him not to be the hitter he was. I cheer every time he comes through…and that’s been fairly often lately.

    • Mikah

      August 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you! Couldn’t have put it better. There are guys batting 0.04 better, with less HR and less RBI that nobody bashes. But because of Ryno’s contract, he gets a lot of crap.

  14. aruiz4927 .

    August 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Imagine if the big piece was hitting he should have over 100 rbi by now and this team would be at least .500

  15. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Another day, another lack of Gameday post.

    My wrist is hurting after seeing Blanco’s fall!!!

  16. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Really quick moving game! Through 4-1/2 in barely an hour!

  17. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:14 pm


  18. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    I have a friend who called Freddy “Uno de Mayo” because he only had one hit in the entire month of May. He’s making up for lost time now!

  19. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Less than 60 pitches in 6 innings. Could this be some kind of record?

  20. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    … do I dare hope that the Phils could win 3 series in a row?

    • Tracey

      August 26, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      (sigh…) I think I jinxed it…

    • Lefty

      August 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Easy now 🙂

  21. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Argh, there goes the shutout…

  22. schmenkman

    August 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Apropos of nothing in particular, Rollins leads all MLB shortstops in walks. And in stolen bases.

  23. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 8:53 pm


  24. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Freddy putting on a power show.

  25. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    .044 no more

  26. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    To Tracey’s point, despite facing 8 hitters last inning, Cole has still only thrown 81 pitchesm

  27. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 9:03 pm


  28. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Nice job Cole. I predict we score in the bottom of the inning and still get the win.

  29. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Use that wipeout slider on him, 100 miles Giles.

  30. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Oh Jayson – now you see it, now you don’t

  31. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Giles is looking tremendous, but we still need some offense to win this thing…

  32. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    The difference between Giles and those other hard throwers is that’s slider. If he could ever develope a straight change he’d be unhittable.

  33. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Ben’s 11 walks have him on pace for about 14 or 15, I think. If he won the batting title, that would be a modern record.

  34. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I can’t tell of he’s safe or out.

  35. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Ok the rally is on. Can Hamels still get a W?

  36. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Rollins hit 2 to the warning track tonight. One in left one in right.

  37. Tracey

    August 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm


  38. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Frandsen doing a Willy Mays imitation.

  39. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Alright CincoPapelbunny, lets get r done!

  40. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Tracey did you get my private message?

  41. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    I think this is the guy that homered off Cinnabon last night . Oops not tonight 2 down.

  42. Lefty

    August 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Hot dog!

  43. photoFred

    August 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    The kids rule!

  44. Andrew from waldorf

    August 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Winner winner
    Chicken dinner

    Unfortunately the Mets are wining in the 9th

    but still the Phillies are rolling

    The nations eyes are on you Phils.

    You can come back to catch the Mets.

    I believe!!!!!!!!!!!1

  45. glutenous

    August 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I agree with most of what you are saying in the article, but I believe that Runs Batted In are still a better indicator of value than the Win. The win is a broken stat. It is a part of baseball and I don’t want to see it removed, but there should not be so much stock placed in it. Tell me, what would most people say of Ryan Howard if he was hitting .300 with 50 RBI at this point with as many at bats? Probably something about how he is not doing his job, which is to drive in runs. I am not at all excusing his just over the Mendoza line BA, but driving in runs is what people expect of Howard.

    • photoFred

      August 26, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Exactly. .300 with 50 RBIs and he’s “padding his average with meaningless hits.”
      It’s a truly crazy season he’s having.

  46. Walt M

    August 26, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    There was an old anecdote that this one old time reporter talked about. He took his son to meet Richie Ashburn. Richie asked his son who his favorite Phillie was. The kid said Del Ennis because he hits in all the runs. Richie told the kid, who do you think he hits in all the time?

    RBIs are a stat that are created by where the person hits, but it is also reliant on the people that hit ahead of the batter. Howard has seen better days, but there is a reason why he hits a lot of RBIs – because of who he is and how the fielders are positioned when he is at bat with runners on vs with no one on base.

  47. betasigmadeltashag

    August 27, 2014 at 5:21 am

    It is kind of sad that just because the Phils have had a few bad years these guys can’t write a game day post or a wrap up post. Do they need more writers because I’ll do it
    Even though they got the Sanburg still making bad moves. I know Cole only had 80 pitches, but after cruising through 6 that seventh was a stressful one. No way you have him hit much less send him back out. Cost Cole a win.
    I’m not ready to run Ryno out of town. It is his rookie year. But if he makes these same bad moves next year I think his stay in Philly should be short

  48. Kris

    August 27, 2014 at 7:59 am

    What Ryan Howard has done for the city of Philadelphia will never be taken away from him. Bringing ’08 Championship along with Cole and Chase was a great achievement. My question would be seeing how Howard is batting .222 with 80 RBI’s, why not allow a higher contact hitter like Revere to bat clean up? I understand that it’s a lot less power but he has a higher on base%, average, more hits therefore in theory he would create more chances for scoring, or am I just being a silly cloud dreamer here.

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