It's sort of passé to pay much attention to RBIs in 2017. Much like pitcher wins, they've been rightly discredited as a measure of value. Yet much like wins, they can still tell a story, even if they don't predict performance.That's the case for Buster Posey, the 2012 National League
It's sort of passé to pay much attention to RBIs in 2017. Much like pitcher wins, they've been rightly discredited as a measure of value. Yet much like wins, they can still tell a story, even if they don't predict performance.
That's the case for Buster Posey, the 2012 National League MVP Award winner and a player who once posted 103 RBIs. Posey has a .345 batting average in more than 200 plate appearances, 14 extra-base hits, 25 runs scored ... and 15 RBIs. That's a pace for 41 on the season.
Posey has driven in a Giants teammate eight times in two months. He has not hit a home run with a runner on base this year. Does that mean that Posey has forgotten how to drive in runs? That he's somehow lost the clutch gene?
Nope. It means Posey is not getting a doggone thing to hit with men on base. And unlike some hitters in those situations, he's taking his walks.
You could probably glean something along those lines from a quick glance at Posey's basic splits. He's had 48 plate appearances with runners in scoring position -- that ranks 120th in the Majors, not great for a cleanup hitter. Posey is not getting chances in the first place.
But in those chances, Posey is walking. A lot. He's drawn 12 walks and struck out five times with RISP. That's tied for the 11th-most RISP walks, and Posey has the fewest plate opportunities of any NL hitter in the top 16.
So just by looking at the basic stats, you certainly get an idea. But let's dig a little deeper to get a look at the conscious choice Posey is making, to take his walks, keep the line moving and let the next man up do the job.
Posey is a disciplined hitter in general. He's not someone who chases a lot of pitches out of the zone. Yet pitchers are still willing to risk walking Posey, rather than getting beaten by him. With RISP, 55.03 percent of pitches to him have been outside the strike zone, according to Statcast™. That percentage ranks in the top quarter of hitters who have seen at least 150 such pitches.
And of those 93 pitches out of the zone, Posey has swung at just 23 -- or 24.7 percent. That ranks in the lowest one-third for swing percentage.
If we turn it the other direction and look at what might be considered hittable strikes, it becomes even clearer. Posey has seen 169 pitches with RISP this year. Of those, all of 38 have been strikes, but not at the corners of the strike zone.
That 22.49 percent rate is the 15th lowest out of 184 hitters who have seen at least 150 pitches with men in scoring position. Not only is Posey not seeing strikes, when he does get them, they're nasty.
So Posey takes, trusting that the guys following him will get the job done. The problem is, they haven't. While Posey has a respectable if unspectacular .242/.447/.273 RISP line, at least keeping the line moving, No. 5 hitter Brandon Crawford is at .234/.231/.298.
Perhaps Posey will adjust to that reality. Perhaps he'll stay patient, but start doing a bit more damage on the pitches in the zone. Or maybe Posey will just get lucky and get a few mistakes to hit. But it seems likely he won't finish with 41 RBIs.
Matthew Leach is an executive editor for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter and read his columns.