Rockies star Nolan Arenado drove in his 100th run of the season on Aug. 11, and at the time he appeared set to not only claim his third consecutive league RBI crown, but to do so in historic fashion.But the top of the National League RBI race has undergone some
Rockies star Nolan Arenado drove in his 100th run of the season on Aug. 11, and at the time he appeared set to not only claim his third consecutive league RBI crown, but to do so in historic fashion.
But the top of the National League RBI race has undergone some changes since then. Arenado still leads with 111, but the company around him has gotten a little cozier in a span of less than three weeks. When Arenado hit the century mark, his next closest competitor, Paul Goldschmidt, sat nine RBIs back with 91. Now, with about 4 1/2 weeks remaining, Arenado's lead is down to one over the white-hot Giancarlo Stanton (110 RBIs) and the ever-steady Goldschmidt (107), who drove in a pair with his 33rd homer Wednesday against the Dodgers.
Arenado is seeking some history, potentially his first league MVP Award, in addition to an NL Wild Card berth for his club. Since RBIs became an official stat in 1920, Arenado would be only the fifth player to pace his league in RBIs for three straight years, the first to do so in the NL since the Reds' George Foster from 1976-78 and just the second NL infielder to do it after Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby from 1920-22. Arenado hasn't exactly been shut out, collecting 11 RBIs in the 17 games since he reached 100, but a slower pace has opened the door just enough.
Stanton sat in sixth place with 86 RBIs on the morning of Aug. 12, but as his home run barrage has taken center stage, a bushel of RBIs has been the byproduct. As Stanton has clubbed a staggering 30 home runs in his last 49 games stretching back to July 5, he's also driven in 60 runs -- 12 more than Arenado, and any other big leaguer for that matter. Stanton would become the first Marlins player in the 25-year history of the franchise to capture an RBI crown.
"Every time [Stanton] comes to the dish, you contemplate walking him at this point in time," said Padres manager Andy Green last Sunday, after Stanton clubbed his 50th dinger. "He looks about as locked in as anybody I've ever seen. It reminds me of seeing Barry [Bonds] years ago, when I was in the other dugout watching him do what he was doing."
Goldschmidt hasn't grabbed as many eyeballs as Stanton, but his 29 RBIs in August is tied with Anthony Rizzo for second-most by any NL player. Stanton's emergence has made the league's MVP race more crowded, but an RBI crown could be a differentiating factor for Arizona's first baseman.
"What more could you ask for?" asked D-backs manager Torey Lovullo recently. "For me, I've been saying now for half a season, he is a severe MVP candidate."
As more and more statistics and measures are introduced, RBIs may not be as hallowed as they once were. But good luck convincing these three sluggers that RBIs don't matter. Their roles are to drive in runs for their clubs, after all, and whoever does so best just might take home the MVP Award.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.