Last season, I wrote an article called "Runs Batted In: Opportunity vs Execution" that attempted to level the playing field when looking at a player's RBI totals by determining the number of RBI opportunities (which I call "Expected RBI" or "eRBI") that player has had throughout the season. This provides us a basis that can be used to determine how effective the player has been driving in runs by comparing to actual RBI totals. Last year when I wrote the article, Justin Morneau had the fourth most RBI in baseball, but he also had the 10th most RBI opportunities batting behind Denard Span and Joe Mauer (I'm going to pretend the Twins didn't even have a #2 batter last season).
This season, Delmon Young has been one of the Twins two most pleasant surprises (Francisco Liriano returning to form being the other). Through Sunday's games, Delmon was tied with Ryan Howard with 81 RBI, fifth most in baseball. But unlike Morneau last year, Young has not had nearly the number of RBI opportunities batting around sixth in the Twins order, his 50.28 eRBI is only 46th in Major League Baseball. In other words, so far in 2010, Delmon Young has driven in just over 30 more runs than would an average player given the same situations. Perhaps we can't say that this means 30 additional runs have been scored by the Twins offense than without Young, as the batters behind him could still drive in the runs. But considering that up until a couple weeks ago (when J.J. Hardy and Danny Valencia got hot) the bottom of the order was not hitting well. So it's probably not a stretch that Young's clutch hitting to date has produced at least 20 more runs than would have been scored with an average hitter in his place.
I'll provide more details, as well as a comparison to other Twins hitters and team totals after the jump.
As I noted, Delmon Young is tied for fifth in MLB with 81 RBI.
Expected RBI Leaders
When we look at the hitters with the most RBI opportunities, we see many of the usual suspects sitting in the heart of some stacked lineups.
Interestingly, we see Michael Cuddyer with the second most RBI opportunities in all of baseball. More on his 48 RBI later...but behind Cuddyer, Kubel (53.74), Young (50.28), Mauer (48.24) and Morneau (44.06) round out the top five Twins.
Here's where it gets more interesting. When we compare actual RBI to expected, we see who has really earned their salaries as run producers this season.
The top ten at driving in runs:
As you can see, when compared to number of opportunities, Delmon Young is fourth best in MLB with just over 30 "RBI added". Considering Delmon has a .433/.450/.625 line (which may not last the season) with RISP, this does not surprise me. And I would expect other elite sluggers to top the list, as we see above. Among the Twins, Morneau (+11.94), Kubel (+7.26), Mauer (+3.87) and Jim Thome (+3.87) round out the top five.
It's always fun to look at the bottom of the league at driving in runs. Across all of baseball, two hitters stand out in a sea of speedy leadoff hitters.
If you're looking for an argument for Cuddyer to be batting lower in the order, this is it. Interestingly, Cuddyer has a decent (not great) .267/.362/.379 line with RISP, so I suspect it's Cuddyer's .167 AVG in 12 AB with the bases loaded (thus most RBI opportunities) that is the primary culprit. And among the rest of the Twins, Orlando Hudson (-9.31), Nick Punto (-7.82), Brendan Harris (-7.24) and J.J. Hardy (-6.61) round out the bottom five.
When we look at team totals, obviously the best offenses (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Reds and Rangers) are going to top the RBI leader board. The Twins stand sixth in MLB with 492 RBI. In terms of opportunities, we see the Atlanta Braves at the top of the list with 499.24 eRBI, followed by the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins (489.39). With a total of +2.61 "RBI added", the Twins sit at 11th in MLB, 8th in the American League. Within the AL Central Division, the Chicago White Sox (+38.90) are #3 in MLB, with the Detroit Tigers (-32.28, #21), Kansas City Royals (-44.66, #23) and Cleveland Indians (-49.31, #26) all well below league average. Interestingly, the Twins last two opponents, Seattle (-103.09) and Baltimore (-78.68) have been the worst in baseball driving in runs.
In summary, Delmon Young has been really good at driving in runs this season. And hopefully he will be able to keep up his .345 batting average. But as we finish out the season, I have to suspect his batting average with RISP will regress toward his overall batting average and the RBIs will slow down a bit. Until that happens, it has been quite a ride!