Collette Calls: Steaks

Collette Calls: Steaks

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

Editor's Note: Stats included in this article are updated through May 18.

Everything in baseball has a nickname. George Herman Ruth was called "The Babe," blooper doubles are "Texas Leaguers" and RBIs are called steaks. The story of how Ruth earned his nickname is infamous, and while the origin of Texas Leaguer is somewhat bizarre, it is easy to understand how RBIs became known as steaks to players. "RBIs" sounds like "ribeyes," and ribeyes are steaks. Steaks fill up the box score and the bank accounts of players as they head to arbitration or free agency. 

This season, it has been well-documented how offense has gotten off to a slow start, although it is showing signs of life as the season progresses. The week after Mothers' Day was the biggest scoring period yet for both batting average as well as home runs but was still off the pace from previous seasons and similar dates. Last week got off to a raging start thanks in part to Houston's efforts in the second inning against Nathan Eovaldi among others. If May's numbers are a return to normalcy and the league getting away from Premier League Scoring (h/t Joe Sheehan), then I am here for it. I love pitching as much as the next person, but seeing rockets off the bat die short of the wall on a regular basis is more annoying than watching popups find the right-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium or fly over the Green Monster in Fenway. There has

Editor's Note: Stats included in this article are updated through May 18.

Everything in baseball has a nickname. George Herman Ruth was called "The Babe," blooper doubles are "Texas Leaguers" and RBIs are called steaks. The story of how Ruth earned his nickname is infamous, and while the origin of Texas Leaguer is somewhat bizarre, it is easy to understand how RBIs became known as steaks to players. "RBIs" sounds like "ribeyes," and ribeyes are steaks. Steaks fill up the box score and the bank accounts of players as they head to arbitration or free agency. 

This season, it has been well-documented how offense has gotten off to a slow start, although it is showing signs of life as the season progresses. The week after Mothers' Day was the biggest scoring period yet for both batting average as well as home runs but was still off the pace from previous seasons and similar dates. Last week got off to a raging start thanks in part to Houston's efforts in the second inning against Nathan Eovaldi among others. If May's numbers are a return to normalcy and the league getting away from Premier League Scoring (h/t Joe Sheehan), then I am here for it. I love pitching as much as the next person, but seeing rockets off the bat die short of the wall on a regular basis is more annoying than watching popups find the right-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium or fly over the Green Monster in Fenway. There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere, so here's to hoping the league finds it sooner rather than later. 

When looking into a particular stat, a singular player comes to mind. Last week, as I discussed chasing wins, one of you undoubtedly searched the article looking for Jacob deGrom's name, or more recently, Brandon Woodruff. Juan Soto is certainly the most notable passenger on the RBI struggle bus this season, but he is certainly not alone. We have two ways of looking into this: how hitters do with runners in scoring position and how frequently those opportunities arise for hitters.

The league as a whole has a .248/.328/.398 slash line with runners in scoring position in 2022, which is the lowest it has been in the last four seasons:

SEASON

BA

OBP

SLG

2019

.264

.345

.447

2020

.256

.345

.429

2021

.252

.337

.418

2022

.248

.328

.398

Given what we know about the current offensive environment, the decline in numbers really should not come as a surprise to anyone. It just helps frame what you may believe to be a disappointing season from your favorite player. We have a Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) report here on our site which allows you to look up any player to see how they have done in that situation this season. Using the filtering feature on the page to show only players with at least 25 at-bats with RISP, this is what the top of the leaderboard looks like by batting average at the start of play May 19:

  1. Andres Gimenez: .464
  2. Jose Iglesias: .462
  3. Yadiel Hernandez: .444
  4. Tyler Stephenson: .423
  5. Will Smith .407
  6. Ty France: .400
  7. Brandon Marsh: .400
  8. Michael Brantley: .400
  9. Bryce Harper: .393
  10. Jeff McNeil: .389

That is not exactly the list of names we would expect to find at the top of that list, but there they are. Gimenez also leads all hitters in slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, by a considerable amount:

  1. Andres Gimenez: 1.071
  2. Jose Ramirez: .900
  3. Willy Adames: .821
  4. Giancarlo Stanton: .811
  5. Bryce Harper: .786
  6. Christian Yelich: .759
  7. Pete Alonso: .750
  8. Yadiel Hernandez: .741
  9. Rowdy Tellez: .731
  10. Tyler Stephenson: .731

That list has more of the names we would expect to see, but also has some of the same surprises as the previous leaderboard. Batting averages and slugging percentages only tell part of the story; how that batter has done in that moment to date. There is no year-to-year or even day-to-day stickiness with a player's metric with runners in scoring position. RBI are more to do with opportunity than skill. It is how Shohei Ohtani has more RBI than Andres Gimenez despite a batting average nearly 180 points lower than Gimenez's with runners in scoring position. It is also how Eric Hosmer has one more RBI in that same situation than Ohtani despite the latter slugging nearly 190 points higher than the former. It is worth re-stating: RBIs are a skill of opportunity. Thankfully, Baseball-Reference has an easy way to show us where the opportunities have been and where they might be moving forward. 

This report is one which you should become familiar with as you do your own in-season research on teams and players. It shows you how teams do in particular hitting situations.

As of this writing, the Dodgers are well out in front of the pack, leading the league both in runs as well as percentage of runners scoring. This is a scary fact considering Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger are still performing well below market expectations while Justin Turner is clearly making the most of his opportunities. There are times when players are feasting on filet mignon while others are dealing with table steaks. 

First, this is your leaderboard for Baserunner Scoring % (BRS%) for all hitters with at least 50 at-bats and their current RBI total, entering play May 19:

Hitter

TEAM

BR

BRS

BRS%

BRS%+

RBIS

Josh Naylor*

CLE

57

17

29.8%

211

22

Rowdy Tellez*

MIL

82

23

28.1%

199

30

Tyler Naquin*

CIN

63

17

27.0%

191

20

Travis d'Arnaud

ATL

49

13

26.5%

188

16

Andrew Vaughn

CHW

34

9

26.5%

188

13

Jazz Chisholm

MIA

76

20

26.3%

187

27

Brandon Drury

CIN

57

15

26.3%

187

22

Luis Gonzalez

SFG

50

13

26.0%

184

15

Tyler Stephenson

CIN

62

16

25.8%

183

20

Manuel Margot

TBR

71

18

25.4%

180

21

The Cleveland offense has been better than expected, and Naylor has hit the ground running around a bout with Covid-19. Two different Cincinnati players have made the list as well, and neither guy was in many draft plans this past spring. In fact, at least three of the names on the list were only going in 50-round draft and holds while possibly only Chisholm was someone with an ADP in the double digits. This is the kind of list which should give you pause if you see multiple names on it from one of your teams because these hitters are well ahead of their projected pace as well as the league pace (14.1%). Unless that player's projected playing time or lineup spot has drastically changed, you should plan ahead for future sources for RBI and do not get greedy with these players moving forward. Other hitters currently performing 50% or better than league average in driving in their baserunners include:

Hitter

Tm

BR

BRS

BRS%▼

BRS%+

Rowdy Tellez*

MIL

82

23

28.1%

199

Tyler Naquin*

CIN

63

17

27.0%

191

Travis d'Arnaud

ATL

49

13

26.5%

188

Jazz Chisholm*

MIA

76

20

26.3%

187

Brandon Drury

CIN

57

15

26.3%

187

Manuel Margot

TBR

71

18

25.4%

180

Jose Ramirez

CLE

105

25

23.8%

169

Andres Gimenez

CLE

68

16

23.5%

167

Nolan Arenado

STL

95

22

23.2%

165

Yadiel Hernandez

WSN

74

17

23.0%

163

Randal Grichuk

COL

75

17

22.7%

161

Giancarlo Stanton

NYY

97

22

22.7%

161

Brandon Marsh

LAA

80

18

22.5%

160

Wilmer Flores

SFG

81

18

22.2%

157

Paul Goldschmidt

STL

86

19

22.1%

157

Trea Turner

LAD

127

28

22.1%

157

Justin Turner

LAD

110

24

21.8%

155

Bryce Harper

PHI

83

18

21.7%

154

Jeremy Pena

HOU

74

16

21.6%

153

Alec Bohm

PHI

65

14

21.5%

152

Pete Alonso

NYM

112

24

21.4%

152

Sheldon Neuse

OAK

56

12

21.4%

152

Seth Brown

OAK

76

16

21.1%

150

Conversely, the names below are the other end of the leaderboard who are performing well below league average and not making the most of their opportunities:

Hitter

TEAM

BR

BRS

BRS%

BRS%+

RBIS

Anthony Bemboom

BAL

29

0

0.0%

0

1

Carson Kelly

ARI

43

1

2.3%

16

1

Nick Solak

TEX

38

1

2.6%

18

3

Willie Calhoun

TEX

36

1

2.8%

20

2

Joey Gallo

NYY

71

2

2.8%

20

7

Akil Baddoo

DET

34

1

2.9%

21

2

Jake Marisnick

PIT

31

1

3.2%

23

2

Juan Soto

WSN

89

3

3.4%

24

11

Adam Engel

CHW

55

2

3.6%

26

3

Ramon Laureano

OAK

27

1

3.7%

26

1

These numbers speak to just how much meat Soto has left on the bone this season. Gallo too has had his fair share of chances to drive in his successful Yankee teammates, but has managed to do so just twice all season. Both New York and Washington's offense are right about the league average for percentage of runners scoring despite two of their notable bats doing so poorly in driving in runners thus far in 2022.  The hitters currently performing 50% worse than the league average in driving in runners are found below:

Hitter

Tm

BR

BRS

BRS%▼

BRS%+

Joey Gallo

NYY

71

2

2.8%

20

Juan Soto

WSN

89

3

3.4%

24

Bryan Reynolds

PIT

82

4

4.9%

35

Bobby Dalbec

BOS

60

3

5.0%

35

Elvis Andrus

OAK

54

3

5.6%

40

Jonathan Schoop

DET

89

5

5.6%

40

Nicky Lopez

KCR

76

5

6.6%

47

Elias Diaz

COL

71

5

7.0%

50

No team owner is likely to trade Soto, but you could very likely get Gallo or Schoop for sixty cents on the dollar and reap the benefits of their RBI production as it surges back toward normal. If you are feeling rather adventurous and hope for a return of the Summer of Bobby Dalbec as we experienced in 2021, he is likely hanging on the waiver wire in many leagues after his extremely disappointing start to the season. 

There are opportunities in trading leagues to acquire prime cuts at a discount. Bon appetite!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast on iTunes. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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