Just yesterday, my good friend Meg wrote about Nelson Cruz and how he's mashed FORTY dingers so far this season.That is a very big number! Especially in the year 2015. Especially, especially when you're a right-handed hitter playing half of your games in Safeco Field. However, due to the continued advancement of sabermetrics, most folks who read this blog probably find longballs to be a little less sexy than they would've ten or twenty years ago. That being said, they're still very fun and very good. Another stat that is nearly as fun/good (but probably even more overrated) is the RBI. What was once considered to be one of the biggest offensive indicators of a player's ability to help his team win has largely fallen to the wayside in many baseball circles. Let's change that - just for today - and talk about runs batted in.
Despite his 40 home runs, Nelson Cruz currently sits at 84 RBIs. (RBI? RsBI? Please feel free to debate this in the comments.) All things considered, hitting 40 dingers but picking up "only" 84 runs batted in seems a little disappointing. For comparison, Josh Donaldson has 37 HRs and 115 RBIs. Also, Kendrys Morales has 17 HRs but 101 RBIs. (Both of these players are on teams that are very good at scoring runs, but the Mariners offense is actually tied for 6th highest in wRC+ this year, so it's a little disingenuous to lament Seattle's lack of offense in 2015.)
However, Cruz's RBI total is legitimately very low. In fact, he currently has the fewest RBIs ever for a player with 40+ HR. (The reasons for this suppressed RBI total are somewhat unclear; Cruz has had less than the average number of runners on base when he's batted, but the difference is fairly negligible - about 3% less. He's also been relatively "unclutch" with RISP, but he has a wRC+ of 141 in those situations, which is still very good.) In any case, below is a table showing all of the gentlemen in MLB history with 40 or more dingers and less than 100 RBIs.
There are still 20 games left in the 2015 season, so (barring disaster) Cruz will almost certainly pass the all-time low of 90 RBIs. STEAMER currently projects that Cruz will knock in 12 more runs, bringing his 2015 total up to 96. This would tie him for the seventh fewest RBIs for a player with 40+ HRs, which sure isn't great, but what can you do? Disappointingly, this RBI total would be less than 100. This is an arbitrary benchmark, but humans seem to enjoy nice round numbers, so I'll just go with it. It's been awhile since the Mariners had a 100-RBI man. The last player to do so was Rauuuuul Ibanez who drove in 110 runs back in 2008.
Since '08, the Mariners have suffered through some pretty lean offensive seasons, continuously failing to put up more than four runs per game. Their RBI leader in 2010 was Franklin Gutierrez, who drove in 64 runs. Ouch. Things were even more bleak when Miguel Olivo (and his 75 wRC+) drove in a team-leading 62 RBIs in 2011. Those were some of the worse offensive teams in recent history. Fortunately, since the tire fire that was the 2010 season, the Mariners have steadily improved their offense. Kyle fell just a little short of 100 RBIs last season, when he drove in 96 runs. And although Cruz is projected to also fall four RBIs short of 100, he still has a decent chance of getting there.
You can do it, Nellie. Bring that RBI total up to triple digits.