Baseball history is filled with memorable moments and incredible feats of both athleticism and unbelievable skill. Almost every night, there is some play that makes fans think “I cannot believe what I just saw!” – either in the big leagues, or at some rung on the minor league level. While most of these memorable milestones are worth writing home about, Dave McCullough explains that the lack of Curtis Granderson RBI compared to his home runs total is remarkable – for all the wrong reasons.
Home runs and RBIs go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or beginnings and endings. Or wisdom and experience. When one happens, the other inevitably follows. When the man at the plate blasts a ball over the fence, anyone already on base will come home and score a run. For a long time in baseball history, driving home runners was one of the ways fans used to judge how valuable a player was to his team – by helping his teammates score, a player showed his value to the team. As our understanding of the game has improved, so has our appreciation of the individual at-bat and the impact a player can have offensively being derived from his performance in the batter’s box and on the basepaths (steals, etc.). Obviously, a home run is the best possible outcome for any trip to the plate – if it happens with men on base, so much the better – but the batter cannot control his teammate’s success. All he can do is perform when he has the chance.
Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets has had a career filled with homers: He’s hit more than 40 twice, at least 30 four times, and more than 20 in the nine seasons that he has had at least 250 plate appearances (including this season). And his 2016 has been a record setting campaign: albeit, not in a category that gets a lot of attention. Granderson’s 30 dingers have come with few teammates on base: The Mets have generally been a poor offensive team – scoring just 659 runs on the year – with few players performing at a high-level and even fewer sporting a high on-base percentage. Further, Granderson has primarily been the Mets leadoff hitter, guaranteeing he comes to the plate at least once per game with no one on base and the rest of the time after the pitcher’s spot. However, his 59 runs batted in on the year has him on pace to set a major league mark for fewest RBIs in a 30-HR season HR in baseball history, besting the mark of former Milwaukee Brewers slugger Rob Deer in 1992.
Up until this season, Deer’s 32 homers and 64 runs batted in was the lowest in MLB history; barring a big week in which his RBIs outnumber his home runs, Granderson’s 30 homers and 59 runs batted in will set the new low-water mark. The Mets right fielder has not had a great season at the plate – his .330 on base percentage is .10 off his career mark, and his .231 batting average shows he’s had some tough luck on balls in play in addition to general trouble making contact. Certainly, the Mets team problems in scoring runs (4.25 per game) this season is connected to their leadoff hitter struggling to set the table. But Granderson’s about to set a major league record for fewest runs batted in per homer – and that is a reflection of his teammates poor offensive production.
Granderson was expected to provide power to the Mets lineup; that he launched 30 homers with a .461 slugging percentage should indicate a successful season. But because of his position in the lineup – batting leadoff, and rarely having teammates on base due to the game situation or to teammate failure – Granderson may set a mark no player will endeavor to break. Had Granderson hit lower in the order, or had the Mets lineup been a bit more adept at putting runners on base, Granderson’s 30 taters would have helped them score more runs. But it’s not the player’s fault that his teammates led the Mets to an awful offensive season, and Granderson into the record books.