Good, bad RBI production in cleanup spot

July, 19, 2011
7/19/11
6:07
PM ET
Amazing stat of 2011: The Seattle Mariners' cleanup hitters are hitting .190 with four home runs and 34 RBIs.

OK, enough with the bad news. Here are the teams with the most RBIs from the cleanup position this season:

Red Sox 79
Phillies 74
Brewers 73
Dodgers 72
Cardinals 70

Of course, must of us understand that RBI are often a reflection of opportunity. If we ranked those five teams by OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), we get:

Brewers: .982
Cardinals: .970
Dodgers: .964
Red Sox: .925
Phillies: .808

Ryan Howard, of course, hits cleanup for the Phillies and leads the NL with 73 RBI, despite a .249 average. He does have 19 home runs and is hitting .318 with runners in scoring position. But he has also hit with more runners on base than any hitter in the majors other than Adrian Gonzalez. In other words, cleanup production -- at least in terms of RBIs -- is often about the hitters in front of you.

Here's an example. I went through the past 10 seasons and recorded which team had the most RBIs from the cleanup spot, which team had at least 100 RBIs with the lowest OPS, and which team had the fewest RBIs. The player or players with the most plate appearances in the four-hole is listed in parenthesis.

2010
Yankees: .276, 38 HRs, 155 RBIs, .857 OPS (Alex Rodriguez)
Reds: .274, 21 HRs, 102 RBIs, .799 OPS (Scott Rolen)
Padres: .249, 18 HRs, 71 RBIs, .712 OPS (Chase Headley)

Robinson Cano chipped in with 28 RBIs in 26 games in the cleanup spot.

2009
Brewers: .299, 46 HRs, 141 RBIs, 1.012 OPS (Prince Fielder)
Phillies: .276, 44 HRs, 141 RBIs, .914 OPS (Howard)
Marlins: .277, 17 HRs, 104 RBIs, .760 OPS (Jorge Cantu)
Royals: .211, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs, .596 OPS (Mike Jacobs, Jose Guillen)

The Royals easily qualify as the worst cleanup-hitting team of the past 10 years.

2008
Phillies: .253, 47 HRs, 146 RBIs, .885 OPS (Howard)
Royals: .252, 26 HRs, 126 RBIs, .718 OPS (Jose Guillen)
Nationals: .255, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs, .743 OPS (Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young)

And yet the year before, the Royals drove in 126 runs despite a terrible .718 OPS. Of course, you can drive in more runs if you never walk, and Royals cleanup hitter only drew 33 walks.

2007
Yankees: .317, 55 HRs, 160 RBIs, 1.069 OPS (Rodriguez)
Cardinals: .246, 20 HRs, 103 RBIs, .706 OPS (Jim Edmonds, Juan Encarnacion)
Giants: .267, 32 HRs, 89 RBIs, .911 OPS (Barry Bonds)

In his final season, pitchers were still pitching around Bonds.

2006
Phillies: .287, 44 HRs, 144 RBIs, .979 OPS (Ryan Howard)
Royals: .253, 24 HRs, 113 RBIs, .755 OPS (Emil Brown, Reggie Sanders)
Diamondbacks: .252, 13 HRs, 79 RBIs, .724 OPS (Luis Gonzalez, Conor Jackson)

The Royals again! And that wasn't the Arizona that lost 111 games (that was 2004).

2005
Red Sox: .294, 48 HRs, 151 RBIs, .956 OPS (Manny Ramirez)
Rockies: .264, 27 HRs, 111 RBIs, .797 OPS (Preston Wilson, Matt Holliday)
Devil Rays: .261, 20 HRs, 81 RBIs, .748 OPS (Aubrey Huff)

Yes, it pays to hit in Coors Field.

2004
Red Sox: .289, 43 HRs, 136 RBIs, .951 OPS (Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz)
Rockies: .264, 37 HRs, 136 RBI, .844 OPS (Vinny Castilla)
Expos: .248, 31 HRs, 106 RBIs, .748 OPS (Tony Batista)
Pirates: .238, 21 HRs, 73 RBIs, .744 OPS (Craig Wilson)

What, you've forgotten about Craig Wilson?

2003
Rockies: .271, 39 HRs, 149 RBIs, .869 OPS (Wilson)
Reds: .269, 28 HRs, 109 RBIs, .800 OPS (Austin Kearns, Sean Casey)
Devil Rays: .256, 14 HRs, 61 RBIs, .710 OPS (Huff, Travis Lee)

Remember when Preston Wilson was a star?

2002
White Sox: .328, 46 HRs, 161 RBIs, 1.008 OPS (Magglio Ordonez, Paul Konerko)
Padres: .261, 24 HRs, 102 RBI, .750 OPS (Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko)
Devil Rays: .254, 20 HRs, 77 RBIs, .738 OPS (Huff, Ben Grieve)

Ordonez drove in 135 runs for the season.

2001
Indians: .320, 43 HRs, 162 RBIs, .958 OPS (Juan Gonzalez)
A's: .241, 23 HRs, 117 RBIs, .722 OPS (Jermaine Dye, Terrence Long)
Devil Rays: .270, 23 HRs, 89 RBIs, .801 OPS (Fred McGriff, Greg Vaughn)

That 162 RBIs is the most from any batting order position since 2001.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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