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In Defense of the GWRBI

By Patrick Mondout

In baseball statistics, GWRBI stands for Game Winning Run Batted In. It is a discredited statistic that is no longer officially kept. The statistic was officially kept from 1980 to 1988. (It was tallied by the National League during 1979, but not part of boxscores until the Player's Association gave approval prior to the 1980 season.)

GWRBIs 1957-2005...
1 Hank Aaron 275
2 Eddie Murray 256
3 Carl Yastrzemski 247
4 Frank Robinson 239
5 Reggie Jackson 238
6 Willie Mays 228
7 Tony Perez 226
8 Barry Bonds 219
9 Rafael Palmeiro 218
10 Dave Winfield 216
  Gary Sheffield 216
12 George Brett 213
13 Harmon Killebrew 210
14 Cal Ripken 208
15 Willie McCovey 205
16 Andre Dawson 203
17 Fred McGriff 200
18 Harold Baines 199
19 Ted Simmons 198
20 Willie Stargell 195
21 Dave Parker 193
22 Billy Williams 191
23 Rusty Staub 189
24 Jeff Bagwell 188
25 Johnny Bench 185
26 Mike Schmidt 184
27 Brooks Robinson 182
28 Sammy Sosa 181
29 Joe Carter 180
30 Steve Garvey 176
  Ron Santo 176
32 Mark McGwire 175
  Al Kaline 175
34 Will Clark 173
35 Jim Rice 172
36 Al Oliver 171
37 Frank Thomas 168
  Jack Clark 168
  Mike Piazza 168
40 Paul O'Neill 166
  Don Baylor 166
42 Andres Galarraga 165
  Carlton Fisk 165
  Chipper Jones 165
  Ken Griffey Jr. 165
46 Ron Fairly 164
47 Lee May 163
  Dick Allen 163
49 Keith Hernandez 162
  George Foster 162
  Robin Yount 162
52 Darrell Evans 161
  Gary Gaetti 161
  Orlando Cepeda 161
55 Vada Pinson 159
56 Larry Walker 158
57 Jeff Kent 157
58 Greg Luzinski 156
  Roberto Clemente 156
  Jose Canseco 156
61 Rocky Colavito 155
  Joe Torre 155
  Ruben Sierra 155
64 Tommy Davis 154
  Chili Davis 154
66 Bill Buckner 153
  Tony Oliva 153
  Boog Powell 153
69 Luis Gonzalez 152
  Willie Davis 152
71 Joe Morgan 151
  Gary Carter 151
  Matt Williams 151
74 Sal Bando 150
75 Dale Murphy 149
76 Jose Cruz 147
  Graig Nettles 147
  Barry Larkin 147
  Paul Molitor 147
  Manny Ramirez 147
81 Pete Rose 146
  Tony Gwynn 146
83 Reggie Smith 145
84 John Olerud 142
85 Mickey Mantle 141
86 Bobby Bonilla 140
  Roberto Alomar 140
  Dwight Evans 140
89 George Hendrick 139
90 Mark Grace 138
91 Willie Horton 137
  Amos Otis 137
93 Moises Alou 136
  Bernie Williams 136
95 Rickey Henderson 136
  Juan Gonzalez 136
  George Bell 136
98 Dusty Baker 135
  Robin Ventura 135
  Bob Watson 135

See also: Single-Season GWRBI Leaders 1957-2005

The single-season Major League record is 24 by Keith Hernandez in 1985. Hernandez also holds the career mark with 129 while Eddie Murray holds the AL record with 117. Mike Greenwell holds the AL single-season record with 23 in 1988. The rookie records are held by Juan Samuel and Darryl Strawberry (13) in the NL and Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Wally Joyner (14) in the AL. Remember, all of these records only cover the years 1980-1988. (The unofficial record between 1957 and 2005 was 27 by both Willie Mays in 1962 and Joe Torre in 1971.)

Game Winning RBIs were credited to the batter who drives in the run that gives his team a lead that it never relinquishes. Thus, if Tony Perez hits a first inning grand slam and the his team wins 14-13, but they never lost the lead after his first inning slam, he gets a GWRBI. Likewise, if its the bottom of the 13th inning and Perez hits a grand slam to win the game 14-13, he gets a GWRBI.

The statistic was popular during the Awesome80s as many of us believed it did a reasonable job of showing the clutch hitters of the time. Critics of the GWRBI point to extreme examples, such as a guy hitting a first inning solo shot in a 14-0 romp getting a GWRBI, and suggest that it does not show clutch hitting (more extreme voices claim there is no such thing as clutch hitting and will slap you upside the head with a spreadsheet if you claim otherwise). They also argued that the statistic was really no different than the RBI since the leaders for each category were often the same. The Rockies disprove this theory as a team that six times has had a player win the RBI crown but which has only had one player who ever finished higher than 5th on the GWRBI charts (Dante Bichette during the wild card season of 1995). I would argue that anytime you knock in a run that gives your team a lead - no matter what inning it is - you are being clutch and that such RBIs are more valuable than the solo shot in the 9th inning of what was already a 13 run game.

No one doubts that the stat could be improved: Why not let the official scorekeeper make the call as to whether or not to award one or why not only allow it to be achieved in the after the sixth inning (like a save)? But scrapping the stat altogether was a mistake. We at, however, will keep it alive. We will post yearly leaders for GWRBIs and have a career list of the top 100 on the right. The list on the right is neither official (obviously) nor 100% accurate, even allowing for the fact that it only covers the years 1957-2005. But it is probably the best list of career GWRBIs you are likely to see for a while.

All of the top 20 in the list below are also in the top 40 in all-time RBIs, but two names stand out among the first 20 as perhaps having more GWRBIs than you might expect based on RBIs: Gary Sheffield went into the 2006 season tied for 10th on this list with 216 GWRBIs, but he is only 45th all-time in RBIs and Ted Simmons is 19th on this list but 64th in RBIs.

One irony is Rafael Palmeiro appearance in the top ten. Palmeiro (in 1988) and Alan Wiggins (in 1984) officially hold the record by appearing in the most games in a season (150) without getting a single GWRBI. To say that somebody must have put something in his coffee is an understatement!

Note: Incomplete and unofficial.
Source: Retrosheet Game Logs.

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--Patrick Mondout



The official Major League record for most Game Winning RBIs in a season is 24 by Keith Hernandez in 1985.

Photo by Michael Ponzini, 2006

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