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.)
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
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 BaseballChronology.com,
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.