New stat: Runs Accounted For – RAF

Here’s a trivia question question that may stump even the most ardent of baseball fans and historians: What’s an offensive feat measured over the course of a season that Wally Berger, Nate Colbert, and Sammy Sosa have accomplished and Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, and other immortals have not?

Answer: Colbert, Berger, and Sosa are among a small group of players who had a hand in at least 30 percent of their team’s runs in a season.

I call this stat Runs Accounted For (RAF) and it’s fairly easy to calculate. Just add a player’s RBI and run totals for a season, subtract home runs since those count double, and divide by the total number of runs his team scores. From there, multiply by 100 to get the percentage of runs a player accounts for.

To be clear, RAF proposes that a player has a hand in any run he bats in or scores himself. While this admittedly leads to some double counting among teammates, since one player can score on another man’s RBI, I think it’s a good way to make relative comparisons between players of different eras and compensate for those who played on worse teams than others.

RAF rates players, past and present, who were most-indispensable to helping their teams score runs. The stat also rewards good base running, an underrated offensive skill and correlates strongly to OPS, a combination of on-base and slugging percentage. In fact, I used the lists of OPS leaders to seek out possible candidates for here.

It quickly became apparent in calculating RAF that while many players have accounted for at least 25 percent of their team’s runs in a season, few have cracked 30 percent. I’m uncertain why this is. I know of 18 players who have done it a total of 29 times. They are as follows, in order of highest RAF:

Player Year RAF Runs RBI HR Team W/L Team Runs
1 Ted Williams 1942 36.53% 141 137 36 Red Sox 93-59 761
2 Honus Wagner 1908 34.02% 100 109 10 Pirates 98-56 585
3 Babe Ruth 1919 33.33% 103 114 29 Red Sox 66-71 564
4 Nate Colbert 1972 32.78% 87 111 38 Padres 58-95 488
5 Wally Berger 1935 32.52% 91 130 34 Braves 38-115 575
6 Ty Cobb 1909 32.13% 116 107 9 Tigers 98-54 666
7 Ty Cobb 1911 32.01% 147 127 8 Tigers 89-65 831
8 Nap Lajoie 1901 31.8% 145 125 14 Athletics 74-62 805
9 Chuck Klein 1933 31.795% 101 120 28 Phillies 60-92 607
10 Ty Cobb 1917 31.77% 107 102 6 Tigers 78-75 639
11 Tris Speaker 1914 31.75% 101 90 4 Red Sox 91-62 589
12 George Sisler 1919 31.71% 96 83 10 Browns 67-72 533
13 Sammy Sosa 2001 31.15% 146 160 64 Cubs 88-74 777
14 Ty Cobb 1915 30.98% 144 99 3 Tigers 100-54 778
15 Chuck Klein 1931 30.85% 121 121 31 Phillies 66-88 684
16 Joe Jackson 1912 30.72% 121 90 3 Naps 75-78 677
17 Bill Nicholson 1943 30.696% 95 128 29 Cubs 74-79 632
18 Stan Musial 1948 30.59% 135 131 39 Cardinals 85-69 742
19 Hank Aaron 1963 30.57% 121 130 44 Braves 84-78 677
20 Chuck Klein 1930 30.51% 158 170 40 Phillies 52-102 944
21 Babe Ruth 1921 30.49% 177 171 59 Yankees 98-55 948
22 Ty Cobb 1907 30.45% 97 119 5 Tigers 92-58 693
23 Dale Murphy 1985 30.38% 118 111 37 Braves 66-96 632
24 Home Run Baker 1912 30.295% 116 130 10 Athletics 90-62 779
25 Nap Lajoie 1910 30.292% 94 76 4 Naps 71-81 548
26 Ty Cobb 1918 30.25% 83 64 3 Tigers 55-71 476
27 Honus Wagner 1905 30.2% 114 101 6 Pirates 96-57 692
28 George Sisler 1920 30.11% 137 122 19 Browns 76-77 797
29 Jeff Bagwell 1994 30.07% 104 116 39 Astros 66-49 602

Several greats never cracked 30 percent, including: Barry Bonds, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Al Simmons, whose careers I examined year-by-year on Baseball-Reference. If anyone has a player they think qualifies, let me know, and if necessary, I’d be happy to add him here.

In general, RAF appears to favor three types of players:

  1. Lone guns on bad teams
  2. Speedy contact hitters with sizable RBI and run totals, but few home runs
  3. Those greats who would have shined no matter the era

The stat is less rewarding to a DiMaggio or a Gehrig, who had the misfortune — at least for our purposes here — to play on star-packed clubs. Gehrig may have the most runs ever accounted for in one season, with 301 in 1931, though that was just over 28 percent of the 1,067 his Yankees amassed. Most years, Ruth and Gehrig drove each others percentages down. Same thing for Foxx and Simmons, as well as Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer. Enos Slaughter and Musial each just missed accounting for 30 percent of the Cardinals’ runs in 1946.

Interestingly, Bonds accounted for more runs before he (probably) started using steroids in 1999. Bonds had a hand in more than 200 runs three times in his career: 1993, 1996 and 1998, one more reason he might have been better clean. The younger Bonds also won Gold Gloves which probably saved some runs, too.

Of the players who accounted for 30 percent or more of their teams’ runs at least once, I don’t know what’s more impressive: That Cobb accomplished the feat six times in a twelve-season stretch or that Ruth and Lajoie did it for multiple teams. More astonishing? Ted Williams’ 1942 season, where he accounted for 36.53 percent of Boston’s runs and won the Triple Crown, wasn’t enough for American League Most Valuable Player honors. The award went to Joe Gordon, who accounted for just 21.6 percent of the American League champion Yankees’ runs and didn’t even lead his team in the stat, finishing behind Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller.

Related: A compilation of quirky stats and big crazy ideas I’ve introduced here

0 thoughts on “New stat: Runs Accounted For – RAF”

  1. I kind of like this one. I note that Mickey Mantle’s triple-crown season (1956) didn’t make the top 25, either. I wonder what Al Kaline’s stat was for that season. He missed the taking the rbi’s from Mantle by only 3, as I remember.

    1. I just looked, and Kaline never topped 30 percent for RAF. He had his best years in the 1950s when teammates like Harvey Kuenn and Ray Boone also accounted for plenty of runs thus driving Kaline’s percentages down.

      Since you asked, Kaline’s RAF for 1956 was 24.97%. On a lesser team, the 197 runs he provided would have been at least 30 percent of the club total, but the Tigers that year scored 789 runs, thanks in part to Kuenn, Boone and Charlie Maxwell each having solid seasons.

  2. I like the concept of Runs Accounted For but the way you compute has a glaring flaw.

    Home Runs do NOT count double!

    This is an old fallacy that keeps popping up and I don’t know why that is.

    Here’s a simple illustration of why the “Home Runs count double” approach is dead wrong.

    My team plays your team and hits 3 solo home runs in the first inning, resulting in 3 runs. In the botom of the first your team’s first two batters walk, the next batter hits a double to score two runs but is left stranded when the next 3 batters strike out.

    By your math, your batters are responsible for 4 runs (2 runs + 2 rbi = 4 RAF), while my batters are
    only responsible for 3 runs (3 runs + 3 rbi – 3 HRs = 3 RAF).

    The funny thing is, my team leads by a score of 3 to 2! How can it be that my team is winning the game but your batters have more RAF?

    It seems obvious to me that instead of subtracting out homers, you should simply give half credit for each run a player scores and half credit for each RBI, regardless of whether or not they resulted from homers.

    Do you agree?

    1. Hi Bill,

      My stat does not suggest one team is better than another on the basis of combined RAF. It’s strictly a stat for individual players and works best as a relative comparison between players on different teams, though they don’t necessarily have to be from the same era. RAF is simply one way to look at players who had a hand in the greatest number or percentage of runs for their teams.

      I’m not in favor of giving half-credit for runs or RBI. That sounds like a slippery slope wherein we’d eventually be debating whether or not to weight scores on the basis of doubles, triples, home runs and the like. I like my stat the way I proposed it.

      Anyhow, thanks for reading, and I hope you stop by again soon.

      Graham Womack

    1. Bill, I welcome constructive criticism. Some of my best work has come out of it. I invite you to make this site a regular part of your reading and offer me feedback anytime. It may not change my opinion, but I can probably always learn something from it. Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn.

  3. bill,
    There’s no need to get indignant over a fun experiment that Graham was looking at as a way to see the overall contribution to a teams scoring.
    You overlook the fact that by double counting homeruns, you’re giving an unfair advantage to the home run hitter vs the Del Ennis or Bob Elliot type hitter that drove in lots of runs as well but was never an elite power hitter.
    I’d love to look over the data that you’ve gathered and assembled too.
    Baseball is a game. Keep it fun and above all, let’s not be so dogmatic that we accuse others of the same thing.
    Looking forward to seeing what you came up with.

  4. Graham,

    Everyone should have your attitude of welcoming constructive criticism. When we get wedded to our own ideas and refuse to objectively consider other points of view then there’s not much point in discussion. So good on you!

    Vinnie, you say that “double counting” HRs is unfair to players like Del Ennis, but you have it exactly backwards. If the batter in front of Ennis reaches base and Ennis drives him home, why should they BOTH get full credit for the run? That is double-counting in every sense of the word.

  5. Graham, good work. I came up with this same stat a few years ago to determine how much runs a player produced (the R+RBI-HR portion), but I see a flaw in how you determined the percentage.

    If you compare add all of the RAF percentages of a team, you will get well over 100% (almost 200%) since RBI and R are being counted, but only give your team one run.

    What I came with was determining the percentage up against the team totals of RBI+R-HR. So, to determine the percentage, it would be Player (RBI+R-HR)/Team (RBI+R-HR).

    So, Ted Williams’ percentage in 1942 would look like:

    141+137-36 242
    —————– = ———– = .1779 = 18%
    761+702-103 1,360

    And adding that up for the entire team equates to 100%.

    Incidently, Matt Kemp’s 2011 total is also 18% (Ryan Braun’s was 16%, and Prince Fielder 15%). 18% is the highest I have found thus far, but I’m going to run the totals for the players you have listed. I’m sure that they will be very, very similar in order, but I believe this percentage is more accurate.

    Also, I call this stat TRAFR (Team Runs Accounted For Ratio). I call RBI+R-HR TRAF (Team Runs Accounted For, because I’ve heard of RBI+R referred to as Runs Accounted For.)

    But I was also interested in how this played out per game. Simply, the equation is TRAF/GP, and I call it Team Runs Accounted For Per Game (TRAFPG).So, if a player had a TRAFPG of 1, it would mean he averaged a R or RBI each game. Ted Williams in 1942 had a TRAFPG of 1.6. The highest I’ve found thus far is Babe Ruth with a whopping 1.9.

    So, that was a good average of what a player would contribute per game, but the number could be thrown off by players that made a lot of appearances as a pinch hitter. So, I came up with Team Runs Accounted For Average (TRAFA. Yes, my acronyms need work). This is figured out by TRAF/PA. The number comes out in a decimal like a batting average, and can determine the average time of PAs the player produces a run.

    In 1942 Ted Williams had a TRAFA of .361. Ryan Braun in 2011 had a TRAFA of .297, Matt Kemp .293, and Prince Fielder .259 (I chose to run those three since they were the top three in NL MVP votes in 2011. I haven’t ran the numbers determining if someone had something higher than .297.) And again, the highest I found was Babe Ruth in 1921 with (I couldn’t believe this, I ran the numbers a few times) .417.

    Babe Ruth’s TRAFR in 1921 was 17%, less than Ted Williams’ in 1942, supporting your point that a player’s percentage can be hurt if his entire team is driving in and scoring a lot of runs.

    That’s all. I came up with TRAF in 2008, and have been working on it ever since. It’s good to know that someone had my same line of thinking to know I’m not completly insane…just a tad.

    Great site by the way. I just found it today.

    Thanks for your time.

    Craig

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *