2011 NL Runs Batted In Leader 2012 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 7, 2017


It is hard to believe that something from this decade can make me nostalgic and make me think “Man, that was a different time” but this card does.

There is Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. Back then they were considered to be elite players. Now Fielder is out of baseball, Howard is trying to make a comeback and Matt Kemp is doing well, if not great, with Atlanta.

In 2011, they were the trio of RBI leaders. Back then that was considered to be a solid metric on the value of a player. At least I did. And most people had not caught up with how unreliable it is as a way to evaluate an individual player’s performance.

Now, as I have stated on the podcast many times, it is a wonderful metric to tell the story of the game. “How did the runs get knocked in?” For a lot of people, THAT is what they care about. They care about the narrative. What HAPPENED? RBIs are essential to telling that.

When I talk to my parents or a friend about a game, recapping it, I don’t talk about the win probability. I don’t get analytical. What was the score? How did it get that way?

Pretty straight forward.

And for many years, THAT is how we evaluated players. If they drove in more runs, they were doing their job. And in many ways, that is true.

The difference is now we understand it has almost zero predictive powers. RBI rely on runners being on base in front of a hitter. A double into the gap with nobody on drives in fewer runs than getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

I think the reason for the switch in perception has more to do with fantasy baseball than anything else. People assembling teams are more interested in what a player will do moving forward than what they accomplished in the past. With more and more makeshift GMs out there assembling teams, new metrics demonstrating the offensive value of a player have become more common.

For those of us without a fantasy team, the narrative still works fine. But any GM acquiring players in reality using RBI as a measure should be fired on the spot.

Big burly sluggers like Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard may never be considered MVP candidates ever again mainly because metrics tend to value more well rounded players. (By well rounded I mean offensive, defensive and speed, not the shape of Fielder’s belly.)

For that reason, this 2012 card makes me feel oddly nostalgic.