The Top 10 Players Who Never Led Their League in Runs Batted In
The Run Batted In, or "RBI" has long been one of the glorious statistics in all of sports. When a major league hitter wins the Triple Crown, he leads his league in home runs, batting average, and RBI's.
The RBI tells us how many runs a player's team scored as a result of his hitting. More often than not, a player who leads his league in home runs and RBI's will win his league's Most Valuable Player award.
By now, Albert Pujols must be considered one of the Top 50 or so greatest baseball players of all time, and he will rapidly climb the ranks as he gets older.
And yet somehow, this powerful young hitter who has led the league in home runs, runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and a whole host of other statistics, has never managed to lead the National League in RBI's.
Take a look now at the Top 10 Players Who Never Led Their League in Runs Batted In.
10. Gary Sheffield
The case against Gary Sheffield goes something like this:
He won a batting title and led the NL in total bases once, and led the NL in on-base percentage, OPS, and OPS+ once.
Other than that, Sheffield never led a league in any category—and certainly not a counting category—at any point during his career.
His 500-plus home runs, 1,600-plus runs, and RBI's are impressive, but was he ever his league's best player?
9. Jim Thome
Jim Thome led his league in home runs once, strikeouts three times, walks three times, slugging percentage once, OPS once, and OPS+ once. Thome hit 52 home runs in 147 games in 2002, and didn't finish in the top five in AL MVP voting.
At the same time, Thome was also a contemporary of Manny Ramirez, who "hogged" a lot of the RBI opportunities in Cleveland, so we must bear that in mind.
8. Harry Heilmann
Heilmann played in the 1920's and 1910's with Ruth, Cobb, and Gehrig. That is a tough crowd to break out in, and although he won four batting titles, there were no RBI crowns for him.
7. Eddie Mathews
Eddie Mathews was a teammate of Hank Aaron's, and Aaron gobbled up a lot of the RBI on that Braves team.
Mathews also led the league in walks four times, and took a career total of 1,444 in 10,101 plate appearances. That can cut into the RBI's totals.
6. Chipper Jones
Don't tell Chipper Jones that black ink is important. Other than his batting average/on-base combo in 2008 and his OPS/OPS+ combo in 2007, Jones never led the NL in any other categories during his career.
Check this out: During Chipper's prime, a Colorado Rockie led the NL in RBI seven times.
5. Rickey Henderson
No shocker here. Rickey didn't lead the league in RBI's because it's not Rickey's job to drive guys in. It's Rickey's job to get driven in.
The greatest leadoff man, base stealer, and run scorer in baseball history led the AL in stolen bases 12 times, runs scored five times, bases on balls four times, and in OPS/OPS+ once.
Not only did Rickey never lead a league in RBI, but he never had more than 74 in a season.
4. Tris Speaker
A "power hitter" by the standards of the era, Speaker led the league in doubles eight times and remains the all-time leader in that category. He was also a contemporary of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, who between them, led the AL in RBI's eight times during Speaker's career.
Thus, no RBI titles for Tris.
3. Frank Thomas
The best kept secret in baseball during the 1990's was that Frank Thomas wasn't actually a power-hitter. Sure, he had plenty of power, but that was a side effect of his general approach at the plate.
In reality, Thomas was a contact hitter first, and a disciplined one at that. Hence his career batting average that is over .300, and after his first eight seasons was .330.
Thomas regularly led the league in walks and on-base percentage, but not RBI.
2. Eddie Collins
Not a huge shock here, since Collins had 47 career home runs to go with his 1,821 runs and his 1,300 RBI over 25 seasons.
Collins led the league in runs scored three times in the 1910's, and was one of the most offensively productive second basemen of all-time.
2a. Willie Mays
Mays was so amazing in 1965 that I was somehow convinced he'd led the league in RBI that season. He did not, nor did he ever.
1. Albert Pujols
It is a feat made all the more impressive when you consider the lineup tricks Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa does to increase RBI opportunities for his best player, like hitting the pitcher eighth in the order.
At the end of the day, though, Pujols has spent his career batting for the Cardinals, and he is a disciplined hitter who doesn't swing unless the pitch is right where he wants it.
Hence, more walks and fewer RBI.
Of course, Pujols has led the NL in runs scored four times, and he's finished in the top five in RBI every year that he has been in the league except for 2007.
So he's still pretty good.