RIP, RISP

Or, in the words of Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

The road to the promised land. The road to home. The road littered with dead rallies thanks to strike outs and launch angle.

It’s true that a sacrifice fly will score a run. So too will a ground ball to 2b with less than 2 outs. They don’t help your batting average, but they do get the run in. Pull off either one, and get a well-deserved pat on the back when you get back to the dugout. After all, there’s no such thing as a bad run to score.

However, sacrifice flies and ground outs to 2b are the result of actually getting a man to 3b with less than 2 outs. With 2 outs, they are just a fly out or a ground out – which admittedly are still contact, so you don’t want to complain overmuch about them.

What you can complain about though is this: through 70 games, Detroit led all of baseball this year with 621 At Bats with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP). That’s less than 9 at-bats a game.  And one of the big things about RISP, is that it isn’t an individual stat. A lead-off double is a man in scoring position for every hitter until there are 3 outs, or he scores.

Or in simple terms – you can’t know how many people came to bat with the same runner in the same spot. It could be 1. It could be 4. We can’t know. So this doesn’t mean Detroit is close to scoring 9 runs a game. It means, even at the top, a team only gets 8-9 chances a game to score a run without a home run.

10 years ago, 8 different teams cleared the 9 at-bat a game average. And 28 of the 30 teams cleared 8 at-bats a game. This season, there are 0 teams averaging 9 at-bats a game with RISP, and only 8 teams averaging 8 such at-bats.

Why? Because simply put, there are less runners on base. In the aggregate, an increase in home runs will make up for some of the difference in runs. But they don’t make up for the absence of action.

There are less RISP opportunities now than even 10 years ago. Because there are fewer runners now than 10 years ago. Because everyone stopped hitting singles.

And when no one is hitting singles, no one is in a position where someone else can drive them in with a single.

Maybe the stat should be Runners in SINGLES Position.

Either way, RIPieces. The pieces of a shattered bat on a jam shot just fair and just out of a first baseman’s reach. The pieces of a pitcher’s shattered heart when someone successfully bunts against the shift. The pieces of an opponent’s hopes of victory, lost on a successful squeeze play.

Maybe, if there are enough of those pieces, RISP can actually RIP. Or better yet, with enough of those pieces, it won’t need to.

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