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The Complicated History of RBI

Posted by Mike Lynch on August 6, 2014

If you have spent an extended amount of time on Baseball-Reference, you have likely noticed that some of our RBI totals do not match what you will see on some other sites. A notable example would be none other than George Herman Ruth. We list him with 2,214 career RBI, with a career high of 168 in 1921. Many sources, however, credit him with 2,213 career RBI and a season high of 171 in 1921.

How can there be any dispute over how many runs the most iconic player in the history of baseball drove in?

We're glad you asked.

It might come as a surprise to some, but RBI was not an official statistic until 1920, which was Ruth's first season with the Yankees. And even then, Rule 86, Section 8 was remarkably vague from 1920-30, instructing official scorers only that:

"The summary shall contain: The number of runs batted in by each batsman."

That left plenty of room for interpretation of the scoring rule. In the absence of a strict definition, official scorers across the league were inconsistent in what they considered an RBI. This inconsistency polluted numbers for a decade, despite the fact that the statistic was finally "official."

It wasn't until 1931, when Rule 70, Section 13 made the definition more explicit, that a uniform policy for counting RBI existed:

"Runs Batted In are runs scored on safe hits (including home runs), sacrifice hits, outfield put-outs, infield put-outs, and when the run is forced over by reason of the batsman becoming a base-runner. With less than two outs, if an error is made on a play on which a runner from third would ordinarily score, credit the batsman with a Run Batted In."

While this definition has seen some tweaks over time, for the first time official scorers had a clear definition of what should count as an RBI (though tabulation errors were still an issue in a pre-computerized era).

With RBI not tracked by official scorers, where do the pre-1920 RBI numbers come from? Here is a breakdown of the history of various RBI sources.

These RBI numbers have been used in various encyclopedias over the years and have served as the basis for further research done by SABR members. This research, where 5-7 newspaper accounts are looked at for each game in order to deduce RBI, often proves earlier reconstructions (and official totals) wrong. This leads to the volatile nature of early RBI numbers. A well-detailed account of this process by SABR's Herm Krabbenhoft can be found here, showing how he meticulously worked through Ruth's career RBI totals.

These thoroughly researched corrections eventually make their way to Baseball-Reference via Pete Palmer's data after they have been sufficiently vetted, which is why you will see discrepancies between our numbers and what you see in some other places. We have full confidence that when such alterations are made, that we are putting forward the best possible data generated by countless hours of expert research.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, Data, History, Uncategorized

Explaining the Honus Wagner Career Hits Discrepancy

Posted by Mike Lynch on July 29, 2014

As Derek Jeter continues his climb up baseball's all-time hits list, we have received several inquiries about Honus Wagner's career hit total. We list 3,420, while MLB lists him with 3,430 career hits. While the similarity of the numbers may imply a simple typo, it turns out that the reasons for the one-digit difference are not simple at all.

For an explanation of the history of this deviation, we spoke with Pete Palmer (the source for many of the statistics appearing on this site). Palmer explained that the 1969 Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia was the genesis of the difference. At the time, official NL statistics only went back to 1903. The encyclopedia created new statistics for years prior to that and the changes were approved by an MLB committee set up to rule on various statistics for inclusion in the encyclopedia. However, the Elias Sports Bureau, which is the official statistician for Major League Baseball, never accepted the committee ruling, which leads to some differing numbers between what you see on Baseball-Reference and what you see in official MLB records. Elias, instead, has always used data from the old Spalding Guides.

Pete Palmer (and by extension Baseball-Reference) has preferred to use the Macmillan data*, because daily figures exist to back the numbers up, which allows for the statistics to be proofed for greater accuracy. Here is a year-by-year look at the difference between our totals and the Spalding totals. These are all from Wagner's pre-1903 seasons (Baseball-Reference total listed first):

  • 1897: 81, 83
  • 1898: 176, 180
  • 1899: 196, 197
  • 1900: 201, 201
  • 1901: 194, 196
  • 1902: 176, 177

Another discrepancy that some of you may notice soon is that Baseball-Reference has Cap Anson with 3,435 career hits, while MLB has him with 3,011. While many discrepancies exist with that data, the bulk of the difference is the fact that we count Anson's 423 hits in the National Association, which we believe was clearly a major league.

TL;DR version: Our hit total for Honus Wagner is not a typo. We recognize it does not align with the official total, but we believe it is the most accurate number.

For further reading on some of the issues with official totals in baseball statistics, please read this excellent 2011 post by Retrosheet's Dave Smith.

*The Macmillan data excluded a few games that were protested and replayed in the 1890s. These statistics were included in the NL stats of the day (save for the wins and losses) and Palmer has added these statistics back into the Macmillan data to reflect this.

37 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, Data, History, Leaders, Uncategorized

New Awards Added to Baseball-Reference

Posted by Mike Lynch on July 22, 2014

We have rolled out a couple of new additions to our Awards Page:

The Edgar Martinez Award, recognizing the AL's top DH since 1973 & the Delivery Man of the Year, which recognized MLB's top reliever from 2005-13.

Beginning in 2014, the Delivery Man of the Year will be replaced by a pair of honors named for Mariano Rivera (AL) & Trevor Hoffman (NL).

7 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Awards, Baseball-Reference.com, Data, History

1901-02 Orioles Removed from Yankees History

Posted by Mike Lynch on July 21, 2014

Baseball-Reference has made the move to dissociate the New York Yankees franchise from the 1901 & 1902 Baltimore Orioles (not connected to the current Baltimore Orioles franchise). This adjustment allows us to fall in line with the Yankees franchise itself and most references including Total Baseball, edited by MLB's official historian, John Thorn, who authored an interesting history of the move. Additionally, Pete Palmer & Gary Gillette, the men behind the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, consider them separate franchises. A few years back, Gillette kindly shared his reasoning with us:

"We discussed this at length when we did the first edition of our new encyclopedia in 2004. IIRC, the deciding factor was that the Baltimore franchise went bust during the season and was turned over to the league. After the season, the league then sold a new franchise to investors in New York City. We felt that wasn't really a relocation or a transfer; it was simply filling the gap in the league that was opened when the Orioles' franchise disintegrated.

Of the 39 players who appeared for Baltimore in 1902, only five appeared for New York in 1903. Jimmy Williams was the regular second baseman for both clubs. Herm McFarland, a utility player in '02, became a regular outfielder in '03. Ernie Courtney played one game for Balto. in 1902, then 25 for NY in 1903. Harry Howell was the only pitcher of consequence to make the transition. Snake Wiltse (4 G in '03) also appeared for both."

 

This move was precipitated by the BAL/NYY joint record approaching the milestone of 10,000 wins, which caused a reassessment of how we approach this move. Some of the results in the play index may still reflect the two franchises as being one, but we will be working to fix that in the near future.

130 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, History

Stadium Histories Added

Posted by Mike on July 21, 2014

The addition of box score data back to 1922 has also helped us fill in our game location data back to 1922, so we have created an index of NFL/AAFC stadiums, from the Alamo Dome to Yankee Stadium. The stadium pages have links to first and last game box scores, as well as career, game, and playoff game leaders for a given stadium (since 1960, the first year for which we have player game stats). This covers nearly the entire history of Lambeau Field and every game played at every other stadium that's currently home to an NFL team (plus Wembley Stadium and the Rogers Centre). And it's fitting that with the park celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, we now have a record of every Bears and Cardinals game at Wrigley Field.

The stadium data has also been added to the player game finder and the team game finder, which will let you search for things like all players to throw 4 or more passing TDs at Gillette Stadium or all Chiefs' Monday night games at Arrowhead Stadium.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Pro-Football-Reference.com

All-Star Features on Baseball-Reference

Posted by Mike Lynch on July 14, 2014

Prepare for Tuesday's 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field with Baseball-Reference's All-Star features:

2 Comments | Posted in All-Star, Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, expire21d, Features

Box scores now back to 1922

Posted by Mike on July 11, 2014

In what I can only assume is the biggest sports news of the day, we've added NFL/AAFC box scores with scoring summaries for (almost) every game back to 1922, the first year of the NFL as we know it. Thanks to the combined work of PFRA and our own research, this gives us complete scoring logs for hall of famers like Bronko Nagurski, Ernie Nevers, and Otto Graham as well as box scores for games like the first official NFL championship.


Why do I say almost every game? Well, we are still missing detailed summaries for the following games/teams - we know who scored TDs and who kicked XPs, but not when or which XPs were associated with which TDs. If you have any information on any of these games, please let us know!

1922-10-29 | Toledo
Tol - TD - Phelan, Annan, Gozdowski 2, Watson (all runs);
Rousch fumble recovery. XP - Watson, R. Stein, Myers
pass

1922-11-05 | Racine
Rac - TD - Gillo 2, Dressen, Elliott, Foster 2, Sieb 2, Langhoff
(all runs). XP - Gillo, Langhoff, Sieb pass from Langhoff

1923-10-07 | crd
ChiC - TD – Crangle, Driscoll 4, King, Mohardt, R. Horween
(all runs); Kiley pass from Driscoll. XP – Driscoll 3,
A. Horween 2, King

1924-10-26 | Cleveland
Cle - TD - Noble 3 (2 runs, pass from Workman); Jones run;
Wolf pass from Roberts; Chamberlin pass from Roberts;
Tanner run; Lyman fumble recovery. XP - Workman 3;
Roberts; Lyman. FG - Workman 2

1924-11-08 | Frankford and Kansas City
Fra - TD - Way run; Storer run; Haws pass from Storer; Doyle
pass from Hamer; Sullivan run; Hamer run. XP - Welsh 3. FG - Welsh
KC - TD - Corgan pass from Andrews. XP - Andrews

1926-11-20 | Frankford
Fra - TD - Jones 3 runs, Moran run, Bruder run. XP - Budd 3,
Bruder, Hogan

1929-10-13 | Boston
Bos – Wentworth 3 (2 passes from Stockton, 1 punt return);
Latone 2 (runs); Kittredge 1 (interception). XP - Wentworth 5.

1934-11-06 | Philadelphia
Phil – TD – Hanson 3 (2 run, 1 int), Storm (run), Matesic (rec),
Ellstrom (run), Kirkman (rec), Carter 3 (rec). XP – Weiner
3, Kirkman or Matesic. [TDP – Matesic 2, Ellstrom,
Weiner 2]

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Corrections to 1994 Pacers Playoff Statistics

Posted by Mike Lynch on June 20, 2014

It recently came to our attention that there are some conflicting scores listed by various sources for Game 6 of the 1994 Pacers/Hawks Eastern Conference Semifinals series. This prompted some digging here. As a result, we have changed our score, from 97-79, to a 98-79 final. The extra point has been awarded to Antonio Davis for making 1 of 2 FTA in the 4th quarter.

However, this also led to our discovery that some of the "official" playoff totals for the 1993-94 Pacers are not correct. They are "officially" credited with 1,444 points in the 1994 Playoffs, but if you add up all of their scores, you will get 1,445. Similarly, Antonio Davis is "officially" credited with 134 points in the 1994 Playoffs, but if you add up his game logs, you will get 135.

It is our belief that the 98th point we were missing from our Game 6 score has gone unaccounted for in NBA stat totals for the last 20 years. As such, we are adjusting the Playoff scoring totals for the 1994 Pacers. The team will now be credited with 1,445 Playoff points (rather than 1,444) and Antonio Davis with 135 Playoff points (rather than 134). Additionally, 1 FTM and 2 FTA have been added to the Pacers' total (all credited to Davis).

Thanks to this correction, Davis has moved past Larry Foust for sole possession of 219th place on our NBA all-time Playoff scoring list. Congratulations, Antonio!

 

2 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Basketball-Reference.com, Data, History, Playoffs, Statgeekery

Roster Status Added to 2014 Team Pages – Baseball-Reference.com

Posted by sean on June 19, 2014

Per a user suggestion (keep the good ideas coming), we added some roster denotations to the current season team pages. Take a quick scan of this screen capture of the 2014 A's batting stats.

Screenshot 2014-06-19 09.26.59

We've always had this data on the 40-man roster pages, but this brings it to the main team pages. Bold players are on the current active roster (should be 25 per team), then for the inactive, we list whether they are on the DL or if not on the DL, we list if they are still on this team's 40-man roster. If they aren't DL'ed (by the team shown) or on the 40-man, they have nothing listed. This likely means that they've been released, waived or traded, or as in Daric Barton's case, they've been DFA'ed and sent to the minors.

2014 Oakland Athletics Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, Uncategorized

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