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Baseball Analyst Not Impressed with Cantu's RBI Streak; Coghlan Still Out


    Keith Law was at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday when Jorge Cantu went deep off Cincinnati's Homer Bailey in the fifth inning. But Law was momentarily occupied and missed the blow that put Cantu in the record books for having the longest streak of games with an RBI to start a season: nine.

    "I'm devastated," Law said mockingly.

 Law, senior baseball analyst for Scouts, Inc., regular columnist for ESPN.com, and a former special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is not in awe of Cantu's major league record RBI mark. Far from it. It has nothing to do with Cantu, whom Law dismisses as "below average" offensively and defensively for a corner infielder -- "a trade or non-tender waiting to happen" -- and everything to do with his utter abhorrence of the RBI as a statistic.Cantu

   "It doesn't really tell us anything useful about the player's performance, that's the bottom line for me," said Law, who argues that RBI, pitching wins and saves are the three most overvalued statistics in baseball. "I still look at the stats. But the RBI column, I just will not be there. About the most useful thing it tells you is how much a guy plays -- the more you play, the more RBI you have -- and it tells you how often the guy in front of him gets on base. Of course, if you want to know how often a guy gets on base, just look at their on-base percentage."

     Law said the "bellweather" in the RBI debate is former major leaguer Joe Carter, who drove in 115 runs for the 1990 Blue Jays. But Carter was substandard in just about every other regard. He posted a miserable on-base percentage of .290, which was one of the 10 worst figures in the majors that season, and an equally lousy OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .681.

   "If you look at RBI, you think he had a great year," Law said. "But if you look at the statistics, he didn't have a great season. It was very ugly. But he played in 162 games."

   It has been often said that Cantu has a "knack" for driving in runs, reasoning that Law also finds fault with.

    "You slap anybody who says that," Law said. "It is stupid. That whole thing just has to die. You know, the implication when somebody says that is when nobody is on base, this guy takes off for the at bat. I don't think we've ever encountered a player who is consistently better with runners in scoring position. It's true of almost every player."

   Case in point is Cantu, who is a career .278 hitter overall. Cantu's career average with runners in scoring position: .285.

   Cantu hasn't exactly been tearing the cover off the ball during his RBI streak, which actually started late last season. During the current 13-game stretch in which Cantu has had at least one RBI, he's gone 18 for 52 at the plate, a solid but not otherworldly .346 average.

    "What's more important? RBI or runs scored?," Law asked. "If you were going to focus on either of these things, the runs scored stat would be more valuable. The hardest thing is to get on base. You can knock in a run with an out.

    "With Cantu's streak, what if he goes 5 for 5 and nobody was on base? If that's how a streak can end, where the hitter does everything but hit a home run and the other hitters didn't get on base for him, then the streak is worthless. It's all about context."

    I mentioned to Law that Cantu is closing in on the major league record for consecutive games with an RBI: 17. The record was set in 1922 by Ray Grimes Sr. of the Chicago Cubs.

    "I hate to sort of couch it in popular terms," Law said. "But the fact I've never heard of the guy you just mentioned doesn't speak very highly of the importance of the record."

    Some Marlins take extreme exception to the thinking that the RBI is overrated.

    "I think it's the most important statistic," said former Marlin Jeff Conine, who is now a special assistant to president David Samson.

    Said bench coach Carlos Tosca: "This ain't math. This is baseball."

    Coghlan Remains Out of Lineup

  Brett Carroll is back in left field tonight for Chris Coghlan, who sat out last night's game with soreness in his left side.

Coghlan said he could return to the lineup on Friday under a "best-case scenario."

-- Reliever Brian Sanches will pitch live batting practice in Jupiter on Friday and make his first rehab appearance on Monday for the Hammerheads. If all goes well, he said he expects to be activated from the DL on April 26 when the Marlins return from their nine-game road trip. 

    Marlins: 1. Cameron Maybin, cf; 2. John Baker, c; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, rf; 7. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 8. Brett Carroll, lf; 9. Josh Johnson, p.

Comments

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JoeGoodyMiaHrld

Wow, what a geeky baseball writer debate. I love it. Thanks for the window into the press box. In my opinion, RBI is one of baseball's most important stats simply for the reason that it's one of the only stats that implies teamwork. Since baseball is a team game, then RBI is an important stat. The same goes for runs scored, double plays and -- the most important stat of all -- wins.

-jo-

observer

If the guy "Law" was really good at what he does and really knows what he's doing or talking about, Newsflash folks:::: HE WOULDN'T BE WORKING FOR ESPN, he'd be working for the yankees.... or any other team that could easily pay him more than ESPN....

Connie Mack

Keith Law is a jackweed. He's not impressed, yet Cantu is doing something that no other hitter in baseball has done since 1920. And you write a blog post on Keith Law poo-pooing it. Nice...

By the way, Observer, I think Mr Law used to work for the Toronto Blue Jay. (Operative phrase: "used to")

Hunter

Another numbers and stats dork who graduated from Harvard and thinks he's smarter than everyone. Doesn't mean he's a baseball guy. BTW - I love Tosca's quote.

MarlinFan

RBI's and batting average with men on base are some of the most important numbers. I don't want a guy who is hitting when no one is on. What stats does this guy value?

HanRamJJ

I just lost all respect for Mr. Law

Alwaysteal

Trade uggla for sp and move coghlan to 2nd!! Stanton to OF. COME ON MANAGEMENT!

bobbyd12

LOL, here's a guy who supposedly is sooo smart but because he doesn't believe in the RBI Column so he doesn't look at it??? Gimme a break, this guy wants to pick n choose what HE thinks is important because he is just smarter then everybody else...I bet he spends his nights home alone

K-man

Lol that guy is an idiot. I rather have a .240 hitter with 120 RBI than a .350 hitter with 30 RBI. WINS overrated???? This guy should not be allowed to write. Keith law???? Shows how overrated he is I have never heard of him. I bet If cantu was on the yanks he would be saying how great he was

mung

Last year's NL RBI leaders were Fielder, Howard and Pujols. Lets hear Law piss on them too.

Jacob

Tosca's comment makes him sound like a caveman.

K-Man, you need to get a clue. In 2008, Hanley bat .300 and had 67 RBI. Mike Jacobs bat .240 with 93 RBI. You'd rather have Jacobs of course, right?

But when you start looking at stats that aren't dependant (like RBI) and look at stats that measure an individuals performance (like Hanley's .400 OBP and .940 OPS compared to Jacob's .299 OBP and .812 OPS), you get a better idea of which player is more valuable.

Or K-Man, you and Carlos Tosca can be cavemen together.

FishFan4Life

Hey Jacob...Your comparison of Hanley and Mike Jacobs is off. Batting average and OBP are more important at the top of the order while RBIs are more important in the middle. I.E. They are both important.

p.

Wowww what a nerd....

Jacob

You're right. If you have a guy who has a lower OBP than Emilio Bonifacio, it's alright as long as he is batting clean up. I forgot about that rule. Thanks for clearing that one up.

James

Mr. Law just thinks traditional baseball stats are non-sense yet somehow he believes a formula that can explain the amount of wins each player means to his team

he bashed coglan for being ROY over his choice and generally rips the marlins whenever he can

the guy is trash and anyone who takes him seriously is just as trashy and probably should go to calculous rather than watch baseball

Fred

Jacob, of course you put more value on the guy that gets on base a lot, but to completely brush aside a stat like RBI is foolish.

Talk to any major league ball player and he'll tell you how important RBIs are. Its one of the most important stats because the game is about scoring runs and winning games. Ichiro gets on base a lot but his team hasn't been doing much winning in recent years because he was left on base.

You need the guys who knock in the runs. Go ahead and tell Hanley how unimportant RBIs are when last season he knocked in 100+ runs and called it one of his greatest achievements in baseball. Sabermetrics has value but like Carlos Tosca said "its baseball not math" The game is played on the field not in a calculator.

Every guy in the Marlins clubhouse right now is congratulating Cantu and happy he is helping them win.

FYI when Keith Law worked for the Blue Jays they were a horrible team.

Fred

Ultra

What a tool lol. RBI overrated? Seriously? It doesn't matter how often players get on base, if no one knocks them in, they can't score and you lose the game. What an idiot.

josh

Law was with the Blue Jays...they have had a good run at evaluating talent, what's valued and have given some really crappy contracts out. I guess there is a reason why the word "former" precedes his affiliation.

Owl

Obviously RBI isn't the tell all (See the Hanley/Jacobs debate above) but anyone who has watched Cantu over the past 3 seasons knows he is not a below average hitter for a corners man.

These national analysts get a snippet here and a highlight there and really they are not experts on any team. Especially the Marlins, whom they still think are candidates for contraction.

Go away Keith Law. We hate you. We'll see you in October.

Derek4Dolphins

In Football they call them "Blocks" or "TD Passes" in Basketball they call them "Assists"... but this goober has it in his head that it should't matter in the "Old Pass Time" Huh? This is the trouble with Baseball an it always will be. Instead of embracing the game as it is... we are still saddled with girl-friend-less losers who hold to what they call the "Love of the game" But who are completely unwilling to accept it in anyform that exists post 1955.
Not only that...But...

****NEWSFLASH****
If it is not about the Yuckin Fankees or the Red Socks it is not WORTHY of a team or Baseball news. Keep trying Baseball... once you have ran jokes like this clown and the ability of one or two Cities to buy out the game... things will improve for the state of your league.

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