Fun with Numbers: 40 HR and only 100 RBI? WTF?

Today, in our third installment of Fun with Numbers, we'll take a look at another oft-cited criticism of Adam Dunn.  A guy with 40 HR should drive in way more than 100 runs.  After all, there are guys in the NL with less than 30 HR who drive in 110+ HR's every year.  It seems like Dunn never drives anybody in unless it's via the longball.  Stat-heads will tell you that it's difficult to drive in runs unless there's runners on base in front of you, and a guy batting 5th just doesn't get that many runners in front of him.  They'll also tell you how awesome Magic: The Gathering is.  Let's examine just how many opportunities Dunn gets, and how well he brings guys home when he gets them..

First, we'll compare Dunn to his teammates.  I've taken the number of runners that each of the Reds' "run producers" has driven in, subtracted out the number of HR's, and divided by the total number of baserunners in front of them.  This will tell us how often these guys bring in the runners that are on base when they come to bat.  note that I've included baserunners in all plate appearances, so "soft walks" hurt, and I've also taken HR's out, so we're really getting a true ratio of runners driven in to runners on.  Here's the numbers:

Dunn: 106 RBI - 40 HR = 66 driven in / 395 total baserunners = 16.7% of baserunners driven in

Griffey: 93 RBI - 30 HR = 63 driven in / 413 total baserunners = 15.3% of baserunners driven in

Phillips: 94 RBI - 30 HR = 64 driven in / 461 total baserunners = 13.9% of baserunners driven in

Edwin: 76 RBI - 16 HR = 60 driven in / 372 total baserunners = 16.1% of baserunners driven in

As you can see, Dunn got more runners home despite having fewer opportunities than either Griffey or Phillips.  I included Encarnacion because he fared surprisingly well in this study.  But, I think the point to be made here is that despite the strikeouts and low BA with RISP, Dunn does a better job getting runners home than anybody else on the team.

Now, the logical next step is how does Dunn fare against the top RBI men in the NL?  Dunn was 10th in the NL, so let's look at the 9 guys ahead of him.  It may not surprise you that Dunn had the fewest baserunners of any of the top 10.  It may surprise you, however, to see just how many more baserunners these guys got than Dunn's 395.

Holliday 476
Howard 501 (!)
Cabrera 433
Fielder 409 (50HR and only 119 RBI???  WTF!?!?!?!)
C.Lee 490
Hawpe 467
Beltran 432
Atkins 520 (!!!)
Wright 428

Now, let's take a look at what would happen if Dunn were given the same opportunities as the top RBI guys in the NL.  We'll hold Dunn's 16.7% rate of baserunners driven in, and add his 40 HR's for an "adjusted" RBI total.  The numbers in parentheses are the RBI total of the players listed, and the number after the equal sign is Dunn's "adjusted" RBI total based on that player's number of opportunities.

Holliday (137) = 119
Howard (136) = 124
Cabrera (119) = 112
Fielder (119) = 108
C.Lee (119) = 122
Hawpe (116) = 118
Beltran (112) = 112
Atkins (111) = 127
Wright (107) = 111

So, given the same number of opportunities as the other guys, Dunn would be 5th in the NL in RBI; ahead of Lee, Hawpe, Atkins and Wright, and tied with Beltran.  Would anybody have a problem wit him then?  Hell, just swap Dunn and Phillips in the lineup, and Dunn drives in 117 (16.7% * 461 = 77 + 40 = 117).

So, really, anybody bitching about Dunn's low RBI total relative to his HR's is asking him to drive in runners that aren't there.  I find that rather unreasonable.  Dunn's "clutch" reputation is almost entirely based on experimenter's bias and lack of opportunity, and has nothing to do with actual performance.