Are Craig’s RBI numbers sustainable?

I’ve heard El Maquino, in fact we had a discussion about it tonight, and others claim that Allen Craig‘s RBI pace from 2012 is unsustainable because he had runners on base ahead of him 47% of the time.

So I wanted to do some digging. The statistic being used seemed like one of those that seems high on the surface, but because it’s not a readily used statistic, there is no way to know just what is average, what is bad, and what truly is unsustainable.

I found that last year’s MLB average was that base runners were on base in 42% of major league at bats last season. It stands to reason that being in the middle of the lineup, behind quality hitters would easily put you above average. As a result, the 47% by Craig seems perfectly sustainable. But how does he relate to others?

How do some other big RBI hitters stack up in the same metric? Here’s the top-10 in baseball last year.

Miguel Cabrera – 139 RBI – 47.7%
Josh Hamilton – 128 RBI – 46.0%
Chase Headley – 115 RBI – 45.9%
Ryan Braun – 112 RBI – 45.2%
Edwin Encarnacion – 110 RBI – 43.4%
Josh Willingham – 110 RBI – 53.6%
Alfonso Soriano – 108 RBI – 47.2%
Adrian Gonzalez – 108 RBI – 45.9%
Prince Fielder – 108 RBI – 49.3%
Billy Butler – 107 RBI – 47.1%

That number would put Craig amongst the league leaders, but these are also guys who hit in the heart of their team’s lineups. So as long as Craig stays in the heart of the lineup and gets 650-700 plate appearances, with the guys he should have in front of him, repeating that 47% shouldn’t be an issue. And if he does, statistics show that he should be among the league leaders.

Keeping his .327 batting average with men on base would be the hard part, but not impossible.

Craig currently sits at 11 RBI through 64 plate appearances. Last year the #4 hitter in the Cardinals lineup got 727 appearances. That’s a pace for 125 RBI, which is ridiculously good considering he’s hitting just .220 on the season and has yet to hit a home run.