There is a statistic that has been talked about a lot over the last few days that Chipper Jones is about to eclipse. However, the exact nature of the stat needs to be clarified.
In the game notes for the Braves, the media relations department points out that Chipper is now tied with Mike Schmidt for the second most runs batted in by third basemen. However, right under the heading you will see the words ‘primary position’ in the next sentence.
It’s the most RBI by players whose primary position was third base. That’s a big difference, especially when seeing the list. The television graphic did not have ‘primary’ in the heading, and it was not mentioned the first time by the broadcasters on Friday night’s telecast. It should have been.
Former Kansas City star George Brett leads with 1596 RBI, followed by Jones and Schmidt at 1595. And yes, of the players in baseball history that have primarily played third base that stat, as long as it is specifically labeled as such, is correct.
But what’s a little misleading is the fact that a pretty good percentage of Brett’s RBIs came as a first baseman and as a designated hitter. He had 1596 total RBI in his career, but as a third baseman he had 1005 runs batted in. So Brett had 591 RBI when he was not playing third base – or 37% of his total career RBI came when he was not playing third.
Remember, Jones spent two-plus seasons as a left fielder. He actually got 280 RBI of his 1595 RBI while not playing third base. It doesn’t diminish the accomplishment they are trying to portray, as a player who mostly played third base having more RBI than others. There’s no doubt if Chipper had not played left field, his RBI during those seasons would count as the third baseman.
It’s as much about how Brett’s numbers were accumulated, along with the fact Jones played other positions during his long career, that make it important to be clear about the stat.
But here are the RBI numbers of the players as a third baseman:
Mike Schmidt 1474
Brooks Robinson 1350
Chipper Jones 1315
Ron Santo 1297
Eddie Matthews 1271
Scott Rolen 1256
George Brett 1005
Wade Boggs 925
Again, this doesn’t diminish Jones’ feat of being in select company when it comes to run producers who primarily played third base. But considering Jones and Brett both racked up a number of runs batted in while playing elsewhere, it is appropriate to be very clear in making that distinction.
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