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Buster Posey has a historically low RBI total for how good he’s been

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It’s early, and RBI are a horrible way to gauge an individual player’s worth. But that doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting!

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Buster Posey is on a power surge. Just one week after Doug embarrassed himself and this website by asking where Posey’s power went, the dingers came back. He has seven, which means he’s more than doubled his total from the entire second half last year. This is a welcome development.

Posey is also hitting .375, and while some of that is due to him finding holes and getting fortunate (it’s hard for a slow catcher to have a .376 batting average on balls in play, which explains why his career BABIP is .324), it’s also because he’s been the Giants’ best hitter. He’s walked more than he’s struck out. He’s hitting for average. He’s hitting for power. All systems go.

Except at the risk of being a drag, Baseball-Reference quantified something that a lot of us have noticed, and it’s not our minds playing tricks on us:

This is absolutely impressive, just from a probability standpoint. You must be thinking that it’s Posey’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position, but that’s not it. He’s 6-for-22, which is good for a .273 average. That’s a hit away from hitting .318, and it’s not like one more hit with runners in scoring position would have made this post obsolete. Seven homers and 13 RBI is still weird.

So what’s the culprit? Baseball-Reference notes that the average MLB player with 124 plate appearances has just 14 RBI, so it’s here that we should remember Posey missed a little time, which certainly affects the raw totals. They also track the average numbers of runners on base for an MLB hitter with that many PA, and Posey’s a little under the norm. With 124 PA, a hitter should come up with 74 runners on base — 37 on first, 23 on second, and 12 on third. Posey has come with 68 runners, with 39 of them on first, 20 of them on second, and just nine on third. So he’s a little behind the average.

Except these averages are for all major leaguers, not cleanup hitters. Carlos Correa has hit cleanup for most of the year with the Astros, and even though he’s had just 31 more plate appearances than Posey, he’s come up with an extra 29 runners on base. Eric Hosmer has been hitting cleanup for the Royals, which is one of the only teams that can match the Giants’ struggles, and even he’s come up with an extra 31 baserunners, despite just a couple dozen more plate appearances.

No surprises, then. Posey missed a week, and he’s also come up with fewer baserunners. This is a fluke, and let Anthony Rendon tell you about how it can take a single game to make that ol’ RBI total look a lot more promising.

Mostly, your job is twofold: First, remember this the next time someone introduces RBI as evidence of a player’s worth. It’s not a good individual stat because it relies too much on circumstances and team strength. Eduardo Nuñez has more RBI than Posey even though he hasn’t hit a home run and has struggled for most of the season. This is not because Nuñez has been the better hitter.

Second, laugh at the quirkiness before it goes away. Because it will go away. If Posey continues to crush the ball (he’s sixth in the NL in OPS, just ahead of Paul Goldschmidt), more runs will follow. He’s the cleanup hitter, dang it. Denard Span looks rejuvenated. Joe Panik isn’t having an uncharacteristic season, and we call agree that Brandon Belt is a walking fool. Posey should have plenty of runners for future plate appearances. Maybe even when he hits one over the fence.

Until then, look at this freaky ratio. Seven homers. 11 RBI. What a weird season this has been on multiple levels.