Frank steps up to the plate. He hits a home run.
You high five Frank, then step up to the plate. You hit a home run.
Who is the better player? You and Frank both did the same thing, so it seems that neither is better.
Next game. Frank steps up to the plate with a man on first base. He hits a home run.
You high five Frank then step up to the plate, obviously with the bases empty. You hit a home run.
Who is the better player? You and Frank both did the same thing, so it seems to me that neither is better. After all, you were equal after in last game so why would that have changed now?
Frank drove in two runs, but he had nothing to do with the hitter in front of him getting on base. Should we rate him as a stronger player because he lucked into getting up with a runner on base? It was not your fault that you were up with nobody on base, should we rate you as a weaker player because the teammates who hit in front of you did not do their job (or in this case, did it very well)?
If I asked a fifth grader whether or not he should be held responsible for something out of his control my guess is that he would say that is unfair. I don’t care what you say, it rained today so you are grounded mister!
This is exactly what RBIs do. RBIs judge players based on things out of their control. And people who get paid tens of thousands of dollars each year eat it up. They have no issue pointing out that Frank is a better player than you, just look how many more RBIs he has.
In that second game the batter before Frank could have got on base because the pitcher hit him. Therefore Frank is better than you are because a curveball slipped out of the pitcher’s hand and it hit Tony in the ribs. Makes complete sense.
Throughout the season Frank had 100 at-bats with a runner on third base. He had 30 singles in those at-bats, meaning he had 30 RBIs. You had 50 at-bats with a runner on third base throughout the season. You had 15 singles in those at-bats, meaning 15 RBIs. In other words, you and Frank both hit .300 with a runner on third base and Frank ended up with more RBIs.
But at the end of the day Frank has more RBIs than you, and that is all people look at. RBIs do not tell us how often either guy hit with runners on base, or with runners in scoring position, or their average with runners on base. And people sure as heck are not going to look up those numbers.
RBIs tell us: Frank > You. Suck it. Enjoy your crappy new contract.