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What is the Meaning of RBI in Baseball/Softball?

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RBI, or Runs Batted In, or Ribbies, is a baseball term you should absolutely know if you play, coach or even watch the game. It is a statistic that credits the batter with driving in one or more runs scored as a result of the batter's offensive play. It is also one of the stats that help a batter qualify for the Triple Crown.

MLB Official Rules on Runs Batted In

For a hitter to be credited with a RBI, certain conditions must be met. According to MLB rules, here are the three ways for a Run Batted In to be credited to the hitter:

  1. unaided by an error and as part of a play begun by the batter’s safe hit (including the batter’s home run), sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, infield out or fielder’s choice, unless Rule 9.04(b) applies;
  2. by reason of the batter becoming a runner with the bases full (because of a base on balls, an award of first base
    for being touched by a pitched ball or for interference or obstruction);
  3. when, before two are out, an error is made on a play on which a runner from third base ordinarily would score.

Any hit, single, double, triple or homerun, will grant the batter a number of RBI equal to the amount of runs scored on the play, should all players continuously advance to the next base as part of the play. Where it gets dicey is when a runner attempts to score based on new information presented throughout the course of running, usually in the form of an errant throw or misplay from a fielder. In general, such errors do not convey Runs Batted In to the hitter.

RBI Speak from Broadcasters

Radio announcers are generally pretty good about filling in all of the details of an at-bat. As such, you might hear something to the effect of,

"Jeter steps to the plate with a runner on third and no outs in the Top of the 7th. Garces is in the windup, and here comes the pitch ... ~crack~ ... and Jeter lines Ol' Uncle Charlie into Right Field for an RBI Double. The Yanks take the lead on the Red Sox, one nothing."

RBI can be used in a standalone fashion, or, attached to the plate appearance, is in the case of the example above with RBI Double. The listener can assume that the runner on third scored safely and the game moved on.

RBI History and Hall of Famers

One interesting thing to note is that every single player in the Top 50 for RBI is in the MLB Hall of Fame, other than those still playing, those retired but within the five year qualification period, or those suspected of steroid use.

Actually, that's not true ... there's Fred McGriff. The Crime Dog's exclusion from the Hall is criminal in and of itself. The man was a RBI machine and had he hit 7 more homers, he'd have his bust in Cooperstown.

It will be interesting to see how MLB judges Carlos Beltran in the coming years with regard to Hall of Fame consideration, given his part in the recent cheating scandal with the trash can in Houston.

Among players with at least 2,000 plate appearances, Josh Gibson has the highest RBI to PA average, where 29% of his at-bats resulted in a RBI. Josh is amazingly followed by two guys named Mule (Suttles) and Turkey (Stearnes). Turkey is actually on the Batting Average leaders list.

Feel free to figure out your own batting average with our BA Calculator.

Top 5 MLB Players with the Most RBI All-Time

Breaking the 2,000 mark is a ridiculous feat. Only five players have done it. Here they are.

RBI Player PA Bats
2,297 Hank Aaron 13,941 R
2,214 Babe Ruth 10,626 L
2,167 Albert Pujols 12,822 R
2,086 Alex Rodriguez 12,207 R
2,075 Cap Anson 11,331 R

Top 5 NCAA Division I Softball Players with the Most RBI All-Time

NCAA Division I Softball is one of the premier sources for Women's Softball in the World. Below we are highlighting the career RBI leaders from the league.

RBI Player College Years
328 Jenny Dalton Arizona 1993-1996
322 Leah Braatz Arizona 1994-1998
315 Laura Espinoza Arizona 1992-1995
305 Sierra Romero Michigan 2013-2016
299 Stacey Nuveman UCLA 1997-2002

RBI FAQs

Who hit the most RBI in one season?

Hack Wilson owns the single-season RBI record, recording 191 runs batted in in 1930. The top 5 single season outputs are below.

Who drove in the most runs in one game?

Jim Bottomley and Mark Whiten, both of the St. Louis Cardinals, share the single-game RBI record with 12 runs batted in. You have to have a serious offensive showing to get to 12 RBI, and that's what both players did. Bottomley had six hits, three of which went for extra bases. Whiten hit four home runs.

Can a Hitter receive a RBI on a Wild Pitch?

No, runner scoring on a wild pitch does not count as a RBI for the hitter.

Will a Batter get a RBI on a Double Play?

No, a batter will not get credit for a RBI on a double play.

What about RBIs on Errors?

Errors on balls in play make RBIs tricky. A batter will receive RBI(s) if the runners would have likely scored regardless of the error.

  1. Example One: There is a runner on third with less than 2 outs and a batter hits a ground ball to the first baseman. The first baseman makes an error on the play, allowing the batter to reach base safely. During the play, the runner on third scored. The batter is properly credit with a RBI on the play.
  2. Example Two: Runners on first and second and a batter strokes a line drive into the Left Field / Centerfield gap. The ball falls for hit, with the Left Fielder fielding it cleanly, while the runner on second scores. As the runner who started on first passes second base, he notices that Left Fielder's throw was errant and continues on to third, eventually scoring. In this case, the batter is credited with only 1 RBI from the runner starting on second who scored, as the runner on first made a decision based on an in-play error.
  3. Example Three: Bases loaded with two outs. A hitter hits a two-hopper to the shortstop who bobbles the ball, resulting in everyone advancing one base and being safe all-around. The batter is not credited with a RBI because there were two outs when the error was made.

How do Homeruns and RBI work?

Good question. One of the three true outcomes, a batter is credited with both a run scored and runs batted in based on the total number of players who score on the hit. Regardless of the number of people on base, a hitter will only ever receive 1 run scored for a homerun.

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