The Greatest RBI Season in NL History?

Part of the fun of researching for the all-time LA Dodger lineup was discovering some new things, as well as reliving old memories.  I wasn't around in 1962, but Dodger Stadium's first season was one of the most memorable in Dodger history. 

In reponse to the increase of offense in both leagues -- partially due to four expansion teams added in 1961-1962 -- MLB decided to level the playing field.  From Steve Treder's wonderful look back at the 1960s at The Hardball Times from a few years back:

Effective for 1963, the strike zone was enlarged, to now entail the area from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the knee. The logic of the rule change was that allowing pitchers a larger target area for strikes would result in quicker resolution of at-bats, as well as helping to ensure that further assaults on the home run record would be less likely.

Offensive numbers plummeted in 1963 and for the rest of the decade, leaving 1962 as the last hurrah for offense in the 1960s.

NL Leaguewide Offense
Year Runs/Gm
1962 4.48
1963 3.81
1964 4.01
1965 4.03
1966 4.09
1967 3.84
1968 3.43

The 1962 Dodgers, despite moving into what would become one of the most pitching friendly environments in baseball history -- 1960s Dodger Stadium -- had their finest offensive year in Los Angeles.  To date, no Los Angeles Dodger team has scored more runs than the 842 scored by the 1962 club.  Leadoff man Maury Wills helped bring the stolen base back into national prominence, stealing a record 104 bases on his way to the MVP award. 

However, Wills made our all-time team.  I'm more intrigued by a teammate who didn't, Tommy Davis.  Davis still holds LA club records for hits (230) and RBI (153) from his wonderful 1962 season.  Mike Piazza is the only LA Dodger to beat Tommy Davis's .346 batting average.  What stands out to me are those 153 RBI.  That's just a monster total.  In Los Angeles, the next highest single-season RBI total is held by Shawn Green, who had 125 RBI in 2001. Those 153 RBI by Tommy Davis in 1962 represent a tie for the 35th most in MLB history

I was watching an episode of Prime 9 on the MLB Network this week and the subject was "unbreakable records."  One of the records was Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930.  The 1930 National League however, was one of the most offensive-happy eras in history, as the entire league hit .303 and scored 5.68 runs per game.  I wondered how Hack Wilson's season compared with Tommy Davis, after accounting for the league and park effects.  Thanks to the wonderful "Neutralize Stats" feature on each player page of the amazing Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to compare the two seasons from different eras.  After converting each player's stats to a 162-game season in a neutral park in a league averaging 4.42 runs/game, here's what I found:

Player Year Actual RBI Neutralized RBI
Hack Wilson   1930 191 153
Tommy Davis   1962 153 160

Take that, Hack!  Tommy Davis's 160 neutralized RBI seemed like a really high total, so I decided to neutralize the top 100 RBI seasons in history, just to see how Tommy Davis stacks up against everyone.  Some of the neutralizing effects were amazing.  For instance, Andres Galarraga's 150 RBI in Coors Field in 1996 were the equivalent of only 115 RBI in a neutralized environment.  

Here are the top 10 neutralized RBI seasons in MLB history:

Rank Player Team Lg Year Actual RBI Neutralized RBI
1) Lou Gehrig NYY AL 1931 184 174
2) Lou Gehrig NYY AL 1927 175 169
3) Hank Greenberg    Det AL 1935 170 162
4) Lou Gehrig NYY AL 1934 165 161
5) Tommy Davis LAD NL 1962 153 160
6) Babe Ruth NYY AL 1927 164 159
7) Hank Greenberg Det AL 1937 183 158
8) Johnny Bench Cin NL 1972 125 158
9) Sammy Sosa ChC NL 2001 160 158
10) Lou Gehrig NYY AL 1930 174 155

Wow, Lou Gehrig was awesome.  We already knew that of course, but some times it's nice to see that point driven home like this.  If you notice this list, the top four are all American League players, leaving Tommy Davis with the best RBI season in National League history. 

Sure, Mr. Davis may not have made our all-time lineup, but his 1962 season stands alone.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join True Blue LA

You must be a member of True Blue LA to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at True Blue LA. You should read them.

Join True Blue LA

You must be a member of True Blue LA to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at True Blue LA. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker