By now, most baseball fans are probably aware of Cody Bellinger’s start to the 2019 season. Through 31 games and 132 plate appearances, Bellinger has put up an almost-immortal .431/.508/.890 slash line, with a 256 wRC+, swatting 14 home runs, drawing 19 walks and striking out just 15 times.
He’s leading baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA, wRC+, home runs, RBI, and runs scored. (He’s even stolen five bases so far this year, good for 15th.) As the calendar has now officially turned, Bellinger has tied the record for most home runs before May 1, and has set the record for most RBI before May 1.
Now, this season, baseball’s March 28 Opening Day was the earliest that it has been in history, giving Bellinger (and, Christian Yelich, who also tied the home run record) a few more games than their historical counterparts to set these marks. And, as we know, more games equals more opportunities to pad one’s numbers, especially counting stats like home runs and RBIs.
(Warning: I’m about to talk some about RBI. I also know that RBI isn’t an especially illuminating stat. I am writing about this for historical sake, so just bear with me.)
Consider this: Bellinger set his RBI record on April 29, his 30th game of the season. Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez — who previously shared the RBI-prior-to-May-1 record with 36, each doing so in 1998 — had only played 25 and 24 games, respectively, upon reaching that pinnacle. Read the rest of this entry »