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Dorktown: The year Caleb Joseph couldn’t drive in a run to save his life

In 2016, the Orioles’ Caleb Joseph played 49 games, took 141 plate appearances, and recorded ZERO runs batted in. How?

In 2016, the typical Major League Baseball player averaged an RBI every 8.89 plate appearances, and that figure even takes into account pitchers. But it does not take into account Dorktown hero and then-Orioles backup catcher Caleb Joseph.

Because Joseph, you see, went up to bat 141 times that year. Which is roughly equivalent to a quarter of a full-ass season’s worth of plate appearances. And whereas the average ballplayer would be expected to drive in about 15.9 runs on that many plate appearances, Joseph drove in … zero (0).

The only time in MLB history someone batted more in a season while failing to drive in a run was when Oscar Jones did so way back in 1904. Oscar Jones was a pitcher. However in the century since 1920, a period known as the live-ball era, no one’s particular close, and unsurprisingly the few guys to even reach 100 plate appearances in an RBI-less season were indeed pitchers:

Most appearances without an RBI in the live-ball era. Caleb Joseph leads.

A look at the chart when just isolating position players is downright jarring:

Most plate appearances by a position player without an RBI in the live-ball era. Once again, Caleb Joseph leads.

In fact even if the sample were expanded to include players with zero or one RBI, Joseph still comfortably leads the pack, with only 10 other guys topping 100 plate appearances:

Most plate appearances by a position player with one RBI or fewer in the live-ball era. Caleb Joseph leads again!

If we examine players who had 140+ plate appearances in a season, only three players had as few as two RBI, and they were a long time ago:

Since Watergate, anyone else with that many trips to the dish drove in at least three runs, yet Joseph didn’t even drive in one. The very loose odds of a player batting 141 times in a season sans a single RBI are roughly 1 in 20.3 million.

And it wasn’t as if he lacked opportunities — he had 29 plate appearances with a baserunner in scoring position. He went 2-for-27 with sharp line drives to shallow right constituting both hits, and thus failing to bring home the runner.

On another occasion, with a man on first base and two outs (meaning baserunners get on their horse upon contact), he mashed this double down the left-field line. Still only advanced him to third base.

But really, even if hypothetically the bases had been empty for each and every one of his 141 plate appearances, you’d still figure he’d drive in himself several times, based on having homered at an above average rate the year prior (every 32.3 plate appearances).

Indeed, it wasn’t like Joseph had proven to be an utterly incompetent batter who was simply incapable of driving in runs. That preceding 2015 season, he drove in 49 on just 355 plate appearances, or one every 7.24, which is really good! Certainly significantly better than average.