Nolan Fontana Got Robbed, Or The Terror Of RBI

Did Nolan Fontana get robbed of an honor? (PodKATT of ATVS)

The glut of Florida baseball players on the 2012 All-SEC teams is a nice thing to see: Though not all of the Gators were at their absolute peak throughout a tumultuous season, many of them were definitely among the finest players at their positions. There's just one thing that's stuck in my craw:

Nolan Fontana, not Anthony Gomez, deserved to be the first-team All-SEC shortstop.

On the grand list of injustices I have attempted to inveigh against here, this will, of course, be one of the least consequential. Fontana and Gomez are both quality players, certainly, and both do good things for very good teams with regularity. But I think Fontana's an iota or three better.

Consider these lines:


Player A Player B
Hits 63 84
Doubles 10 10
Triples 1 2
Home Runs 9 1
RBI 28 51
Batting Average .290 .354
On-Base Percentage .414 .406
Slugging Percentage .470 .426

Which player do you think is better?

I doubt it will surprise you, given the title of this article, that Player B, the guy with the huge lead in RBI is Gomez, who took the shortstop spot on the All-SEC first team. And I'm guessing it won't surprise you that I think Fontana, Player A, is slightly better.

The major discrepancies in the two lines are in hits, RBI, on-base percentage, home runs, and slugging. Gomez got many more hits than Fontana, compiling a much higher batting average, one that lead Vanderbilt by .023 and would have lead Florida by .021, but it doesn't show up in his on-base percentage because he rarely (17 times in 269 plate appearances) walks. Fontana, on the other hand, walks a lot, with 44 trips to first in 273 plate appearances, more than any other Gator, and it shows in his sterling on-base percentage.

But while Fontana's also got more pop, dwarfing Gomez' home run total and eclipsing his slugging percentage, it doesn't show up in his RBI totals. This is because RBI are not purely a measure of how good a baseball player is, but of how often he knocked in the people who were on base when he came up — and how often people were up for him to knock in.

Gomez clearly had a lot of chances: Take away the RBI that he got for bringing himself home on his lone homer, and he got 50 Commodores to cross home in 2012. Fontana, stripping out his self-BI, only brought home 19 Gators. But, with only limited college stats, I don't have the information necessary to figure out for sure if that was because Fontana choked repeatedly (unlikely) while Gomez is clutch (possible), or because Fontana hit behind underwhelming hitters (points at Cody Dent) while Gomez came up with men on (likely); I can only suggest that, maybe, you should consider who the best players are solely on factors they control.

I think Fontana's a better hitter than Gomez, because with both players being primarily leadoff men, on-base percentage, where Fontana has a narrow edge, is the most important stat, and slugging counts as a bonus that Fontana wins handily. But even if one gave Gomez points for his edges in batting average and RBI, I think those would be nullified or outdone by Fontana's advantages as a baserunner (11 steals in 12 attempts to Gomez' 10 in 16) and as a fielder (Fontana had six errors and a .975 fielding percentage, and was the SEC's All-Defensive team representative at short; Gomez had 12 errors and a .950 fielding percentage).

All this said, this is comically unimportant: Fontana's no less great for not getting a meaningless honor, and Gomez no better for getting it, and both players are very, very good. It's just that the devil is in the details, in life, and in baseball more than any other sport, and it's important to get details right.

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