As the 2013 baseball season begins, it's nice to remember it's not as important how runs score as much as THAT runs score. Earl Weaver popularized the notion of getting runners on base (and in the process, NOT wasting outs on things like sacrifice bunts or getting thrown out stealing), but the home run is not the only that way runs are scored. This table shows how runs have been driven in during the 2009-2012 time frame:
This table isn't perfect but should make some points perfectly clear:
1. Yes, home runs ARE good things, but they still only represent around 36-38% of runs driven in. The lowly single isn't far behind.
2. Not including sacrifice flies (a time-honored notion, well, at least since 1954), outs account for about 4% of RBIs. It's difficult for me to tease it out of my data, but generally speaking this is a situation like the hitter hitting the ball deep in the infield and a fast runner scoring.
3. Not all runs result in a RBI, and those numbers are NOT reflected here. This occurs typically on ground ball double plays (the other double plays are NOT traditional GDPs and do result in a RBI) and cases where a throwing error allows the runner on 3rd to advance to home, but that's a little difficult to pick out of 800,000 lines of data.
3. It's important to note that my 2009 data isn't 100% complete yet--I still have about 10 days of box scores to enter, so the absolute numbers can't fairly be compared to 2010-2012. The percentages probably stack up well, however.
Since I have 1950 data as well (I like to use it to see how things have changed over time), I'll run the same analysis using that data. There's a bigger caveat there, since only about 80% of games from that year have play-by-play data, but 80% should be enough to notice trends:
The lack of play-by-play data is what makes the "Other" column so much larger and probably understates the Single, Double Triple significantly and the Home run less so, and the sacrifice fly, while not tabulated, looked to total around 600, or similar percentages to modern-day baseball. There's no great insight here, just information on just how runs are driven in.