LOS ANGELES -- It has become commonplace among statistical analysts to assert that runs batted in are meaningless.
Hitters, after all, can't control how many baserunners are on when they come to the plate. Why should they be given credit when those runners happen to score after they put the ball in play?
It's a perfectly sound argument if the goal is to isolate a player's value. It's a more hazy assertion when placed in a team context. If you are trying to win, you would much rather your middle-of-the-order hitters slap weak hits in the clutch than hit majestic solo home runs in a 10-0 rout.
Adrian Gonzalez probably doesn't care much about such debates, but he has been silently arguing the traditionalists' viewpoint for the past four years.
While it's true his power has been in severe decline since he mashed 40 home runs for San Diego four seasons ago, he has driven in at least 100 runs in every season since 2007. The only time he didn't was the year he hit 40 home runs, 2009.
"I always tell people, 'A home run's an RBI. That's all it is,'" Gonzalez said.
On Sunday, Gonzalez drove in four of the Los Angeles Dodgers' runs in a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates without a ball even approaching the warning track. The key hit was a dribbler up the middle. Another time, he slapped an RBI hit to left. Another time he pulled one to right.
"Adrian kind of hits to the situation. He's really smart," manager Don Mattingly said. "He knows what pitchers are always trying to do to him."
It seems at times as if everything Gonzalez does is quiet. When the situation grows most tense, he gets even quieter at the plate, simplifying his approach.
Last season, Gonzalez batted .392 with runners in scoring position, the second-best rate in the majors behind St. Louis' Allen Craig. When he knows he needs only a single to drive in a run, Gonzalez said, he takes what the pitcher gives him. That's when he can be a lethal at-bat.
"For me, it's a lot simpler than when nobody's on," Gonzalez said. "That's when I try to get big, try to get more out of it. I'm not a guy who's going to try to steal a base, so that's when I look for a double or home run."