Or why your 0.240 hitter might be valuable
Batting average is probably the easiest baseball statistics to understand. At its core, it’s simply a ratio between a batter hits, and At bats.
AVG = H / AB
Since the goal of a hitter is to… Hit, sure a high batting average has value, right? That’s true. But how valuable is it? And is a player with a low average a bad player? Here are the two questions we will address today.
Is baseball about hitting the ball?
Now that’s a great question, and I believe a lot of people think that the answer is a plain yes. While not wrong, you can have more hits than your opponent and still lose by a large margin. Why? Because they have scored more runs!
Ah ah, here we are! What matters is to score runs, not hit the balls. The latest helps of course, but it’s just part of the batter’s arsenal. And here is a major thing to know. Because a player might have a low batting average, but reach base often by walking, batting average is not enough. A stat like BA but with walks would be better. Guess what, it already exists! It’s called On-base percentage, or OBP.
OBP = H + BB + HBP / AB + BB + HBP + SF
So now, a player with a 0.250 BA but a huge number of walks might generate more runs than another with a 0.300 BA. Especially when you realize that the difference between them is a hit every 20 AB.
That revelation is part of the knowledge Billy Beane and Paul DePosta used with the Oakland A’s. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, they actually mention OBP a lot. So the next time you want to decide between two players, don’t only consider the batting average, but also the OBP, you might find some surprises!
Wait, what about power hitters then? That’s a topic for another time!