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Batting Average Is Not The Best Measure Of A Hitter

Updated on January 15, 2013

From the very first baseball game i ever saw on tv till now it has been the case 100% of the time that when a hitter comes to the plate the batting average is flashed on the screen. Batting average very simply takes the number of hits divided by the number of times at bat. More specifically, it counts a single, double, triple, and home run all the same. Many of you have heard of the statistic slugging percentage but for those that dont know its calculation it is really a beautifully simplistic mathematical formula.

It is what is called a weighted average. A single has a weight of 1, a double a weight of 2, a triple a weight of 3, and a home run a weight of 4. You add all those points up and divide by the number of at bats.The logic behind those weights is completely obvious for anyone who has ever seen even one baseball game. All other things being equal, a home run is the best you can possibly do in a given at bat.Slugging percentage gives you the most credit for just such a hit. So a hitter gets more mileage from home runs, triples, and doubles in the formula then they do from singles.

Lets look at an example where batting average can be misleading. In 1996, Tony Gwynn hit .353. Yes i'm talking about batting average. This was above his career average. But while he scored 67 runs he only had 50 rbi. This is because his slugging percentage was only .441. It must be noted that most would consider a slugging percentage of .500 is to be very good. In 1998, Tony Gwynn hit .321, which was below his career average. But he scored 65 runs and drove in 69 which means he accounted for 17 more runs in '98 then he did in '96. His slugging percentage in '98 was a robust .501. Where was the biggest difference in the stats? He had only 3 home runs in 1996 but 16 in 1998. This gave him 52 more points in the numerator of that fraction. I would suggest then before you judge a hitter the moment you see his batting average you perhaps go online and take a look at his slugging percentage. Of course if the television broadcasts would provide this stat you wouldnt have to.


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    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I think batting average is just one of many factors used to determine a good hitter.

      True a batting average over .350 is very good but anemic numbers in every other category minimizes the .350 average a little bit.

      For me a very good hitter goes around .300 and can hit 20-30 homers while driving in 90-100 runners. Every team would love to get a hitter that hits around .350 but if they have nobody behind him to drive him in it doesn't matter how much he gets on base.

      Honestly I think on base percentage is a little bit more important than batting average. With so many hitters striking out too many times the focus should be getting on base, however they can. Base runners attract a pitchers attention and may cause him to give the next hitter something good to hit.