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Judgmental Stats: Batting Average

This might sound familiar to you: I learned math by learning how to figure out batting average. I don’t know how old I was when I first grasped that classic formula:

Hits / AB = Batting Average.

Maybe I was 10? I never had any ability to grasp geometry when I was young — a flaw I seem to have passed along to my daughters — but algebra generally made sense to me because of the many hours I spent pouring over batting average. I didn’t just figure out that formula; I turned it inside out. Let’s say I only had batting average and at-bats. How would I know how many hits? I played around with it and came up to with an answer:

Batting Average * AB = Hits

OK, but what I I knew how many hits a hitter had and his batting average. How would I figure out how many at-bats? Trickier, but I figured that one out too.

Hits / batting average = AB.

So, for Rod Carew’s classic 1977 season — I was 10 years old.

239 hits / 616 at-bats = .388 average

.388 average * 616 at-bats = 239 hits

239 hits / .388 average = 616 at-bats

Once I figured those three things out, well, it was a blast. We all know the various analytical flaws of batting average — it doesn’t take walks or hit-by pitches into account and it doesn’t describe the TYPES of hits, meaning homers and singles count the same — but it’s pretty good at what it does. And the formula seems simple. Anyway, it did for me when I was 10 years old.

Truth is, of course, the formula isn’t simple at all. We were tricked into thinking that because we were given “at-bats” and “hits.” Nobody told us then that the things that make up an “at-bat” AND the things that make up a “hit” are, once again, influenced by the sorts of morality judgments that this series is about.

And in our increasing effort to create actual counting stats, I give you what I would call the TRUE batting average. There are three rules.

— Rule No. 1: Sacrifice hits and sacrifice flies count as outs. Right now, as you know, sacrifices are considered non-at bats. This is as judgmental as it gets — and it’s ludicrous on two very different levels. On the first level, it’s ludicrous because other plays that accomplish PRECISELY the same thing do not get the same consideration. A ground ball that moves a runner from first to second is an out; a bunt that moves a runner from first to second is a sacrifice. Silly. A fly ball that scores a runner from third is a sacrifice. A ground ball that scores a runner from third is an out. Sillier.

They’re ALL outs. There is no difference at all except for “intent.” As I’ve said before, if someone banks in a long jumper, they still get the points.

Which leads to my second point: The very word we use for these kinds of plays is SACRIFICE. The player at bat is supposed to be sacrificing himself for the sake of the team. Good for him. That’s the sort of teamwork we want around here!

And yet … we don’t want it to hurt his batting average. That’s insane. If it doesn’t hurt his batting average, what is he sacrificing? Why is everyone high-fiving him and treating him like he’s a war-hero? You want to sacrifice to help the team? Fine. Knock a point or two off your batting average. That’s a sacrifice.

In the end, we consider one simple question: Does a sacrifice make an out? Yes. Then it counts as an out.

— Rule No. 2: When you reach on an error, it counts as a hit. You probably know that the error is the very essence of the judgmental baseball stat — “I think that guy should have MADE that play so I’m not giving the hitter any credit at all!” — and it’s wildly inconsistent. An error in Cleveland might not be an error in Atlanta. An error on a Tuesday in San Diego might be a high that next Thursday.

But there’s an even more basic reason why we’re counting it as a hit, one so basic that I will put it in capital letters:

YOU CANNOT CHARGE A HITTER WITH AN OUT WHEN HE DID NOT MAKE AN OUT.

That seems pretty fundamental, no? There are times when a hockey player gets a cheap goal that he probably didn’t deserve. To be honest, it probably happens 10 times a week to every team. Sometimes a receiver or shooting guard gets open because the other team had a busted defense and forgot to cover him. Sometimes a golfer hits a tree and the ball bounces onto the green, perhaps even into the cup. You could argue they don’t DESERVE the outcome.

Deserve, Clint Eastwood said, has got nothing to do with it.

So an ROE (Reached on Error) is a hit in true batting average. Now, this rarely makes a HUGE different, but as you will see, when you put it over an entire career, it can make a marked difference.

— Rule No. 3: Hitting into a double-play counts as … one out, just like now. Ha, you thought I was going the other way with that, didn’t you? It’s tempting to count double plays as two outs since two outs were recorded. But that’s exactly the sort of judgmental thing we’re trying to eliminate here. It’s only one at-bat … you can’t be charged with more than one out per one at-bat.

And that’s it — everything else is the same with regular batting average. Here then were your true average leaders for 2016:

1. D.J. LeMahieu .352 (BA .348)

2. Jose Altuve .345 (BA .338)

3. Daniel Murphy .343 (BA .347)

4. Jean Segura .333 (BA .319)

5. Mike Trout .330 (BA .315)

As you can see, there are definitely some adjustments here. Trout and Segura’s averages skyrocketed because they both had double-digit ROEs in 2016, as fast players often will. The biggest difference between average and true average, by the way, involved Carlos Correa who reached on error an amazing 16 times in 2016, most in baseball. His batting average was .274. His true average was .300.true average was .300; his batting average .274.

Player hurt most by the True Average? Nobody was hurt too badly, but as you can see Daniel Murphy lost four points on his average — he only reached on error once all year and he had eight sacrifice flies.

Over a whole career, the True Average can be quite striking. Roberto Clemente, because he reached on error 188 times in his whirlwind career, has his already striking batting average jump from .317 to .334. Ken Boyer, Willie McGee and, surprisingly, Harmon Killebrew all got big jumps as well.

This is a fair time to ask: Is getting on baseball by error a skill? Hard to say. You look at the four above, they’re very different players. McGee could fly. Clemente ran hard. Boyer could run a bit as a younger player. Killer was famously slow. But Killer and Clemente hit the ball HARD. Other reached on error leaders include Pee Wee Reese (fast), Johnny Bench (slow but hit baseballs hard), Derek Jeter (fast), Pete Rose (not too fast but a hustler) and Henry Aaron (sort of fast, hit the ball hard).

In the end, I don’t know if it’s a skill or even a half-skill. And, for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. We are just counting. That’s the whole point of this series — to make judgmental stats into counting stats.

And how would the formula look? Well, right now it wouldn’t look too simple:

(H + ROE) / (AB + SH + SF) = True Average.

But over time, I would hope it woudl be redued to this.

True Hits / True At-Bats = True Average.

 

It could be fun for a whole new generation.

 

 

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65 Responses to Judgmental Stats: Batting Average

  1. John Autin says:

    Perfectly logical idea, Joe. It might also help restore a semblance of meaning in official scorers’ decisions on fielding errors. Few are charged any more except wild throws and blatant boots. Scorers might see more clearly if doing so would not hurt batting averages.

    • SDG says:

      The bigger thing would be to get rid of errors entirely. A pitcher hangs a curve and the batter hits it to the warning track? The pitcher doesn’t get an error. The CF almost makes an amazing circus catch but the ball glances off his glove? No error. The CF was basically at second base and gets nowhere near the ball? No error. Not to mention all the stories of players or teams bullying the scorer into changing some errors to hits and some hits to errors.

      Isn’t Joe just eliminating the distinction between PAs and ABs? Or more to the point, creating an OBP counting number (and it’s really weird we don’t have that now, given all the emphasis on it since the 90s and how Ted Williams’s .482 is as well-known as Ty’s .336)?

      • KHAZAD says:

        No. Walks and HBP still are not counted as ABs. He just took something counted as an out and made it a hit, and took two things not counted at all and made them outs.

        In OBP, Sacrifice flies are counted as PAs, but (successful) sac bunts are not. ROEs are still “outs”.

        • SDG says:

          He’s still turning BA into OPB, right? Unless I’m missing something, he’s counting BB, HBP, and ROE as true hits, and all outs as outs, no matter how productive or run-scoring. That’s OBP.

          • Ed says:

            I don’t see anything suggesting that he’s counting walks and HBP as true hits. I think he left them in a separate category and is only talking about plate appearances when the ball is in play. That’s why these guys are at .330 instead of .390-400+.

        • SDG says:

          You’re right. I read it again. I still don’t get why ROE is a hit in this system but other BB and HBP aren’t.

          And I’m still confused why a DP is one out instead of two in this system when it counts as two outs in the game. Who are you supposed to charge the second out to, if not the batter? That seems judgemental. I’m not opposed to “phantom outs” charged to no one, in theory, but I utterly don’t see the point.

          • invitro says:

            You really aren’t seeing the point. On double plays, first, any runner on base has nothing to do with batting average, or this stat… there is no reason at all to count double plays as two outs. And the batter didn’t hit the ball or strike out when he gets a walk or HBP. He DID hit the ball for a ROE and SF. This “true” batting average is a not a saber stat; it’s just an attempt to make batting average more reasonable, and I think it succeeds.

  2. BillM says:

    Much simpler, easier grasped fix than pitcher wins. Can’t wait for the takedown of ERA, which really is the dumbest stat in all of sports.

    That said, all these judgmental stats, when the sample size is large enough & factored for era played in, tend to pass the eye test.

  3. timfc says:

    I know this seems silly… But, could you use parentheses? At the moment, computing using your formula:

    H + ROE / AB + SH + SF = True Average.

    You would:

    1) divide ROE by AB
    2) Add hits
    3) Add SH and SF

    Corrected:

    (H + ROE) / (AB + SH + SF) = True Average.

    Math teacher, sorry, can’t not do it…

  4. GeeTee says:

    H + ROE / AB + SH + SF = True Average.

    KEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-riiighst!!!!

    Order of operation, JOE!!!! It kills me that I have to teach My Dear Aunt Sally to college juniors, and now you bring this out? I am disappoint.

    • Darrel says:

      Ahh you are disappoint. I hate when I am disappoint. Man I really hope that you were ironically disappoint or your English teacher wants a word.

      • David says:

        Maybe try being nice, or just looking something up before assuming you “caught” someone. “I am disappoint” is a reference. a common one, at that. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/son-i-am-disappoint

        • invitro says:

          It’s only common among Internet ubergeeks, who are extremely uncommon in the general population.

          • Karyn says:

            Not particularly uncommon here. I’m not an ubergeek, yet I’m familiar with the meme.

          • invitro says:

            OK… I was just being snarky and probably wrong, I shouldn’t have, I’m sorry. And yes, you don’t seem like the 4chan type.

          • Dr. Doom says:

            I literally have never visited 4chan. It’s a gamer thing, right?

          • invitro says:

            I’ve only visited 4chan a couple of times. I don’t think it’s about gaming, it’s mostly about image-based memes. Wikipedia sez:

            Launched on October 1, 2003, its boards were originally used for posting pictures and discussing manga and anime, as the site was modeled on Japanese imageboards, particularly 2chan. The site quickly became popular and expanded, though much of 4chan’s content still features otaku, anime, and other Japanese cultural influences.

            The site has been linked to Internet subcultures and activism, most notably Anonymous, the alt-right and Project Chanology. 4chan users have been responsible for the formation or popularization of Internet memes such as lolcats, Rickrolling, “Chocolate Rain”, Pedobear and many others.

  5. J Hench says:

    Joe, you didn’t mention perhaps the most glaring judgment of all – the judgment to not include walks and hbps as “at bats.” Why not? Was the batter not at bat when he drew a walk?

    The reason to remove them, of course, is that the powers that be didn’t want to harm players who drew walks… “They didn’t have a chance to get a hit, so we’ll just take the walk out of the equation entirely.” But a) most batters who walk did actually have a chance to get a hit somewhere in the walk (with the exception of walks on four pitches) and b) more to the point of this exercise, that’s exactly the type of judgment that Joe is talking about – we’re not talking about what’s “fair” or “just” – we’re just counting. And for counting purposes, why shouldn’t it count as an opportunity to get a hit when a batter appears at the plate with a bat in his hands?

    • invitro says:

      Ever heard of on-base percentage?

      • J Hench says:

        On base percentage isn’t a measure of hits/opportunities to get a hit. It’s a measure of times reached base by opportunities to reach base. What I think Joe is trying to measure with his “True Average” is what perecentage of the time that hitters have a chance to get a hit do they actually hit the ball safely. To me, that means we need to get rid of the judgment involved in deciding that some times at the plate were an opportunity to get a hit, but others (where the batter may even have swung the bat several times) weren’t actually an opportunity to get a hit at all.

        • invitro says:

          Sorry, I missed the obvious reply. “And for counting purposes, why shouldn’t it count as an opportunity to get a hit when a batter appears at the plate with a bat in his hands?” — Because if a batter walks, he didn’t make an out.

          • J Hench says:

            The goal of this is to create actual counting stats, with the judgment removed, right? And the goal of this particular stat is to “measure the skill of a hitter in reaching base by hitting the ball” to quote you below. You follow that by saying “versus not reaching base by hitting the ball or striking out.” My argument is, when we define the opportunities as “times when a batter reached base by hitting a ball, plus times when a batter hit the ball and failed to reach base, plus times when when the batter was thrown three pitches, which were either judged to be in the strike zone (and therefore hittable) or which he swung at and missed, or which he hit but not in fair territory,” that is a much more judgment-filled definition than “times in which the batter was at the plate.”

            If we use plate appearances as the denominator, then yes, batting averages go way down, particularly for players who walk a lot (Ted Williams would have hit “only” .305 in 1941). But it better represents what percentage of the time the batter hit the ball safely, of the times he was at the plate. Then you can add BB(+HBP)% to that and get OBP.

            The fact that people perceived it to be unfair to detract from a player because he walked (that is, to consider a walk a failed opportunity to get a hit) is, as far as I can tell exactly the sort of judgment call that also led people to say that when an errors was made, the player didn’t deserve to be rewarded as though he had made a hit (or, as I anticipate we’ll hear later in this series, to say it’s not fair to count the run the pitcher allowed because his first baseman let the ball roll through his legs count against his record). If we’re taking the judgment about what’s fair or not out from one, it seems to me you have to remove it from the other.

          • invitro says:

            “The goal of this is to create actual counting stats, with the judgment removed, right?” — Well, I don’t know. For one thing, BA isn’t a counting stat. And the judgement stuff isn’t a big deal to me. I just think Joe’s stat is an improvement. There is a reason for excluding walks from BA (but including them in OBP), and it’s not about fairness. It’s that getting a hit and getting a walk are, I think, two independent skills, and should be measured separately. The whole purpose of stats is to understand the game and its players better. If (H+HBP)/(PA+HBP) works
            for you, then great, use it. I just don’t see how it’s an improvement on either BA or OBP.

  6. SDG says:

    I think Joe gets it a bit wrong here. Instead of counting sac hits as outs because grounders that move the runner are outs, doesn’t it make more sense to count every productive play, whether intentional or not (this is where the judgement comes in) as something – even if it’s not a hit?

    Sac bunts/flies/grounders/etc might be bad strategy but they ARE a part of the game. The distinction between PAs and ABs merely recognizes that reality. Otherwise Joe is creating a situation where a play that moves the runner, maybe even scores, are counted the same as strikeouts. If these stats are designed to measure what happened on the field, how can we completely discount sac hits or any kind of productive out? Maybe the point of a hit isn’t always to get on base yourself. Maybe sometimes it is to move the runner.

    • KHAZAD says:

      There are stats kept (much harder to find) on moving runners and productive outs. The problem is the complete inconsistency. A fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs where he scores is a sac fly (whether you meant to or not) and not counted as an at bat. One with two outs is an out. One that moves a runner from second to third with no one out is still just an out. A move from first to second is still just an out. A successful sac bunt attempt does not count as an at bat, even moving a runner from first to second. A groundout that scores a runner is just an out. Even if a runner moves up on a sac bunt though, if the official scorer decides that the player was bunting for a hit, he can call it an out instead of a sacrifice.

      • SDG says:

        Exactly. I agree that anything involving productive outs (whether intentional or not) is completely judgement-based and inconsistent. And that’s a problem.

        We don’t do that with hits, ever. Say it’s the bottom of the ninth and the bases are empty and you’re down by one. You need a homer so you swing for the fences, but you get a little bloop hit and barely reach first, and your team loses. It still counts as a hit, even though the consensus would be it wasn’t what the batter wanted to do. But with anything that’s an out but moves the runner, it’s full of judgements and inconsistencies.

        The current attempt to reconcile this is making a difference between PAs and ABs. But this is inadequate, subjective, and judgemental. I’m just saying that we need a way of incorporating any kind of productive out (whether intentional or not, whether good strategy or not, into this true avereage Joe is trying to create).

  7. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    Of course, if we ever adopt this rule, then we’d also have to re-write the rule on no-hitters. A true no-hitter would not include any game in which the opposing team reached base by an error. I wonder how many no-hitters would be purged from the books if we did that (I know I could look it up, but I’m too lazy).

    • SDG says:

      You’re describing a perfect game. We count those. There have been 21 official ones.

      • Grover Jones says:

        No he’s not. You could walk 10 people and plunk 5 and still have a no-hitter. But that’s certainly not a perfect game.

    • Benjamin Wildner says:

      That would be fun to know but I’m pretty sure it would eliminate the few cases that a pitcher both threw a no-hitter and lost. Looking back on those is an endless source of merriment.

  8. Anon says:

    Reaching on error has been studied – generally the players most likely to reach on error significantly are right-handed power hitters. Even better if they have some speed. It makes sense since RH hitters will tend to pull the ball to the left side and if a fielder boots it, they have less time to collect the ball and make the throw due to the distance the throw has to cover. Fielder on the right side have more time to collect the ball and make the short throw to 1B.

    Of the 5 guys from last year, 4 were RH and Murphy was actually hurt by it precisely because he didn’t ROE. THe historical guys you listed all bat RH or were switch-hitters.

  9. invitro says:

    This suggested change makes perfect sense to me, and I’d adopt it immediately, and retroactively. (And fans who find certain numbers “holy” should go join a numerologist cult.)

    • SDG says:

      I re-read it and I get the first part – errors are dumb, stop making them a thing. I get that. I agree with that. I still think we aren’t dealing with productive outs (intentional or not) correctly. They’re outs, but they aren’t the same as other kinds of outs because they do stuff. They can score runners and win games. You could take this further. We’re now calling a sac hit an RBI even though, according to the scoring method, there was no actual B. That’s just as illogical if you think about it.

      • invitro says:

        “They can score runners and win games.” — Sure, but they aren’t in this particular stat’s department, which is supposed to measure the skill of a hitter in reaching base by hitting the ball, versus not reaching base by hitting the ball or striking out. Productive outs belong with RBI’s, or, much better, with WPA.

        “That’s just as illogical if you think about it.” — But Joe has that covered, too: it’s illogical to not count SH/SF as AB, but “true” AB would fix that. Right?

  10. Scott says:

    The other thing to note is that what constitutes a sacrifice fly changed over time. In 1941, they didn’t count; had they, the stores about Williams traversing the streets of Philadelphia the night before the double header on the last night would have been lost. And in the 1930s players were credited with sac flies if they advanced runners from 2nd to 3rd, further increasing averages.

    • SDG says:

      I was thinking that. All the drama about Ted Williams deciding to play instead of preserving his 3.999 (or something) BA to make it a real over .400 avg and then getting .406 – no drama if he really had .411. I’m going to look at Tony Gwynn’s 1994 under this system. See if that pushes him over the magic number.

    • Richard says:

      Want further confusion? Until 1930 (might have been ’31, too lazy to check right now), *any* ball that went over the outfield wall was a Home Run – even if it bounced. And until some time in the 20s, a ball could fly over the outfield wall in fair territory, but if it landed foul, it was *not* a home run.

    • Scott says:

      My mistake, it looks like the sac fly in place in the 20s and removed in the 30s (which helps explain the high number of 400 seasons that decade. It was eliminated because they thought it rewarded players for swinging for the fences and missing, so it looks like the original intent was always to remove the at bats for when a player intentionally gets an out to help the team. Applying this logic wouldn’t OBP exclude IBBs?

      http://research.sabr.org/journals/sacrifice-fly

  11. Keith says:

    Love this series. In thinking about “sacrifices” in other sports, a good parallel to the sac bunt might be the quarterback spiking the ball to stop the clock — purposely “failing” at his individual task in order to achieve a team goal. And, as far as I know, spiking the ball counts as an incomplete pass in the QB’s stats.

  12. Mark Daniel says:

    My guess is some of these stats were used to ensure fairness. Looking at the number of errors committed in, say, 1889 (about 4 errors per game) compared to today (a little more than 0.5 errors per game), it’s likely errors being called outs was used to differentiate a guy who was truly a skilled hitter (hit line drives, hit the ball hard, etc.) from a guy who hit grounders and reached on error a lot.
    In 1889, a guy named Herman Long committed 122 errors in 136 games playing mostly SS. Today, the league leader in errors is usually in the range 20-30 errors made. So it would definitely be a strategy in the 1800s to just slap a grounder and run like hell.

    The same goes for walks. There were a lot more walks in the 1800s, so it was probably considered an error on the part of the pitcher more so than it is now. Now, it’s very clearly a skill to draw a lot of walks. Back then, who knows? Maybe there were guys in baseball back then who just didn’t swing because they knew they’d be walked 30% of the time. Sort of like the guy in slow-pitch rec league softball who will draw a walk, while everybody else swings away, even if they have to take two steps to hit the ball.

    • invitro says:

      “from a guy who hit grounders and reached on error a lot.” — But if this worked, and from your example I believe it did, doesn’t it make the batter a skilled hitter? (And we do know that reaching on error is a true skill even today; see Trout’s ROE’s, or note the above about power hitters having more ROE’s.)

      • Mark Daniel says:

        I think it would be a skill. But I also think it would be looked upon as a cheap way to get a hit, depending on how bad defense really was back then. This is just me hypothesizing, by the way. I have no clue what people thought about hitting back in the 1880s.
        My guess is that errors were common enough that someone decided to differentiate a clean hit from an error. They perhaps did this because people were getting ROE 30 or 40 times a season. No doubt this is a skill, but depending on what people thought back then (i.e. whether were they judgmental), it may not have been a respected skill.

    • Gene says:

      Thanks for raising this point. It’s awfully easy for us in the 21st century to scoff at all these traditions in the game, but people were smart 100 years ago too, and who knows? There might actually be REASONS for the systems they set up.

      • SDG says:

        The game was fundamentally different then. Errors came about because it was a lot harder to field the ball cleanly when you played on rough fields and didn’t wear gloves. And the ball was basically a beanbag covered with tobacco and spit and it was twilight out. Strategy was different, expectations were different. Wrrors came out of that context.

  13. MCD says:

    I understand the argument behind these types of rants. Only baseball negates a positive outcome by one player because his opponent goofed up. Baseball is indeed idiosyncratic in trying to determine “intent” and whether a player truly “earned” his counting stat.

    However, it seems to be obsessing over something that doesn’t merit such consternation. (and few people obsess about baseball more than I do)

    While a true batting average might make more sense, on the flip side, we would lose one small part of the in-game discussion we have with our dads or sons: “Was that a hit or an error?” Sure you could still say “he should have had that one”, but if an error “doesn’t mean anything”, it loses much of its gravitas in discussing it. And those in-game discussions are a *huge* part of the game’s appeal for me. I *like* the debate of whether that was a hit or not. I’m not saying that makes me “right”, just explaining on why I don’t quibble with the atypical way baseball does its record-keeping.

    • Darrel says:

      Except really we can’t even get the debate right. Countless times I have watched as 3 fielders stood around and looked at each other as a harmless pop-up lands between them for a hit. So we give the batter credit for the hit in that situation and “punish” the pitcher by adding a hit to his side of the ledger. Later that same night we see a ripped liner that the OF runs into the gap to catch and as he stretches for it the ball goes off his glove for an error. The ball that was hit harder gets no reward and the bloop gets a BA bump. Because baseball.

      All the discussion on math and on how different eras measured the game misses the larger point. Baseball chooses to make moral/hypothetical judgements about the value of the batted ball. It’s patently absurd. Now I kinda like it and wouldn’t change it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t absurd.

      • tangotiger says:

        I like that. We can all agree on its absurdity.

        The question is if we care if it’s absurd. It becomes a political discussion, basically talking up the reason you like one thing, while talking down the reason you don’t like the alternative. Rather than a fair weighing of the pros/cons, you simply decide before hand what you prefer, and then argue to that effect.

        ***

        Empty net goals is one where they could have gone the judgemental route, but instead went with counting.

        Own goals is another one. They actually assign own-goals to the last opposing player to touch the puck. Again, counting, rather than “deserved judgement”.

    • invitro says:

      “Only baseball negates a positive outcome by one player because his opponent goofed up.” — Winners in tennis become unforced errors if the opponent goofed up.

  14. Richard says:

    I’ve never understood why each out isn’t assigned to a player as an official statistic. So, if Jim Rice bounces into a crucial 10th-inning double play, he’s charged with two outs.

  15. Dave B says:

    Count me on board as a supporter of True Hits, True At Bats, and True Batting Average.

  16. MartyR says:

    I have a foot in both. I love the old numbers. I also appreciate and understand the new numbers and have since I began reading Bill James in the early 1980s. I prefer to have all of them and make my own judgements.

  17. Adam S says:

    Meh, batting average is a flawed stat for reasons you noted. This is the proverbial lipstick on a pig.

    If you want to improve batting average, stop talking about it and talk about OBP or wOBA or OPS or any of the stats that include BB and HBP alongside H.

  18. jim says:

    Knowing math by calculating batting average is like knowing truth by voting for Trump. This formulation would have saved you many words.

  19. rabidtiger says:

    My favorite game for head-hurting (non-)hitting was the game my Tigers won over the hated Orioles without benefit of a hit. http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/april-30-1967-steve-barber-and-stu-miller-combine-no-hitter-loss

  20. Dave says:

    I love the idea of non-judgemental stats, but it does raise certain issues. Example: I watched a DII college softball game the other day. At one point, the batter laid down a bunt. Third baseman fielded right near home plate, fired to first and missed the first baseman. The ball sailed all the way into the right field corner, and the batter came around to score. 4 base error. I can see that this could be considered a “true hit.” She put the ball in play and didn’t make an out. But would this be considered a home run? In non-judgemental terms, she hit the ball and ran home, so I guess so. It does feel odd, though.

    • invitro says:

      Pretty good question, but I guess we’ll have to wait for Joe to define “true hit”. I don’t think the current definition of “home run” has any problems, although I may be wrong, so maybe it’s a “true single”, and then three bases advanced on the error, if there is a stat for that. And is it a “true RBI”? 🙂

  21. Lee Carney says:

    This is not directly related to this article, but I followed a link to Joes MLB.com piece and then I saw his piece about the batch of young new players coming through. In that piece he lists the fielding positions from easiest to hardest.

    Not just in there, but in other pieces I have seen before it listed LF as easier defensively than RF, can anyone explain to me why this is (Sorry I am Australian so haven’t grown up with Baseball like you guys), is there a reason that everyone lists LF as the less defensively challenging Outfield position, i get why CF is hard, but why is LF easier than RF?

    Any help with this question would be appreciated, I am trying to teach myself more about the game

    • invitro says:

      “why is LF easier than RF?” — Great question, and probably not as clear-cut as many long-time fans think :). I think the main reason is that the throw to third base is so much shorter from the left fielder than from the right fielder, so the right fielder generally has the stronger arm, to prevent triples. Other than that, they’re probably equal. I found and read a few articles with various theories on LF vs. RF, but I can only post one link, and I’ll choose this one, called “Players’ View: The Difference Between Left and Right Field”, from last year, with answers from several current MLB players on that question: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/players-view-the-difference-between-left-and-right-field/

      In my opinion, the LF easier/RF harder difference is a very small one, and probably overstated by some people.

      • invitro says:

        I should add that if the ball was much more likely to be hit to LF than RF (as it is in youth baseball, probably through high school), you’d put the better fielder in LF. But while there are more right-handed hitters in MLB than left-handed ones, apparently the righties hit to opposite field more often, resulting in 50.2% of balls going to left field, according to one stat I saw, so this isn’t a factor in MLB.

  22. GothamWiseFool says:

    I remember having this idea a while ago – I called it the ESIBA (Error and Sacrifice Inclusive Batting Average). It also occurred to me that if the scoring system were changed to allow scorers to give both hits and errors, fielding averages would change. One could penalise a fielder for not getting to the ball without penalising the batter, and thus calculate a Range Adjusted Fielding Average (RAFA). Does anyone know where I can find the data necessary to calculate a player’s career True Average/ESIBA? It would be interesting to see how the list of leaders changed, if it did at all.

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