Tim’s Tips: Talking Quality At-Bats
Here’s another great tip from Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.
Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well.
SHARING BATTING AVERAGES…MAYBE THE WORST THING WE CAN DO FOR OUR PLAYERS
I know this post is going to be controversial. As a baseball and softball coach for more years than I can remember, I have often made playing decisions and batting order decisions based upon batting average. BA is easy to calculate and the baseball/softball culture has revolved around BA as undeniably the most important offensive statistic. Just yesterday, I picked up the newspaper and read the top 100 high school batting averages in the area. It’s how we keep “score” when comparing offensive players.
And that’s a shame. Let’s suppose a player hammers a line drive at shortstop in his first at-bat (AB). He then advances a runner from second to third in his second AB with a sharp grounder to second base and in his final plate appearance drives the centerfielder to the wall where he makes an over-the-shoulder catch. The batter is 0-3 and his batting average takes a dip.
Do we seriously think that my imaginary hitter’s 0-3 performance was a failure? If we judge him by batting average, the answer would have to be “yes.”
Why do we love to watch Ryan Braun and Jean Segura? Answer: Because they compete in every AB. In other words, they give us “quality” At Bats (QAB). But, of course, a QAB doesn’t always result in a hit. At last count, there are eight guys out there with gloves trying to catch it. More and more coaches are grading hitters’ performances based upon whether or not they give a QAB..and that’s a good thing.
Here are several examples of a QAB:
- Hit the ball hard regardless of whether or not it results in a hit
- Any seven or more pitch AB that doesn’t end in a called third strike
- Execute situationally: Sacrifice bunt, suicide squeeze, advance a runner, sac fly, etc.
- Getting a walk (unless it’s my big bopper taking a walk with two outs and runners on base)
On the other hand, I don’t consider a “handle shot” that falls over second base or a nine-hop “seeing eye” grounder that manages to squeak through the infield a QAB. Get the idea? You can find plenty of QAB charts on the internet if you decide to make the move from away from the almighty batting average. You will find yourself and your players having a much better approach to winning a baseball game when they are equipped with an understanding of Quality At-Bats.
Over the years, one of the sure signs that my team was going badly or about to tumble was when I’d overhear kids talking about their batting averages. The last “swing thought” I want my hitter to have is about what happens to his batting average if he gets a hit or doesn’t. Batting average can be poison for a hitter, but focusing on Quality At-Bats is the antidote
Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”