One Reason to Abolish the At-Bat

The baseball statistic “at-bat” drives me crazy. It is often used to describe any time a batter goes to the plate; however, that is not how it is calculated. Allow Joe Posnanski to elaborate:

Now, subtract the walks. No, seriously, just subtract those. We don’t care about those.

Now, subtract the hit-by-pitches. Get rid of them.

Now, subtract the times that the player hit a fly ball that allowed a runner to tag up and score from third base.

Now, subtract the times the batter bunted a runner from first to second base, or second to third, or third to home but still made an out. Do not subtract the plate appearance if the batter successfully made it to first base. Do not subtract it if he hit a hard smash that accomplished PRECISELY THE SAME THING as a bunt. Do not subtract it if he hit a check-swing dribbler that was KIND OF like a bunt but did not seem from the press box to be a purposeful bunt.

Remember to include the times he reached base but only because of a defensive blunder.

OK, you have that number? We call those “at-bats.”

 So what everyone calls an at-bat, they really mean a “plate appearance.” Anyway. I recently brought my girlfriend (now fiancee) to visit my parents’ home and my grandfather was there, interested in the formula to calculate batting average. Now, I’m not a proponent of batting average, but I wasn’t going to get into any sort of discussion with him about this, as he is not a very academically educated man. I told him very simply, “batting average is hits divided by at-bats.” He called me the next day, asking again how it is calculated and I told him once more.

This is where the confusion starts. He gave me an example, saying “Ryan Braun went to the plate four times and got 2 hits. What’s his batting average then?” I told him 0.500 and let it go, but that may not even be correct. Did he have four plate appearances or four at-bats? If they were plate appearances, did he walk? Did he hit sac fly? Did he get hit by a pitch? These are all important into calculating this number.

The concept of the at-bat is something that I feel as uncomfortable attempting to explain to my grandpa as FIP. Let’s just all agree to stop using it.

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One Comment on “One Reason to Abolish the At-Bat”

  1. […] St. John of Steal of Home makes the ridiculously sensible case for abolishing the […]


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