How to Calculate Batting Average
By Loot, MLB Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
While there are certainly other statistics to determine how good a hitter is--batting average is really the king of the offensive stats. From little league up to the bigs, it’s the most visible batting statistic--a player’s calling-card. It’s the stat we keep track of when we’re kids. It’s the stat we memorize the most. Hallmark batting average figures like .400 (the magic mark), .367 (Ty Cobb’s all-time lifetime mark), and .300 (the sign of a good hitter) are numbers that are etched in every serious baseball fan’s conscience.
Calculating batting average is something kids do with their own stats, so it is in fact pretty easy. You take the total number of hits and divide it by the total number of at-bats. Say you have 500 at-bats and 155 hits. You divide 155 by 500 and get a batting average of .310. Say you have 257 at-bats and have 67 hits. You divide 67 by 257 and get .261.
Hits is an easy enough stat to master. It’s when you get on base with a base hit, as opposed to an error or a fielder’s choice. In addition, plate appearances where the batter is walked, hit by a pitch, or hits a sacrifice do not count as at-bats. The statistic “on base percentage” accounts for all that. Batting average is restricted to base hits divided by at-bats (a more confining term than “plate appearances”).
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Batting average in essence is a percentage, expressed in a different way. Rather than saying a player gets a hit 26.1% of the time, you say he has a batting average of .261, spoken as "two sixty one." So a batting average of .300 basically means 30%. A batting average of .250 means 25%. A batting average of .278 means 27.8%. A batting average of .341 means 34.1%. You get the point. The maximum batting average is 1.000.
A good average is subjective and depends on the player. An average of .250 is considered average or mediocre. At the same time, a big power hitter who produces a lot of runs can be a valuable player with an average of .250 or even a little lower. The same applies to a player who is an excellent defensive presence on the team, particularly a middle infielder or even a catcher. So if you’re going to be a .250 or under hitter, there better be another outstanding quality you possess, whether it be power, base-running speed, or great defense to stay in the league.
An important mark is the .200 average, known as the “Mendoza Line”--named after strong-fielding Mario Mendoza who survived in the majors despite an average lingering around the .200 mark. An average of .200 is considered excellent for a pitcher, but it’s hard for a position player to stay in the bigs with a .200 average for very long. For the most part, those who linger in the first-half of the 200’s is a fringe major leaguer, unless he meets some of the qualifications previously discussed. Simply put, you want to be closer to .300 than .200.
The closer you get to .300, the better a hitter you are considered. The average of .300 is a sort of hallmark of a good hitter. A .300 hitter is considered to be a good batter--plain and simple. The further you nudge up into the .300’s, the more esteem you gain as a hitter. A .310 hitter is darned good. A .320 hitter is probably the best hitter on his team and one of the best in the league. A hitter carrying a .330 average is top-notch hitter. A .340 and .350 hitter is a guy contending for batting titles.
No one has hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. That is considered a magic number that is basically unattainable. The only players to even flirt with that number in the past 70+ years are some of the greatest pure hitters in history--guys like Rod Carew (.388 in 1977), George Brett (.390 in 1980), and Tony Gwynn (.394 in 1994).
The greatest players are guys with big batting averages, who also produce power numbers. Most teams would rather have a guy hitting .280 to .300 with big power than a .350 slap-hitter who despite getting on base constantly, produces less overall offense due to his lack of power. So while there is a story behind every batting average, it still remains the most magical and readily-identifiable offensive statistic in major league baseball.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in reading How to Calculate ERA.