Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Batting average is arguably the most popular offensive stat talked about in the game of baseball or softball. Even people who don't seriously follow the sport are familiar with the term. What many people fail to realize is batting average is one of the least useful ways to evaluate a player's offensive performance and ability.
Batting average ignores everything that happens on offense that does not result in a "hit." Players often make the mistake of evaluating their performance based on the box score. The simple comparison of hits per at-bats does very little to tell the story of a hitter and his or her offensive production.
Run scoring is the ultimate goal of an offense and there are much better ways to evaluate a player's contribution. Looking at slugging and on base percentage are a couple better options, but weighted on base average is a much more valuable stat.
Batting average treats every hit as equal. A single is obviously not as valuable as a home run, but batting average does not take that into consideration. Weighted on base average tells a better story about how a hitter contributes to the offense. Each way of reaching base (1b, 2b, 3b, hr, bb, hbp) has a corresponding value to run production. To calculate weighted on base average, multiply the weighted values by the player's statistics and divide by plate appearances.
Batting average is also solely based on outcomes. It does not consider the fact that a successful "hit" is partly out of the hitter's control. Hard barrel contact (on time with the pitch, squared up) is another way to evaluate a hitter. We can all think of a time when someone went a dreaded 0-4 in the box score. What often goes unnoticed is the fact that the player might have "barreled" up several balls that game and just ran into some bad luck. I am going to keep sending that guy to the plate!
As you can see in the data below, the story of a hitter is much more than batting average. This is a small sample of the data collected over the course of a college season. Total score is calculated by QAB + BARRELS + WOBA. Plate discipline is simply (BB + HBP) - K.
The most productive offensive players have the highest total scores. You can throw batting average out of the window and you still know which guys give you the best chance to produce runs.
Hope this helps.
See you on the diamond.