Batting Average is probably the most basic of the hitting statistics, and quite simply tells us in what percentage of a player’s at bats do they get a hit. This statistic was once considered the most important statistic for many years, and still is by some, while others prefer more complicated statistics that include all plate appearances, not just official at bats (walks, hit by pitch, and sacrifices don’t count as official at bats), and also the number of extra base hits a hitter has.
To calculate batting average, take the total number of hits a player has, and divide by the number of at bats. A batting average is displayed as a decimal, with three spaces after the decimal point.
For example, say a hitter got 157 hits in 500 at bats. You’d calculate the equation like this:
157 Hits / 500 At Bats = .314 BA
To understand what this means, you can always think about a batting average as a percentage or a ratio. In other words, a hitter with a .314 batting average got a hit in 31.4% of his at bats, or almost 1/3 of his at bats.
Now, what makes a good batting average? Well, it’s generally accepted that a .300 batting average is pretty darn good. Of course, that doesn’t mean a hitter with an average lower than that isn’t a good hitter, or that you would always want to pick a hitter purely on his batting average. There are other things to keep in mind (such as power and ability to take walks), and are measured by statistics such as on base percentage and slugging percentage.
The league average for batting average fluctuates from year to year, but has run between .260 and .270 in the past decade or so. In 2005, the league leaders in batting average were Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs in the National League at .335 and Michael Young of the Texas Rangers in the American League at .331.
Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby racked up the highest batting average since 1900 in 1924, when he hit .424. The last hitter to hit .400 or over was Ted Williams in 1941, when he finished the year at .406. Since Williams, the closest anyone has come is Tony Gwynn in 1994, when he hit .394 in the strike shortened season. The highest career batting average belongs to Ty Cobb, who hit an amazing .367 during his 24 year career, winning 11 batting titles along the way.
Once you understand batting average, you can move onto more advanced stats such as on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Check out my other articles for more information on these statistics.