One major flaw in the great game of baseball is the way we’ve been measuring and evaluating a player’s performance. Similarly, most players will tell you how well their season is going based on what their batting average is at a given point in time.
I believe that this is a mistake – as you can do everything correctly as a hitter and still make an out. How do you account for that?
Well, many coaches today are utilizing a different type of evaluation – the Quality At-Bat.
Cliff Godwin, former assistant coach at Ole Miss and current head coach at East Carolina University gives a great definition of the Quality At-Bat. He said, “A Quality At-Bat is an at-bat that makes a positive contribution towards our team goals.”
There are numerous ways that to have a Quality At-Bat:
- Executing a Hit & Run, Sac Bunt, Sac Drag, or Squeeze
- Executing a Bunt for a Hit
- Walk, HBP, or Catcher’s Interference
- Moving a runner from 2nd base to 3rd base with 0 outs
- Driving in a run from 3rd base with less than 2 outs
- Any RBI (Sac fly, 2 out RBI, etc…)
- All hard hit balls (NOTE: All base hits are not QAB’s. i.e. bloop hits.. We want HARD contact!)
- 8+ pitch at-bats
- When you can see 4 or more pitches after you are down 0-2 in the count
“Make a hard out, perform an offensive fundamental, throw any at-bat up there of eight pitches or more, a good bunt — not a bad bunt but a ball put on the ground where somebody’s got to make a good defensive play, a walk,” Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates Manager
Justin Dedman – Lee University Hitting Coach
“Hitting is challenging, which is why we love it, but when a hitter is consumed with stress about his own stats, fearful of future performances repeating past failures, or distracted by expectations, hitting has become nearly impossible. A focus on QABs allows a hitter to stay focused on simplifying the game.”
Here’s Justin’s list:
- No one on base, first inning? I should be focused on reaching base, nothing more. Get a good pitch to hit, and I will maximize my chances of making a HARD CONTACT.
- Developing toughness in practice, and the mechanical savvy to hold your ground on an inside pitch, allows a hitter to react appropriately in-game and take an HBP.
- Acquiring plate discipline in front toss and batting practice allows a hitter to avoid weak contact more often, see more pitches, and improve his chances of coaxing a BB.After a foul ball and a close call for strike two, we find ourselves down 0-2. Battle your way from 0-2 to seeing 4+ pitches! You have just flipped the script on the pitcher! Now, many pitchers are begging to get any ball put in play, as they don’t want their pitch count to continue to skyrocket.
- Any executed bunt, slash, hit and run or run and hit is a QAB! These are huge skills to master. Executing these skills keeps an opposing defense, pitcher and manager on the defensive, and alleviates the pressure to get hit after hit by only swinging against good pitchers.
- With a runner at second base and 0 outs, it’s great to advance the runner from second to third, but this is situational. I should not give away at-bats in an effort to manipulate and push the ball back side. Our offensive goal is to score as many runs as possible each inning, not just one run, unless we are in a “tight and close” scenario.
- Any time you get an RBI while making an out, that’s a QAB. Let’s not focus on perfection. An RBI ground out may not be ideal, but it’s quality. These aren’t called Perfect At Bats! Of course, hitters must be taught which situations ask for them to potentially sacrifice a more aggressive approach for something simpler that more consistently gets the run home. Most situations with a runner at third and less than two outs create this QAB opportunity.
- Hits aren’t QABs, but 2-strike hits sure as heck are. To get a two-strike hit, a hitter must take advantage of a mistake or fight his way to getting a pitch he can handle to score the run.
- Lastly, any at-bat that ends with 8+ pitches is a QAB, regardless of the result. The average number of pitches per plate appearance in MLB in 2015 was 4.30. Having an 8 pitch AB has a similar impact on a pitcher to having faced an extra hitter.
The True Believer and Preacher – Steve Springer
One of the priemer mental coaches regarding the Quality At-Bat is Steve Springer – and his website called qualityatbats.com. I’d highly recommend that you visit Steve’s site and grab his CD – his mental approach is spot on.
He’s worked with a ton of big league players and coaches – and he’s really brought the concept of the Quality At-Bat to the forefront of baseball today.
For example, what if during a game a hitter goes 0 for 4 on the night and the at-bats go like this:
1) Line out to the shortstop
2) Ground out to 2nd base that moves a runner to third with no outs
3) Grinds out a long at-bat by fouling off pitch after pitch late in the game, which ultimately leads to the opposing team having to go the bullpen
4) Scores a run from third with less than 2 outs by weakly grounding out to the middle infield that was playing back.
This player normally would consider the as 0 for 4 but in the Quality At-Bat system he would be 4 for 4. Players view their performances much differently through this system and it won’t lead to as much stress and frustration, which we know, are performance crushers.
I’d invite you to change your perspective on hitting performance metrics. Don’t forget the end goal is to help your team win! It’s not just about personal statistics anymore….