Batting average is arguably the most iconic statistic of all time. It defines how often a player grabs a hit, and for us, makes it as recognizable as it gets. Hitting .300, hitting .400, hitting below the Mendoza Line. These are all things that we know off the top of our heads. While keeping what was memorable statistically is good for some people, but for analyzing players, it’s time we value On Base Percentage over Batting Average.
Understanding What Makes Batting Average Incomplete
Batting average is a stat that calculates the frequency of a hit per at-bat. This stat may seem like it can provide some crucial info that other stats cannot, but it simply doesn’t. Batting average doesn’t factor in how often you walk. It also doesn’t weigh different types of hits. Hits are great, but a high batting average correlates less to a great hitter than a high on-base percentage does.
When we look all time, the players who were top-10 in batting average had a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of 156 on average. Players who were top-10 in OBP? They put up a whopping 165 average wRC+. This means players with a high OBP in 2019 were 9% better than a player with a high batting average. Guys who get on base are simply better at creating potential runs, and creating and scoring runs are the ultimate goals of offense.
Part of the Past
It would be foolish of me to act as if batting average was never an important part of baseball. It was a staple in our game for so long, but not always do staples of our past need to be used over modern analytics. These stats aren’t made up, they aren’t theoretical, they quantify everything we can’t properly quantify with our eyes. OBP isn’t an advanced stat, but if you want to properly evaluate how often a player gets on base, you should go the extra step and include walks and HBP as well. OBP simply does more than batting average, and it’s why we need to begin using it.
On Base Percentage Becoming the New Wave
Players aren’t looking to hit .300, more than they are looking to reach an on-base percentage of .400. It’s simply more valuable to your team to get on base a ton. Plate discipline drives up pitch counts, gets base runners on, and forces the pitcher to throw strikes. It’s why players are beginning to value it so much. Take Ross Barnes for example. He played 499 games and had a 148 wRC+ with a 4.5% walk percentage. He is the closest to anyone at the top in wRC+ while having a below-average walk percentage.
Success and OBP have always correlated, but now we finally have proof with stats that On Base Percentage is just superior in every aspect to batting average.
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