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Why hits and batting average are misleading

(Photo: Neil Leifer/SI)

In my last article I mentioned that despite the fact that pitcher wins are an awful stat, hits (and the closely related batting average stat) are even worse.  Here are a few reasons why.

  • The scoring rules for what is a hit and what isn’t are at best arbitrary. Consider just a few cases:
    • The official scorer needs to make a judgement as to whether a fielder reached on an error or not – this is sometimes more based on whether the fielder has a reputation of being good and/or whether the hitter has a batting streak going and/or whether the pitcher has a no-hitter going, rather than what actually happened on the field.  Exact same plays are scored differently.
    • A clean hit can be taken away if a runner on base ahead of him, misses the first base he is forced to advance to.  With the bases loaded, the batter can hit a triple, but if the runner on 2nd missed 3rd as he is rounding it and is called out on appeal, the batter gets credited with nothing more than a fielders’ choice.
    • Clean hits can also be taken away if any runners are forced out. I have seen batters hit line drives to left field, and the runner on 2nd get forced out at 3rd.  I once saw a bases loaded hit taken away when inexplicably the runner from third base was thrown out at the plate. (Ok, it was Miguel Olivo “running”, and JD Drew short hopped a line drive right to him. Still, Ryan Freel who hit the ball,  deserved a better fate than that).
    • If a batter is awarded first base due to a runner being called out for interfering with a fielder making a play, it’s not a hit.  If a batter is awarded first base due to a runner being hit with a batted ball, he does get credit for a hit.  Why are these situations different???? Read the rest of this entry
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