"Graham," you're probably thinking, "I know the rules of baseball. Why is this relevant?" Well, teams that are better at avoiding outs score more runs than teams that make outs frequently. This is intuitive when you think about it. For one, when a player doesn't make an out, he reaches base. At the simplest level, scoring runs is a function of reaching base and advancing runners. A player who reaches bases also hasn't used one of those precious 27 outs, thus giving batters behind him the opportunity to advance him and others around the bases. This is why sacrifice bunts do not make sense in several situations. It is rarely a good idea to attempt to use an out. We look at OBP in order to determine which hitters and teams reach base with regularity, and thus preserve a team's outs.
When it comes to hitting for contact, Chris Carter is pretty definitively the worst in the league right now. If we usual a literal interpretation of the hit tool and say that it indeed relates to specifically the statistic of batting average, Carter could be heading for the basement if his BABIP regresses to something more in line with his profile. Whichever way you slice it he is the very deserving winner of the final "MLB's Worst Tools" award. I'm sure it will adorn the mantlepiece of the of the Carter household for centuries to come.
Am I the only person who feels cheated? I feel cheated out of seeing actual skilled batsmen. I feel cheated in that the only records being broken are by guys who seem to have the advantage of steroids. I feel cheated that home run records seem to be broken more than wooden bats, but hitting for average seems to be lost in the translation of the "new MLB."
The main application of slugging percentage is to go beyond just being able to tell how good a player is at getting hits, but how good they are at getting quality hits. For example, Robinson Cano and Andrew McCutchen both had a batting average of .314 last year; however Cano slugged just .454 opposed to McCutchen who finished with a .542 mark. While both players got hits just as often, McCutchen got the more valuable kinds of hits more often (he had more doubles, triples, and homers than Cano), so he was the better hitter in 2014.
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The first of those numbers represents batting average. While most fans know about this stat, I’ll touch on it briefly just to make sure that I have all of my bases covered (baseball pun intended). Batting average is calculated by dividing a player’s total number of hits by their total number of at bats, which gives you a number that tells you how often (on average) that player gets a hit.
To test this, I collected all batters in the Retrosheet database since 1975 who logged at least 300 plate appearances in two consecutive seasons. (Multiple batters, of course, could appear multiple times.) This covered 5,607 batters, from Barry Bonds's 2002 (.582 OBP, .587 gOBP) to Mario Mendoza's 1979 (.216 OBP, .219 gOBP). As before, I fit a linear relationship between each statistic in year 1 and the same statistic in year 2, and determined the respective correlation coefficients.
In modern times, a season batting average higher than .300 is considered to be excellent, and an average higher than .400 a nearly unachievable goal. The last player to do so, with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting championship, was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who hit .406 in 1941, though the best modern players either threaten to or actually do achieve it occasionally, if only for brief periods of time. Ty Cobb holds the record for highest career batting average with .366, 9 points higher than Rogers Hornsby who has the second highest average in history at .358.