It may come as a surprise to many baseball fans, but one of the most quoted statistics can be one of the most misleading. Batting average, when used in context, is a very useful number. When it used on its own to indicate the performance of a hitter, though, it does not get the job done.

A very good example of this phenomena plays third base for the Tennessee Smokies. I was at Thursday’s Smokies’ game and one of the things that stood out to me was Matt Cerda’s swing. His swing is an absolute thing of beauty. Cerda may have been the best pure hitter on the diamond in that game. And yet, despite that beautiful swing, the scoreboard said he was only hitting .267. What I was seeing on the diamond and what I was seeing on the scoreboard did not match.

Had that scoreboard shown me his On Base Percentage, though, things would have looked quite different. Cerda has an OBP of .392. That is very, very high for a guy who has no power to speak of (SLG of .356). Even though the batting average suggests Cerda is a mediocre hitter at best, the OBP reveals that he is actually a very good and hitter with a great eye. This is a case in which batting average was very misleading.

Batting average is still a useful stat, but it should be used in concert with other numbers. The typical triple slash line of AVG/OBP/SLG is a good place to start. OPS is another statistic that adds some context to AVG. OPS+ is a little better still, and wOBA could possibly replace them both. The utility and the pros and cons of all these numbers is another article entirely (and one I will write this winter (if Brett doesn’t beat me to it)), but for now the main thing to remember is that batting average is not always a good indicator of a good hitter. It is useful, but it needs to be set into a broader context.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – The wind was blowing out to center at 15 MPH, and yet the final score in this Cubs’ loss was just 2-1.
Tennessee – The Smokies scored five times in the first two innings and then held on for the 5-4 win.
Daytona – Daytona was shut out 3-0.
Peoria – The Chiefs won easily 6-1.
Boise – Boise stretched their division lead to seven games with this 11-5 road win.
Arizona – The Cubs had to rally from a deep, early hole, but they earned the 14-9 win in ten innings.

Performances of the Day

  • [Iowa] Marcus Hately, Jeff Beliveau, and Esmailin Caridad pitched the final four innings of this game. Only Caridad yeilded so much as a single hit.
  • [Iowa] Dave Sappelt finished 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and the team’s only RBI. I think Cubs fans will get to see him in Chicago just as soon as Iowa’s season ends.
  • [Tennessee] Austin Kirk looked good for his first four innings, but he ran into some trouble in the fifth. He finished the game with six strikeouts over 4.2 innings.
  • [Tennessee] Trey McNutt looks good on the box score (1.1 innings, no hits), but part of the credit for that goes to Jae-Hoon Ha and the very impressive running catch he made at the wall in center.
  • [Tennessee] Justin Bour had the only two-hit night for the Smokies.
  • [Tennessee] Junior Lake did not look good in one of his early at bats, but in his final trip to the plate he seemed much more focused as he took some pitches, fouled off several pitches, and put together a nice at bat. He finished the game 1 for 2 with a double and two walks.
  • [Daytona] Robert Whitenack was shaky in his three innings of work, but Kyler Burke and Scott Weismann were both very impressive in relief.
  • [Daytona] John Andreoli stole his 52nd base in this game.
  • [Peoria] Michael Jensen was very effective in his six innings start. He allowed just one run on two hits while striking out four.
  • [Peoria] Zeke DeVoss finished 3 for 4 with a home run, his sixth.
  • [Peoria] Pin-Chieh Chen had two hits and stole his 32nd base of the season.
  • [Boise] Hayden Simpson started this game. He lasted five innings, gave up three runs on six hits, walked two, and struck out seven.
  • [Boise] Albert Almora finished 4 for 5 with two doubles to lead the Hawks. His line at Boise now reads .316/.316/.526 through his first eight games.
  • [Boise] With Gioskar Amaya out of the lineup for the day, Stephen Bruno took over at second base and lead off hitter job. He reached three times on a double, a single, and a walk, but was unable to score.
  • [Arizona] Dillon Maples did not pitch well as the starter, and Loiger Padron did not fare much better in relief. Then Juan Paniagua stepped to the mound for two nearly flawless innings, and Cubs’ pitchers were fine for the rest of the game.
  • [Arizona] Justin Marra was 3 for 5 with three doubles in this game.
  • [Arizona] Shawon Dunston and Trevor Gretzky both got off to slow starts this year, but both have come around nicely. Both prospects had two hits in this contest, and both look like they will finish the league with very respectable lines.

Other Minor League Notes

  • Austin Kirk laid a bunt in this game that was almost as perfect a bunt as I have seen. If he makes the field for bunt tournament next spring, consider him a dark horse candidate to win the thing.
  • Brian Schlitter will be in the majors. He made more hitters look foolish than any other pitcher in the game. I think he profiles as middle relief in the majors, but he will get there.
  • Jae-Hoon Ha is bigger in person than his numbers indicate, and it appears to be all muscle. He will probably wind up with more power than what he has shown this season. Defensively he is as good as advertised. His play in center is second to none.
  • Junior Lake. I want to see him again tonight before I write very much this guy. It was readily apparent that he had more raw talent than anyone else on the diamond, but I can see exactly what Kevin Goldstein meant when that writer said Lake needs to learn how to play baseball. Lake appears to be producing primarily on his talent. If he ever becomes a focused, polished player, look out.
  • BN’er Brandon has been waxing poetic regarding Logan Watkins for some time, and I have nothing more to add. Whenever something good happened on the diamond, it was a safe bet that Watkins was near by. At worst he has a future on a major league bench.
  • Speaking of Brandon, it was my pleasure to meet him as well as a few other folks at Thursday’s game. I’ll be back at the ballpark tonight, wearing my black hat and sitting somewhere in the front row to the first base side of the dugout. If you can make it out to the game, be sure to wander by and introduce yourself.
  • In case you missed it in the Arizona notes, Juan Carlos Paniagua did make his professional debut in Arizona last night, and he pitched quite well. I think he will stay in Arizona for the remainder of this season and likely for the instructional league in the off season. Next year he will be assigned to one of the full season teams (possibly Daytona or Tennessee) and we will finally get to see what this guy can do.
  • Wilbur

    Luke,, just want to say how much I enjoy your wrap ups and observations. Adds a lot of information and perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have. Thanks.

  • EQ76

    I’m always aware of loose women.. thanks for the reminder!

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent


    Great meeting you last night and WHAT A GAME for you to see…..a true nail biter, as Frank Batista loaded the bases with 1 out, and managed to wiggle off the hook for the save. A pop up to SS for out # 2 and then ending the game on a 2 out 3-2 pitch and a called strike 3 to preserve the win was NICE!! I guess you are good luck.

    Also a treat was the rare ejection by bench Coach Mariano Duncan in the 9th inning who apaprently caught Mr. Rabbit Ears (homeplate umpire) on a bad day. For a minute, I thought it was me who got ejected (can fans be ejected by an umpire?) as I was in row 1 right above Mariano and was giving the blue an earful as well. But to eject a coach with 2 outs in the the 9th inning and a 3-1 count…..and then to look at the coach and say “your pitcher is getting cold….and we aren’t playing until you are outta here” was simply stated BUSH LEAGUE. It was quite comical when Mariano asked the umpire what he did and all he could say was “I am not going to tell you in front of the fans who can hear me” was CLASSIC. Mariano was not impressed, but eventually left. Another minor league gem by an umpire who felt the need to make himself part of the story.

    A final thought worth sharing….as if Justin Bour was not cool enough (in my eyes) his toughness factor went way up last night. After foul tipping a pitch off of his face….blood dripping down, and the trainer and manager at his side, he refused to come out of the game. His eye was swollen and the cut (in between the eyebrows) was bandaged, he continued on. Justin is a big boy….no nonsense. no batting cloves (like Vlad Guerrero), pine tar all over his helmet (like Craig Biggio). He was not leaving because of a little blood. Now, it would have been a great story if he homered on the next pitch. He didn’t. But he easily could have left the game. He played on, and that was pretty cool. Tough guy. All star. The Smokies clear MVP and possibly the Southern League MVP (see 109 RBI). He may not have a future with the Cubs at 1B….and he made an appearance in LF earlier in the week. Whether he is a true prospect is debateable…but Justin Bour has been a great story this year for Smokies and hopefully has caught the eye of the Cubs organization.

    Smokies took 3 of 5 from the 1st place Lookouts this week, but unless something miraculous happens in the final 10 games, the Smokies appear to be on the outside looking in. Mobile comes to town tonight for game 1 of the final 5 games at home this season. GO SMOKIES!


  • Flashfire

    Luke, at what point do you get worried about Javy Baez’s struggle to make solid contact in high A? He really seems overmatched at the moment.

    • Brett

      Not Luke, but, not only do I not worry about the struggles (it would take half a season for me to be concerned, and that half season would have to come when he was older than 19), I think this is the best thing for him going into the offseason.

  • BeyondFukudome

    You forgot to mention that batting average is only misleading when discussing a player other than Starlin Castro.

    • Brett

      To be fair to those who do that, Castro’s batting average is – right now – disproportionately important, given his skill set (not much power yet, no walks).

  • DocPeterWimsey

    I would go beyond AVG/OBP/SLG: break it down to 1B%/XBH%/BB%/K%. When something like BA changes, that would give you a much better idea of what part of the game has changed: and if it’s just 1B%, then I would just shrug my shoulders.

  • When the Music’s Over

    Albert Almora really working the BBs hard over his first 100+ ABs. Any idea on his perceived long-term plate discipline?

  • baldtaxguy

    Luke, thanks so much for your in-person observations. You should see if Brett will give you budget to make some other trips to the affiiates throughout the season next year. You capture details that give me hope for the future. And I’m not taking anything away from Brandon the AA correspondent – another great report, as always.

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  • Dantehicks

    Nice job. Don’t forget that Brian Schlitter has already been to the major leagues on 2010. Painful.

  • Norm

    It’s semantics…but “hitter”, Matt Cerda is not.
    He knows the strike zone and can draw walks, but he’s not much of a “hitter”.