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.