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In Baseball, what is a Batting Average?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A batting average in baseball is a number that represents hits per official time at bat. This number will always be between 0 and 1 and usually is written out to three decimal places, such as .325 or .267. A batting average can be determined for a player, a team or any number of players or teams over any number of at-bats. This statistic is often used to measure the skill level of a hitter.

Hits and At-Bats

In baseball, a hit is when the batter strikes a pitched ball with the bat and safely reaches first base without the aid of an error by the defense or a defensive play called a fielder's choice. Not every time a player completes a time at bat is recorded as an official at-bat. If the player is walked, is hit by a pitch or is awarded first base because of illegal obstruction or interference by the defense, it is not an at-bat. A sacrifice fly or sacrifice bunt is not an at-bat, either. A completed time at bat, even if it is not counted as an official at-bat, is called a plate appearance.

Calculating Batting Averages

To calculate a batting average, the number of hits is divided by the number of official at-bats. For example, if a player gets 14 hits out of 45 times at bat, that player's batting average is .311. If a player batted three times in a game and got three hits, that player's batting average for the game would be 1.000.

Standard Batting Averages

At the highest levels of baseball, a .300 batting average is considered very good, .350 is exceptional, and the combined average for all players is roughly .250 to .270. In youth baseball, players might be able to achieve much higher batting averages. At the high school level, excellent hitters can attain averages of .600 or better. An average of less than .200 is considered poor at any level of baseball.

Batting Averages in Major League Baseball

In North America, the highest level of professional baseball is played in Major League Baseball (MLB), which consists of the American League (AL) and National League (NL). To qualify for the major league single-season and career records for batting average, as well as for the AL and NL batting championships each year, a player must have at least a certain number of at-bats or plate appearances. The highest career batting average in the major leagues is .366 by Ty Cobb, who played from 1905 to 1928. The single-season record is held by Hugh Duffy, who batted .440 in 1894, although the "modern" record is considered to be .427 by Napoleon Lajoie in 1901.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was rare but not unheard of for a player to hit .400 or better for a season. As of 2012, 28 players who had achieved that feat, but nobody had done it since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941. Since then, the highest single-season average by a qualifying player is .394 by Tony Gwynn in 1994.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Sports n' Hobbies contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By BrickBack — On May 02, 2011

@SurfNTurf - I agree with you. I wanted to say that with respect to the World Series batting average most of the pitchers have the lowest slugging percentages especially the pitchers from the American league.

The pitchers in the National league do go up to bat from time to time, but in the American league they do not. So the American league pitcher never really has a good batting average.

To combat this, the American league will often put in a pinch hitter or a designated hitter in place of the pitcher so that they will have a chance to actually hit the ball, but in the World Series I think that the American league pitcher has to hit the ball or be removed from the roster.

I always root for the American league during the All Star games and always find this to be a disadvantage for the American league both in the All Stars and at the World Series.

By surfNturf — On May 02, 2011

@Robert13- I think that some of the players with the highest career batting averages have come into some scrutiny as of late. There have been players that have been accused of using steroids in order to enhance their performance.

The higher their slugging percentage the more lucrative their careers are which is probably why some of the players go this route. I think that it does take away from the game and really hope that this trend changes in the future.

By robert13 — On May 02, 2011

Fascinating to see how the game has changed. For comparisons sake, Babe Ruth's career batting average was .342. and his career high was .393 in 1923. The question is has the game changed for better or worse?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Sports n' Hobbies contributor, Tricia...
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