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Evaluating Success at the Plate

By Jimmy Sheppard

Hitting is the hardest activity in sports to succeed at. If you hit .300 as a hitter you are considered elite, yet still fail 7 out of 10 times. I can’t think of another activity that success can be measured at such a low level. If a Quarterback completed 30% of his passes he would be on the bench. Same goes for a 30 % shooter in basketball. So, one of the biggest challenges as a hitter is trying to measure success and finding the good in an activity that will result in a vast majority of failures.


Traditionally, hitters simply measure success on their batting average, or how many hits they have compared to the number of at bats that they get. Most of the time when I ask a hitter how they did over a certain time frame, they respond with “I went (# of hits) for (# of at bats).” However, this will guarantee that a hitter over time will have a negative view of their performance. I can pretty much guarantee that over time, they will fail far more with batting average being their only measure of success.

The other issue with statistics is the sample size that is being used for most hitters. For the average high school starting hitter, if they are lucky, they will get somewhere between 75 and 100 at bats. This is a very low sample size to determine the true value of a hitter. On the other hand, a professional hitter who may get 500 at bats over the course of a season can rely that the stats tell a truer picture of their abilities.

HOW SUCCESS SHOULD BE MEASURED I believe that hitters need to measure more than just hits as successes at the plate. This will help them feel more confident and focus on other positives other than a ball finding open grass. Here are the things that I would consider a success:

  1. Hit

  2. Hard hit ball

  3. Any Ball that helps the team advance a runner

  4. Walk or HBP

Let’s take a hitter who gets 10 at bats over the course of the week. In the box score they go 3 for 10. Not a bad week but by the measure of batting average they feel as if they only succeeded 30% of the time. If we dig deeper, we see that in addition to the hits, this player hit the ball hard 3 times for outs and hit a deep fly ball that advanced a runner from 2nd to 3rd. They also walked 2 times. If we measure success differently, we can say that of their 12 plate appearances, they succeeded 9 times out of 12 time up. This allows the hitter to feel more confident as they succeeded 75% of the time.

FINAL THOUGHTS One of the biggest problems when it comes to hitters is maintaining confidence. I feel as if the traditional measures of success typically batting average will most certainly leave hitters to feel failure much harder and lose confidence much quicker. Because of this, I believe that hitters should expand their definition of what success at the plate looks like. This will help them maintain confidence and in turn become more productive hitters.


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