QUALITY AT-BATS – PART 2
DATA BEHIND QABs
After keeping this data for a number of years, I have found that when it comes to QAB percentage as a team, 60% is the number to aim for. We keep track of all the same data on JV and varsity. Over the course of five years at Martensdale-St. Marys, when we were at or above 60%, our overall record for JV/Varsity was 235-10-3. Over the same five-year span, when we are under 60%, our record is 50-25-4. Not terrible, but a far cry from a 95% winning percentage when we are at 60% or above. It has become something to shoot for within our program. It is the game within the game for us. Our players know the theory behind it, and that if we get to 60%, we rarely lose. Nothing is guaranteed, I tell our players, but I like our chances.
I always envied track coaches. They merely time the runners and the fastest make it. They probably do not get too many phone calls or e-mails from the parents of the sixth fastest runner, wondering why he isn’t in the relay. Fast is in—it is cut-and-dry. With the QAB system, I take the same approach that the top nine hitters are in. It is factual evidence to support why, or why not, players are in the line-up. There are certain exceptions due to positioning of players, but I would say that 95% of the time, I have the nine highest QAB averages in the line-up. It makes things easy to do and it is not based on a coach’s opinion of who is hitting better.
With all the data we collect it is for players to really evaluate their play on process bases system and it helps me make more informed decisions as a coach. Once we make our post season run to the state tournament I really like to try to keep the line-up the same or at least for the first few games and the players that are battling it out for a spot in the line have a sit down with me and I show them the numbers. If two of my left fielders have shared time throughout the year I give them the evidence from the years QAB % up to that point and say who the starter is based on the data. Players can understand that and so can parents. I would rather make objective decisions than subjective ones. As a coach I want my decisions to undistorted by emotion.
We keep QAB averages during practice, as well. This allows a coach to see who is doing well and deserves to be in the line-up. During practice, we want to evaluate players on the very same scale that we use during the games. It is consistency. If you are measuring the players during the games, saying that this is important to you as a coach and the program, then going the extra step during practice is only going to underscore this concept. We practice for three weeks before our first game so I collect plenty of data to help me make decisions come the first game. You may not have as much practice time which means every at-bat a player takes will be that much more important. As we start practice, our team goal for the practice is to hit 60% QABs and after the first week of practice, it goes to 65%, and so on. I usually throw during our situations, but try to mimic pitchers we will encounter with speed and changing speeds. If the players do not hit at, or above the percentage, then they run three triangles under 1:30 each. That is running from home to the right field foul pole, to the left field foul pole, and then back to home. Depending on how big your field is, this can get pretty difficult for players.
The other big benefit from using a QAB average is that players will begin to see themselves as being more successful. We all know that confidence in baseball is as fragile as a piece of glass. We are talking about high school kids who want to play at the next level and do well every night. It is a no-brainer to me to show a player he is hitting .666 QAB, rather than .350 regular average. Telling a player they are doing something good for the team, two out of every three at-bats, sounds great because it is. Rather than the .350 average, that is a little better than 3 out of 10.
OTHER OUTCOMES FROM USING THE QAB SYSTEM
The QAB System means that every plate appearance will count for something. No 0 for 0 for a walk or sacrifice. I believe the QAB System is one of the reasons we have been able to draw a huge amount of walks the past three years, which has lead to us scoring more runs also.
Remember the nine ways to QABs are:
1) Hard Hit Ball
3) Hit By Pitch
4) Move Runner(s) with No Outs
5) Score Runner From 3rd with Fewer Than Two Outs
6) Base Hit
7) Six Pitch At-Bat Not Ending in a Strikeout
8) Nine Pitch At-Bat Even Ending in a Strikeout
9) Catcher’s Interference
I believe the 7th and 8th ways to get a QAB have been a direct factor in why we have been able to convert on so many free passes. Players are not at the plate trying to get a hit because they know with the perspective shift within our program that even grinding out a long at-bat can still result in a QAB, which would count just as much as a hit would within the system. My opinion is that a walk is better than a hit within the first few pitches of an at-bat. We want to grind out long at-bats and get to the bullpen of the other team where pitchers will not be nearly as effective. One of the best ways to get to the starter is to see as many pitches as possible either his pitch count will get high enough that a change is necessary or the starter will lose his effectiveness and we will get to him.
With the inception of new bat regulations we knew that we would have to continue to draw walks, which had been one of the key contributors to us scoring so many games in our first two state title runs. We hit far fewer homeruns in 2012 but managed to score more runs than we had previously because we stuck to our philosophies about how runs are scored, by getting players on base.
2010 – 222 Walk, 459 Runs
2011 – 210 Walks, 445 Runs
2012 – 229 Walks, 474 Runs
Total – 661 Walks, 1378 Runs in 132 games
Most of us have watched Moneyball and learned their take about On-Base Percentage, this is our version of Moneyball, the QAB. I feel the benefits are many and the negatives are the occasional dispute about if a ball was hard hit or not.
If you are interested in the data collecting charts, the data recording spreadsheets, or any of the other PPI Systems of Success found within the 1-Pitch Warrior System you can go to www.1pitchwarrior.com to purchase the 1PW System or my book which talks about this topic and many others in even more detail. Be a 1-Pitch Warrior!
To schedule a speaking engagement with your state association, for a consulting engagement with your team or organization, contact Coach Justin Dehmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @1pitchwarrior on Twitter and www.facebook.com/1pitchwarrior