qab in baseball

QAB In Baseball: 12 Ways To Get A Quality At Bat

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qabs in baseball

When I was playing baseball as a kid, I’d hear the usual terms like at-bats, RBIs, batting average, and putouts. With data analytics taking over the game, new terms like OPS and QAB in baseball are becoming more common. They may not always show up in the box score, but they are a big component of a team’s success. 


What Is A QAB In Baseball? 

So what is a QAB in baseball? QABs, or quality at bats, is an unofficial baseball stat that measures the success of a plate appearance in which the hitter somehow helps the team during the at-bat.

Batting average and on-base percentage are the two traditional measures of a batter’s success, but they do not take into account how well the hitter performed during an at-bat and how their at-bat contributed to the success of the team. 

Unlike batting average, the QAB baseball stat is very subjective. You could have two people watching the same game. Ond might think a hitter had a QAB while the other doesn’t.  

Different Ways to have a QAB in Baseball

Let’s take a look at all of the different ways you can have a quality at-bat:

  1. Hit & run
  2. Sacrifice bunt
  3. Squeeze play
  4. The ball is hit hard – This is one of the subjective measurements we talked about
  5. The at-bat results in a walk
  6. Advancing a runner into scoring position with less than two outs
  7. Hitter gets an RBI by any means (sacrifice fly, two-out RBI, walk with bases loaded.
  8. Base hit / bunt for a hit
  9. Hit by pitch
  10. Catcher interference
  11. More than 8 pitch at-bats
  12. When a hitter sees four or more pitches after being down 0-2 in the count

Pitch Considerations

  • Pitcher throws more than six pitches without a strikeout: One of the markers of a quality at-bat is the batter’s ability to extend the count.
  • Pitcher throws more than eight pitches: Beyond just extending the count, forcing the pitcher to throw more pitches in an at-bat is an exceptional feat.
  • Batter ‘battles back’ after receiving two strikes in the count: Facing two strikes can be daunting for any batter, but those who can ‘battle back’ to continue the at-bat, or even reach base, epitomize what a quality at-bat is all about.

Player Outcomes Leading to QAB

  • Ball is hit hard: A hard-hit ball, even if it results in an out, is often considered a positive outcome for the batter.
  • Plate appearance results in a walk: Demonstrating patience and a good eye to earn a walk is a quality at-bat.
  • Plate appearance results in hit by pitch: While it’s an unconventional way to reach base, being hit by a pitch can sometimes be the result of a batter’s commitment to stand his ground in the batter’s box.
  • Batter gets a base hit: The most traditional and clear-cut indication of a quality at-bat.

Strategic Contributions

  • Runner is moved into scoring position: Advancing runners, especially into scoring position, is crucial in baseball.
  • Batter gets an RBI: Runs Batted In (RBI) directly contribute to the team’s score.
  • Run scores from a sacrifice fly: While it results in an out, a sacrifice fly that brings a runner home is indicative of a batter prioritizing team success over individual stats.
  • Baserunner advances from a sacrifice bunt: Similar to the sacrifice fly, a well-executed bunt that advances a runner, showcases a player’s skill and selflessness for the greater good of the team.

How To Calculate QAB Percentage

If you are looking to calculate a player’s quality at bat percentage, simply use the formula below.

(# of Quality At Bats)/(# of Plate Appearances) = QAB percentage

What Is A Good QAB Percentage In Baseball

As a general guideline:

  • A QAB% of 60% or higher is often considered elite.
  • A QAB% between 50% and 59% is considered above average. The QAB percentage target should be 60% of your plate appearances with around 40% of those coming from hard-hit baseballs. These numbers may be a little ambitious so most players tend to hover around 50% qabs with 30% from hard-hit balls. 
  • Anything below 50% might indicate areas for improvement in a player’s approach at the plate.

It’s important to not become consumed with batting average because the hits will come. You only get up around 4 times a game so make each plate appearance count. Work the count, draw a walk, move runners into scoring position – whatever you can do to help your team win. 


Quality At-Bats Chart

PlayerPlayerPlayer
HIT
BB
HBP
ADV Run
RBI
SAC BUNT
SAC FLY
HIT AND RUN
CATCHER INTERFERENCE
8+ PITCHES
4 PITCHES AFTER 0-2 COUNT
TOTAL AB
QAB%
qab chart

Baseball Abbreviations:

  • H = Hit
  • BB = Walk
  • HBP = Hit By Pitch
  • Adv Run = Advanced The Runner
  • RBI = Run Batted In
  • SacBunt = Sacrifice Bunt
  • SacFly = Sacrifice Fly
  • H&R = Hit & Run
  • Cat Inter = Catcher Interference
  • 8+ Pitches = At bat had more than 8 pitches
  • 4 Pitches after 0-2 = Hitter saw at least four pitches after starting the at-bat 0-2
  • TotalAB = Total At Bats
  • QAB% = Quality At Bat Percentage

Explaining Quality At Bats To Young Players

QAB in baseball

What does success mean at the plate for most young hitters? Getting a hit of course. Baseball players equate success at the plate with getting hits and having a high batting average. This is a terrible way for kids to think and it often leads to a lack of confidence at the plate. 

QAB percentage is a much better indicator of a player’s impact on the game and how they contributed to the team. This is a great metric for coaches and players to use to measure a player’s progress. That’s because it factors in many different situations that may not show up in their batting average or other hitting stats. 

Being able to explain to a young player that even though they went 1-4, their at-bats helped the team. Maybe they had a few 10-pitch at-bats which helped get the starting pitcher out of the game earlier due to a high pitch count. They could’ve hit the ball extremely hard on all of their plate appearances but the fielders just happened to be in the right spots. What if they were hit by a pitch or moved runners into scoring position? QAB isn’t as black and white as batting average and it helps tell the whole story of a player’s at-bats. 

At the youth level, children are so emotional and are striving for perfection that when they strike out, they feel like total failures. You try to explain to them that the best players in the world only get 3 hits out of 10 at-bats but they want 10 hits out of 10 at-bats. 

The mental aspect of the game is so important at this age and parents and coaches are both to blame for their approach and views on hitting. 


Understanding the Importance of Quality At-Bats in Baseball

In the complex world of baseball metrics, it’s important to recognize that no single statistic can fully capture a hitter’s performance. Quality At-Bats are an important piece of the puzzle, but they gain greater significance when considered alongside other key statistics such as batting average, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS.

A player’s high QAB score is indicative of their decision-making at the plate. It highlights their skill in identifying favorable pitches and causing the pitcher to increase their pitch count.

QAB’s Impact on Team Strategy and Game Dynamics

The influence of QAB extends beyond individual achievement, playing a big role in the team’s overall performance. Batters with consistently high QABs challenge opposing pitchers, potentially leading to quicker exits and prompting the use of relief pitchers earlier in the game.

Moreover, players with high QABs often find more ways to reach base, be it through hits, walks, or other means, thereby increasing the team’s opportunities to score.

From a managerial perspective, QAB is a key factor in determining batting order and making tactical decisions. Players known for their quality at-bats may be positioned earlier in the lineup to maximize their plate appearances. In critical game moments, a manager might opt for a player with a track record of effective at-bats, aiming to leverage their ability to make a significant impact.


Longest MLB At-Bat In MLB History 

The longest at-bat in MLB history is still 21 pitches but I wanted to share this example of a quality AB. It’s from a spring training game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets and Luis Guillorme has a 22-pitch at-bat against Jordan Hicks.

What’s impressive about this sequence is that the hitter started 0-2 in the count. He ends up walking but he managed to use up Hick’s entire pitch count for the day on one batter. 


Final Thoughts On QABs In Baseball

As the landscape of baseball evolves, our understanding of player performance deepens. No longer is it solely about the number of home runs or hits. Now, we also focus on the other aspects of the game. Quality At Bats offers a comprehensive lens through which we can appreciate a batter’s skill, not just through their hits but through their approach and effort at the plate. This shift towards a more holistic evaluation marks a significant and exciting development in how we measure success in baseball.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is QAB in baseball?

QAB, or Quality At Bats, measures a batter’s effectiveness and decision-making at the plate, beyond just getting hits.

Why is QAB important?

QAB is important because it evaluates a player’s overall approach and strategy during their at-bats, not just their ability to hit the ball.

Does a high QAB score always mean more hits?

No, a high QAB score doesn’t always lead to more hits, but it indicates smart batting choices and tactics.

How does QAB affect a baseball team’s strategy?

QAB can influence a team’s strategy by identifying players who make pitchers work harder, potentially gaining an advantage.

Can QAB be used to determine a batting order?

Yes, managers often use QAB scores to decide the batting order, placing high-QAB players in positions to maximize their impact.

Is QAB more important than traditional statistics like batting average?

QAB isn’t necessarily more important but provides a different perspective, complementing traditional stats for a fuller understanding of a player’s performance.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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