Small Ball: Even Striking Out Can Count as a Success

Baseball has always been and will forever be a numbers game.  Because of that, baseball is one of the only sports in the world that allows its fans to compare the legends of the game’s early days with the stars of today.  Thanks to the innovations of scouting methods, the understanding of tendencies, efficiency, and effectiveness has expanded greatly over the years.

For me, one stat stands out in particular, and while it may reflect some subjectivity, it can tell a lot about how Oregon’s baseball team is performing on any given day.  The stat is called a Quality At Bat (QAB).

A QAB is an at bat that meets certain criteria, varying from how many pitches a batter sees in an at bat to how well they execute in scoring situations.  To earn a QAB, a batter can:

  • have a hard-hit ball
  • see six or more pitches
  • see three or more pitches after two strikes
  • get a 2-out RBI
  • execute a sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly

While looking at a batter’s on-base percentage or strikeout-to-walk ratio can tell you how effective a batter is for every singular at bat, tracking a hitter’s QAB count will give an observer a good sense of which batters are really impacting the game the most.  This is especially true in Oregon’s offense, which relies on sacrifice plays fairly routinely to push across runs.  If Coach Horton’s offense is pushing the opposing pitcher deep into pitch counts, getting good contact, and executing with runners on base more than their opponent’s offense is, Oregon will win most of those games.

Against Portland on Tuesday night, the top of the Oregon lineup had plenty of quality at bats against the Pilot pitching staff.   Aaron Payne had four QABs: two via 6+ pitch at bats, and another two via hard hit balls.  Ryon Healy added three more quality at bats, two via hard hit balls, and another from a 6+ pitch at bat.  Oregon combined for 14 quality at bats, compared to Portland’s 9 QABs, meaning roughly 45% of Oregon’s at bats are really effective (14 QABs, 31 PAs), compared to Portland’s 25% (9 QABs, 35 PAs).

For the sake of analysis, we’re going to start keeping track of QAB differential for the remainder of the 2013 baseball season.  For the Portland game, Oregon won by a score of 3-1, and had a QAB difference of +5.

As the season progresses we’ll start to dive deeper into the QAB statistic, and try to shed some more light on the madness behind Horton’s small ball.


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