Quality at-bats is not a term you ever hear outside of baseball. There are others, but it is a term that rules minor league baseball. It could be the single most important “stat” that a minor league hitter is evaluated by.
What is it? A Quality at-bat or QAB is an at bat where the ball is put in play with a solid swing. It can involve seeing a lot of pitches, and working the count. It does not end in a strikeout, or a weak ground ball to an infielder. It could be a hard hit ball right at an infielder- but when hit, it requires that the infielder be positioned correctly, or be required to execute his job perfectly to get the out. In some organizations, not all, your percentage of quality at bats must be at certain level before you can be promoted to the next level. Batting average doesn’t matter, to a large degree.
A QAB, in theory, is a pure metric. In theory, you can have a QAB against a bad pitcher and a good one. The defense you are playing against could determine if you have hit or not. A QAB doesn’t even register defense because after the ball is hit, what has to be measured has been measured.
It does not take into account the situation; there are other metrics for that. But it is what a hitter does with the ball the matters for this, and that is important in determining development and preparedness for the next level of pro ball.
Braves infielder Chris Johnson has a bad habit of getting too upset after a bad at-bat. Now, I was always a fan of Paul O’Neill’s tantrums, but the reality is generally they tend to show a lack of emotional control. O’Neill’s were also a little more focused, usually on a gatorade cooler, than some others.
Johnson came into the dugout on Friday and started having a fit. He busted up his bat and shards of the bat went flying, hitting teammates and Manager Fredi Gonzalez. Not good. Gonzalez removed him from the game.
In addition, Gonzalez refused to answer questions regarding in the incident, instead insisting that Johnson would answer any questions regarding the incident.
Johnson, as seen in this piece by Mark Bowman, does a great job at taking responsibilty, and acknowledging exactly what this weakness in his game means to him and his team. He answers all the questions. And he acknowledges what it means to his teammates. Its a great moment.
Additionally, if you scroll down to the last note in the Mark Bowman piece, you will read a very funny story about Chipper Jones as told by Javy Lopez.
Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and yesterday Tom Verducci wrote about a recent conversation with him. Harvey wants to return this year, an admirable goal. The typical recovery time for this kind of surgery is 11 and a half months, which might give him one start in September- if everything falls perfectly.
But Harvey wants back in August. He won’t go against orders to do so, but his answer to Verducci’s question about why that is important is beautiful.
“I just want the peace of mind,” he said. “I want to go back out there and know I still have the stuff to strike out major league hitters. And I want to know that when I shut it down at the end of the year, I’m just like everybody else shutting it down. I don’t want to go through all this work and wonder all winter where I am. I want to be just like everybody else when this season ends and the next one starts.”
I have internet in my house again- after all the travel its time to get back to writing everyday. And today, i have a couple of interesting pieces to take you to.
First, this interesting collection of data done by Andrew Powell-Morse. Morse admittedly knows little about baseball, but yet he has done some research that could be used in multitudes of ways- depending on his methodology. Still, things like average salary in 2014 by position are interesting facts- and facts that lead to Value over Replacement player discussions. There are some other interesting things, like which states have produced the most current MLB players, etc. And also, how the wealth is distributed by age and race. Again, his conclusions aren’t the best, because he just doesn’t know enough about the game, but the data leads to many interesting questions. Asians make the most of any race, for example, but that is because of the former Japanese posting system, which allowed the price for proven talented Japanese free agents to start high. There aren’t a lot of Korean or Taiwanese players in the Majors yet to bring the average down. I think you will be able to see a few other things in this data that Powell-Morse misses, but he gets some good credit for putting the charts out there for us to take a look at. If you have questions from it- bring them back here and we can talk about it in the comments section.
Bob Ryan wonders in writing if fans actually care about any of the “new” metrics for measuring a players worth on the field. We may read about WAR (wins above replacement player) but do we really care? Do we follow that? Do we sit in the stands and argue over a players WAR rating? Nope. But do we appreciate that we can get that info when we need it? Absolutely. I remember as a kid comparing players while seated in the stands. Or wondering if someone was Hall of Fame worthy. That information is out there, and can now even be retrieved while sitting in the stands. How many complete games did Tom Glavine have or Jack Morris- that info is there. How many HR’s does the average shortstop in MLB hit? We can find that out. If we have time, we can delve into the issue further. But, for many of us who like the details of the game, it is great to know all the details are out there. That’s my take- what’s yours?
Dirk Hayhurst, former MLB pitcher, and now author and broadcaster, writes a strong piece about the state of minor league baseball. His view contrasts the worlds of the Majors and Minors nicely. And not many could write about it as nicely as Hayhurst.
Somewhere though between Hayhurst’s view and MLB’s view is the truth, though. Yes, these guys toiling away in the Minor Leagues make very little, less than a livable wage for certain. And yes, just a little given to a big league player could help them significantly. But that golden carrot that Hayhurst refers to is what separates these guys from any other person struggling to pay bills. They might, one day have a way out. That person hoping for a job at Walmart doesn’t have that carrot- and that has some value.
The argument that if the players life were easier, they might not want it as much is ridiculous too. Who doesn’t want to play, even one inning, in the Major Leagues. A lot of players do get weeded out by the conditions in low-A ball, true. But they also get weeded out by their inability to adapt to not being the best on their team. Starting them in tough conditions isn’t a bad thing.
Keeping them in bad conditions though might be the crime. Yes, things do get easier once you get to AAA. You take planes for the longer trips. You stay at nicer hotels, not 4-star, but ones with free breakfast. Could a AAA player stand to make more money than they do- enough to make that gap to the Majors seem not so ridiculous? Perhaps. But the reality is that many of the guys at AAA will spend time in the Majors. And once they do, they get the Major League minimum pro-rated. Sure they only make about $3200 for the AAA season. But they most likely will get 7 days in the Majors- and that is roughly $21,000, plus meal money. Get there for a whole 15 days, while someone goes on the DL, and you get $42,000. That’s a pretty good bump.
And keep in mind that not everyone rises to AAA. Many wash out before that- sending them back to the real world.
The crime, in my opinion, is that those who have spent 4-5 years and wash out are left without too many other skills. They may have acquired a few things during their off-season jobs. But there is no career development. These guys are sent back to their home towns without much going for them than the title as the guy who was drafted but didn’t make it. That is the problem with the minors. All the players are chasing the one carrot. There aren’t 300 carrots. There is 1. And getting to that is crazy odds.