A batting average in baseball is a number that represents hits per official time at bat. This number will always be between 0 and 1 and usually is written out to three decimal places, such as .325 or .267. A batting average can be determined for a player, a team or any number of players or teams over any number of at-bats. This statistic is often used to measure the skill level of a hitter.
Hits and At-Bats
In baseball, a hit is when the batter strikes a pitched ball with the bat and safely reaches first base without the aid of an error by the defense or a defensive play called a fielder's choice. Not every time a player completes a time at bat is recorded as an official at-bat. If the player is walked, is hit by a pitch or is awarded first base because of illegal obstruction or interference by the defense, it is not an at-bat. A sacrifice fly or sacrifice bunt is not an at-bat, either. A completed time at bat, even if it is not counted as an official at-bat, is called a plate appearance.
Calculating Batting Averages
To calculate a batting average, the number of hits is divided by the number of official at-bats. For example, if a player gets 14 hits out of 45 times at bat, that player's batting average is .311. If a player batted three times in a game and got three hits, that player's batting average for the game would be 1.000.
Standard Batting Averages
At the highest levels of baseball, a .300 batting average is considered very good, .350 is exceptional, and the combined average for all players is roughly .250 to .270. In youth baseball, players might be able to achieve much higher batting averages. At the high school level, excellent hitters can attain averages of .600 or better. An average of less than .200 is considered poor at any level of baseball.
Batting Averages in Major League Baseball
In North America, the highest level of professional baseball is played in Major League Baseball (MLB), which consists of the American League (AL) and National League (NL). To qualify for the major league single-season and career records for batting average, as well as for the AL and NL batting championships each year, a player must have at least a certain number of at-bats or plate appearances. The highest career batting average in the major leagues is .366 by Ty Cobb, who played from 1905 to 1928. The single-season record is held by Hugh Duffy, who batted .440 in 1894, although the "modern" record is considered to be .427 by Napoleon Lajoie in 1901.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was rare but not unheard of for a player to hit .400 or better for a season. As of 2012, 28 players who had achieved that feat, but nobody had done it since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941. Since then, the highest single-season average by a qualifying player is .394 by Tony Gwynn in 1994.