What Does QAB (Quality At-Bat) Mean In Baseball?

- September 5, 2023

With the increased use of analytics and sabermetrics, numerous new baseball statistics seem to appear daily. One of which you may have heard is QAB. A large number of fans have been following baseball for years and have no clue what it means. What exactly does QAB mean in baseball?

QAB stands for Quality At-Bats. Some statistics such as batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage are easy to understand, but what exactly makes up a QAB? A quality at-bat is basically one that makes a positive offensive contribution.

Ways to Have a Quality At-Bat (QAB)

There are several ways a batter can have a quality at-bat, but it is important to note that this is subjective from coach to coach. While there isn’t a firm rule on what makes up a QAB, knowledgeable baseball people will know one when they see one. Here is a list of some ways that an at-bat would be considered quality.

Get a Base Hit

The most obvious way is to get a hit. It doesn’t matter how hard or how soft a ball is hit, any batted ball that results in a base hit is a quality at-bat.

Make the Pitcher Work

The best chance a team has to win a game is to get the opposing starting pitcher out of the game as soon as possible. One way to make a pitcher throw a lot of pitches. If a batter forces a pitcher to throw at least six pitches without striking out, that’s a quality at-bat.

Even a strikeout can be a quality at-bat, if the batter really battles the pitcher and makes him throw at least nine pitches. Although the end result is a strikeout, this will guarantee a high pitch count for the inning, which will start wearing down the pitcher.

Work a Walk

While not the most exciting way to get on base, a walk is one of the best ways to get the offense going. The batter working the walk becomes a baserunner who has the potential to score a run.  In addition, the pitcher has to throw at least four pitches and likely more, building up his pitch count. A walk is a win in many ways and is definitely a quality at-bat.

Hit By a Pitch

Professional pitchers can generally throw a pitch at least in the vicinity of their target. Every now and then, however; a pitch gets away from a pitcher and hits the batter. Taking one for the team and getting hit by a pitch results in being awarded first base. Reaching base safely is always a quality at-bat.

Hit the Ball Hard

The box score only tells how many hits a player gets and while all hits are quality at-bats, not all hits are struck solidly. Similarly, not all outs are poorly hit balls. A batter could go hitless in four at-bats, but hit three balls off the barrel of the bat right at the defence or a defender makes an excellent play on the ball for an out.

Hitting a baseball solidly is not easy, particularly at the highest level of competition, so coaches chalk up any hard-hit ball, regardless of the outcome, as a quality at-bat.

Advance a Baserunner

Since the object of baseball is to score more runs than the opposing team, any at-bat which results in getting a runner closer to scoring is a quality at-bat. There are some coaches that only consider moving a baserunner into scoring position (second or third base) a quality at-bat.

Knock in a Run

Driving in a run is one of the best ways to help the team on offense. Whether it’s a base hit, a sacrifice fly, or even a ground ball to second base. With scoring runs the ultimate goal of the game, any single out the drives in a run is a quality at-bat. Note that when a batter hits into a double play which scores a run, he is not awarded an RBI since two outs were made in his at-bat. In this situation, a quality at-bat is not applicable.

Battle the Pitcher

There are times when a pitcher appears to dominate an at-bat, getting ahead in the count 0-2, only to see the batter battle back to 2-2 or 3-2. No matter that outcome of the at-bat at this point, a hitter wins a quality at-bat. This is because he has now really made the pitcher work, regardless of the result. At best the hitter gets on base via a hit, walk or maybe even hits a home run. At the very worst he makes an out but, in the process, has driven the pitch count up.

Calculating Quality At-Bat (QAB) Percentage

In a sense there is no real statistic for a QAB, so the way to calculate is varies. It’s very easy to just see how many quality at-bats a player has over the course of the season. A convenient way to calculate quality-at bat percentage is to do it the same way as a batting average.

First determine the total number of QAB and divide that by the plate appearances (PA). This will give you a value that looks similar to a batting average.  You can change the decimal result into a percent by multiplying by 100. Be careful not to divide by total number of at-bats because walks, hit by pitch, and sacrifice hits are not official at-bats.

For example, suppose a batter has 200 quality at-bats over the course of a season. He plays in enough games to accumulate 500 plate appearances. This player would have a quality at-bat percentage of 40%.

Is QAB a Good Stat?

When determining whether or not a statistic is “good” or useful, you must take combine it with other statistics. For example, a player with a .285 batting average but doesn’t walk or hit for power is less productive player than one with a .240 average but leads the team in home runs and RBI.

Quality at-bats is a nice statistic for evaluating how much a batter helped their team in terms of trying to score runs in their plate appearance. Combining quality at-bat percentage with other statistics gives a better overall evaluation of a performance value that the statistic alone.

Principles to Remember

When it comes to hitting, a player must not pressure himself into getting a hit every time at-bat. What should be first and foremost is to produce a quality at-bat. Hit the ball hard. If that is accomplished, the at-bat is a success, regardless of the outcome. Even if you don’t hit the ball hard, moving a runner, drawing a walk, even taking one for the team and getting hit by a pitch are all ways to get closer to the common goal. That goal is to score more runs than your opponent. If you do that, you are producing quality at-bats and helping your team win games.

Quality At-Bat (QAB) versus Plate Appearance (PA)

A plate appearance is necessary to have a quality at-bat, but certainly not all plate appearances result in a quality at-bat.  A positive outcome for the team can vary, but a quality at-bat helps a team in some way, whether big or small and a quality at-bat is any plate appearance that results in that positive outcome.

Quality At-Bat (QAB) versus At-Bat (AB)

Just as not all plate appearances result in a quality at-bat, the same can be said about at-bats. One interesting difference is that a player can have a quality at-bat that is not even an at-bat at all. For example, a walk is a positive offensive contribution, but it’s not an official at-bat.

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