As someone who has played baseball a majority of his life, one thing I’ve heard quite often is the concept of a quality at-bat. Even if a batter gets out, there are still people who give that batter credit for a good at-bat or a quality at-bat. Some people even shorten this concept into an acronym of QAB. What does QAB mean in baseball?
In baseball, QAB stands for “Quality At-Bat”. QAB has a broad definition and it is not a reported statistic in baseball, but it is a well-known concept that can be used to judge how well a hitter performed during their plate appearance by looking at how the at-bat helped the team.
As an example, batting averages focus on base hits, regardless of whether the ball was hit hard, the player got jammed, or it was a swinging bunt. Quality At-Bats focuses on how well the hitter did during their plate appearance by looking at how hard the ball was hit, if the player moved over a runner, or even how many pitches the hitter made the pitcher throw. Let’s look at all the ways a player can get a good quality at-bat.
11 Ways to Get a Good Quality At-Bat
Out of all the years I’ve played baseball, I’ve heard the term “quality at-bat” many times. So I decided to come up with a complete list of all the ways a hitter could end up with a quality at-bat.
As a general rule, a Quality At-Bat (QAB) is a subjective statistic and the definition can vary from coach to coach. Even though there is not a hard-set rule on what is a quality at-bat, most coaches and players know what a quality at-bat is when they see one.
Below is a list of what determines a Quality At-Bat (QAB) in baseball.
1) Pitcher Throws More Than 6 Pitches Without a Strikeout
One of the goals of a team is to remove the starting pitcher from the game as soon as possible because, on average, a relief pitcher is not as good as a starting pitcher. One way a batter can help their team achieve that goal is by having the pitcher throw a lot of pitches during one at-bat. How many pitches is a good at-bat?
As a general rule, 6 to 8 pitches is considered a good quality at-bat if a batter does not strikeout. If a pitcher throws 9 or more pitches, then it is considered a good at-bat, even if the batter strikes out.
Some coaches will even consider 7 or 8 pitches to be a quality at-bat. But most coaches and players will consider 6 or more pitches a quality at-bat if the batter does not strikeout.
2) Pitchers Throws More Than 9 Pitches, Strikeouts Included
Making a pitcher throw a lot of pitches is tough to do. So if a batter can get a pitcher to throw 9 or more pitches during a single at-bat, most coaches and players would consider that a quality at-bat, even if the batter struck out.
To make a pitcher throw 9 or more pitches, batters will typically have to foul off a lot of pitches during their at-bat. The good news for batters is that they get an unlimited number of foul balls.
Obviously, the team would prefer the batter to get on base, but if that batter can drive up a pitcher’s pitch count by throwing 9 or more pitches, they’ll take it.
3) Ball is Hit Hard
Not every hard-hit ball is a base hit and not every base hit is a hard-hit ball. When a batter gets a base hit, the statistic does not say whether the batter made solid contact or hit a blooper.
There are a lot of times where a batter will hit a hard line drive directly at someone and still get out. Those at-bats do not have a positive mark on a player’s batting average, but coaches and players know that this was a hard hit ball because of the solid contact.
It’s not easy to make solid contact in baseball so coaches consider a hard hit ball as a quality at-bat because it means the batter beat the pitcher.
4) Plate Appearance Results in a Walk
A walk is not the most glamorous way to get on base, but it does help the team quite a bit. Is a walk considered a quality at-bat?
As a general rule, whenever a player reaches base they are helping their team. So a walk is considered a quality at-bat because they become a baserunner and have a higher chance of scoring a run for their team.
As a bonus, a pitcher must throw four balls to walk a batter so this means that a walk is a free base for the hitter and a minimum of four pitches are added to the pitcher’s pitch count.
5) Plate Appearance Results in a Hit By Pitch
Sometimes pitches get away from the pitcher and hit the batter. In these instances, a batter is awarded first base. Because the batter safely reached first base, this is considered a quality at-bat.
6) Runner is Moved into Scoring Position
Scoring runs is how a team wins ball games, but before a run is scored, baserunners must be in a position to score.
Regardless of whether the batter gets out or gets a base hit, when a batter moves a runner into scoring position they are helping their team. So moving a runner into scoring position is a quality at-bat.
Some coaches only consider this scenario a quality at-bat if the runner is moved into scoring position with less than 2 outs, but that concept varies from coach to coach.
7) Batter Gets an RBI
Whether or not a batter gets out, getting an RBI is one of the best ways to help out the team. So even if a batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop and gets thrown out at first, it’s still considered a quality at-bat if a runner scored from third base.
If a batter hits into a double play and a run scores, a batter would not receive credit for a quality at-bat because they were responsible for two outs in that one play. In this double-play scenario, a batter would also not be credited with an RBI.
8) Run Scores From a Sacrifice Fly
Sometimes, all a batter needs to do is put the ball in play in order to help out their team. If there is a runner on third base and a batter hits a sacrifice fly to the outfield, they are credited with a quality at-bat because they helped bring in a run for their team.
9) Baserunner Advances From a Sacrifice Bunt
Hitting a sacrifice bunt is a quality at-bat because the batter is sacrificing themselves at first base and moving a baserunner into scoring position. Even though the batter gets out, moving a runner into scoring position gives the next hitters a higher chance at bringing in that runner.
10) Batter “Battles Back” After Receiving Two Strikes in the Count
On occasion, a pitcher will get an early 0-2 lead in the count. This is the worst position for a batter to be in because the pitcher now has options on what pitches they can throw, but the batter must protect the plate to make sure they do not strikeout.
When a batter “battles back” during an at-bat, they are taking the count from an 0-2 count, to a 2-2 count or a 3-2 count. This is considered a quality at-bat because the batter did not give up after being down 0-2 and instead they fought back to give themselves a chance at getting on base.
Depending on the coach, this concept of battling back may or may not be a quality at-bat depending on how many pitches a coach considers a quality at-bat and whether or not they consider a strikeout a quality at-bat. But in general, battling back from an 0-2 count is a good thing.
11) Batter Gets a Base Hit
The best possible outcome for any plate appearance is for the batter to get a base hit. Regardless of the pitch count and how hard the ball was hit, getting a base hit is the best way to earn a quality at-bat.
Quality At-Bat (QAB) Vs Plate Appearance (PA)
While all quality at-bats come from a plate appearance, not all plate appearances are considered a quality at-bat. What’s the difference between a Quality At-Bat (QAB) and a Plate Appearance (PA)?
A Plate Appearance (PA) is any completed batting turn by a player, while a Quality At-Bat (QAB) is any Plate Appearance that results in a positive outcome for the team.
A positive outcome for the team can vary widely depending on who you ask, but in general, a quality at-bat helps the team in some small way.
Quality At-Bat (QAB) Vs At-Bat (AB)
Not all At-Bats result in a Quality At-Bat and not all Quality At-Bats are an actual At-Bat. As an example, a walk is not considered an At-Bat, but it is considered to be a Quality At-Bat. What’s the difference between a Quality At-Bat and an At-Bat?
While both the Quality At-Bat (QAB) and At-Bat statistics originate from the Plate Appearance (PA) statistic, a Quality At-Bat is any Plate Appearance that positively impacts the team while an At-Bat is any Plate Appearance that results in a hit, error, fielder choice, or a non-sacrifice out.
So even though people regularly say that something is a “Quality At-Bat”, a Quality At-Bat does not necessarily mean the player recorded an actual At-Bat.
Learn more about what is an At-Bat (AB) from my previous article.
How to Calculate Quality At-Bat Percentage
There is no actual statistic for a Quality At-Bat so the way to calculate a Quality At-Bat percentage will vary quite a bit depending on who you ask. I prefer to calculate a Quality At-Bat percentage similarly to how one would calculate batting average.
To calculate the Quality At-Bat percentage, take the total number of Quality At-Bats (QAB) and divide that by the total number of Plate Appearances (PA).
This would give you a number similar to a batting average. An example would be 10/20 = .500. If you wanted a percentage you could then multiply that number by 100 to get your percentage, which would be 50% in our example.
Is QAB A Good Stat?
Once you’ve learned what a Quality At-Bat is in baseball, the next question you might be wondering is if quality at-bats are important.
Quality At-Bats (QAB) is a good stat for looking at how well a batter helped their team during their At-Bat. A good quality at-bat can give more overall insight into how well a player performed when combined with other traditional statistics.
Just like with any other stat, it’s difficult to judge a player’s hitting abilities by only focusing on one statistic. So it’s helpful to look at a player’s quality at-bats while also comparing it to other stats like batting average, slugging percentage, RBIs, etc.
Quality At-Bat Chart
Once you’ve learned what a Quality At-Bat (QAB) is in baseball, the next thing you might want to do is track how many Quality At-Bats your team gets in a game.
I put together this downloadable Quality At-Bat chart that lists out all 11 reasons from the list above and allows you to track each Quality At-Bat for each player and for the team as a whole. You can also click the image below to download your Quality At-Bat chart.