Quality At-Bats (QAB)
Improve Batting Performance
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Quality At-Bats (QAB) Improve Batting Performance article is excerpted from The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click the link for details about our functional and comprehensive drills book!).
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Quality At-Bats (QAB) Defined
|Walk, HBP, Interference|
|Hard Hit Ball|
|Extra Base Hit|
|6+ pitches seen in an at-bat (6+%)|
|3+ pitches seen after two strikes (2S+3%)|
Quality At-Bats Workbook
Quality At-Bats are at-bats in which the batter is productive in a way that fits the situation, whether that involves advancing the runner with a sacrifice bunt or even a ground ball out, hitting the ball hard, or being patient and waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake or issue a walk.
QAB% encourages and emphasizes not swinging at bad pitches and making hard contact on pitches in the hitter’s best zone(s). These two crucial goals are traits of all successful hitters.
Usefully, the QAB percentage contains subsets of stats. Examine each subgroup to determine why a player is or isn’t experiencing success. For example, there is a stat for extending a two-strike at-bat for another three pitches. There is another stat for having an at-bat of six or more pitches. If these occurrences are low, the hitter is not selective; they are swinging at too many difficult pitches to hit. Fixing this issue raises QAB% and boosts the hitter’s confidence.
There is no hard and fast definition of what makes up a quality at-bat. However, below are the subsets Building Rome Series recommends evaluating when measuring “quality” in an at-bat. Each subset focuses on being aggressive and patient, selective, and situational hitting.
- Moving the runner.
- Any walk, hit by pitch, or catcher’s interference.
- Any RBI.
- All hard-hit balls.
- Any extra-base hit.
- 6+ pitches seen in an at-bat (6+%).
- 3+ pitches seen after two strikes (2S+3%).
Track success in each category and keep an overall QAB percentage. If the hitter is successful in more than one category within a single at-bat (extra-base hit plus an RBI), count only one quality at-bat in the overall percentage.
QAB% is determined by dividing the number of quality at-bats by the number of at-bats.
Quality At-Bats/At-Bats x 100 = QAB%
The individual target might be 60% quality at-bats. A good team goal would be 55% quality at-bats per game.
The target is 60% quality at-bats. A good team goal would be 55% quality at-bats per game and a 50% average for the season.
Tracking QAB% allows players to quickly create a training plan for 1) targeting a specific weakness or 2) building on their hitting strengths.
QAB tracking gives players smaller, more targeted goals that help build confidence and provide a fun experience for players of all abilities.
Quality At-Bats (QAB) vs. Batting Average
Batting average is a misleading (and stressful) way to analyze progress, especially doing more harm than good for most developing hitters. Don’t worry about the batting average. Batting average is truly a hitter’s ‘trap.’ Getting a hit is an uncontrollable goal. You can hit a screaming line drive right at the centerfielder. Get away from thinking you have to get a hit. Thinking if I strike out, I’m going to be down to 200. Or, if I get a base hit, I’m up to 300. Instead, try to string together 3 or 4 QABs. The mindset should be that every at-bat is a quality at-bat. With this mindset comes a higher batting average without worrying about things out of the batter’s control.
For example, raising batting average from .250 to .300 might seem daunting. However, by implementing a more effective pitch selection regimen, eventually, that strategy pays off. To do this, the hitter trains to extend at-bats and go deeper into the count (6+%) while being prepared to adopt a 2-strike approach to spoil tough strikeout pitches (2S+3%). As a result, not only will the hitter begin to raise their individual QAB% and HHB%, but they will also see improvements in their batting and OPS.
Even if you are not the coach, the QAB% stat is a fantastic stat for keeping with your developing hitter at home.
Instead of focusing solely on how your son/daughter’s batting average is, focus on how many times they reach base, how many times they hit the ball hard each game, and ways that they helped their team win.
Also, QAB% is an excellent team stat:
“The hitter needs confidence. I really paid attention to this stuff when I had a Pony-aged team. Obviously, I had some kids hitting .450, but there were other kids who were barely strong enough to hit the ball into the grass (first year of BBCOR at 13U). We focused greatly on QAB and it was a thing of beauty when a kid made an out, but the whole bench was excited for the player making a QAB. It kept the hitters focused that even the last batter was going to make big contributions to the team. QAB is really a team stat. Again, when you have a pitcher trying to get a batter out, those tough batters fouling stuff off multiple times does impact the mentality of the pitcher. It isn’t just about raising a pitcher’s pitch count.” (Anonymous, General Baseball Forums, 2017)
Hard-Hit Ball Percentage (HHB%)
Hard-hit Balls Percentage (HHB%), helps evaluate the ability of a hitter to see the ball well, have a strategic approach at the plate, swing in the plane of the pitch, and utilize productive swing patterns based on pitch location.
Hard Hit Ball % is a great stat that has been shown more and more in the MLB. I love this stat because when we hit the ball hard, that is something we should be proud of. I know that it might result in an out, but the more we hit the ball hard, the more we will get on base. We should strive to hit the ball hard every time we swing our bat, whether it results in an out or a hit. (https://hotcornerathletics.com/batting-average-vs-quality-at-bats/)
Hard-hit ball percentage (HHB%) can be measured and tracked separately from QAB%. Count a hard-hit ball anytime contact is sharp (no popups, choppers, or weak grounders).
At-Bats with a Hard-Hit Ball/At-Bats x 100 = HHB%
On-Base Percentage (OBP%)
“On Base Percentage is what I made a living off of. My job as a hitter was to find any way on base. A lot of times, it was by the Hit By Pitch. I know, it’s crazy to think that I got hit by pitches for a career, but that’s what I needed to do to help my team. There are a bunch of ways to reach base. I think that if we focus on reaching base any way that we can, it helps our team more. If we only focus on the hits that we have, we are going to be very disappointed.” (https://hotcornerathletics.com/batting-average-vs-quality-at-bats/)
On Base Plus Slugging (OPS%)
“On Base + Slugging is a great stat because it shows your ability to get on base, plus the power you produce. This is creating the complete hitter, power + contact + ability to grind out at-bats and get on base. I love this stat because it brings in every facet of the game.” (https://hotcornerathletics.com/batting-average-vs-quality-at-bats/)
Four Essential Skills to Improve Quality At-Bats (QAB) Percentage
Skill #1 – Plate Discipline
Plate discipline is a critical skill but not easy to achieve, earned through precise practice. Here is our six-step program:
- Step 1 (Improve Vision)
Click for our free article Improve Vision for the Beginning Hitter.
Click for our free article See the Ball Better in Sixteen Steps.
- Step 2 (Improve Fastball Discipline)
Perform drills in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool VII: Fastball Discipline Drills.
- Step 3 (Improve Pitch Recognition)
Perform drill in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool XXIX: Off-Speed Drills, Drill I – Pitch Recognition Drill.
- Step 4 (Identify the Hitter’s Ideal Hitting Zones)
Perform drill in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool XXVIII: Pitch Location Drills, Drill VIII – Find the Hitter’s Most Productive Hitting Zone(s) Drill.
- Step 5 (Routinely Practice Looking for a Pitch)
Click for our free article When and How to Look for a Pitch.
- Step 6 (Prepare and Execute a Plan at the Plate)
Click for our free article Preparing a Hitter’s Plan at the Plate.
Skill #2 – Swing Aggressively
The hitter continually strives for a balance combining aggressiveness with selectivity.
Click for our free article Develop an Aggressive Batting Swing.
Perform drill in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool VIII: Fastball Discipline Drills, Drill VIII – Aggressive But Selective Drill.
Skill #3 – Swing in the Plane of the Pitch
Click for our free article Swing on Plane for Baseball and Fastpitch Softball.
Skill #4 – Productive Swing Patterns for Pitch Locations
Perform drills in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool XXVIII: Pitch Location Drills.
Other Swing Analytics Articles You May Find Useful
Click on the links below for more free swing analytic articles:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new two-book hitting series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become powerful and productive hitters.
Enjoy the quest!