By Brandon Speck
Batting average: a time-honored stat in America’s pastime. In a game ruled by stats, it’s the one hitters are most judged by.
Not in Ripley.
Baseball coach Joel Gafford has done away with the stat. None of his players know their averages.
“We don’t let them see it. We don’t use it at all,” Gafford said. “We got rid of it.”
They do know their QAB though – quality-at-bats. With batting average, it’s either a hit or an out. A line drive is the same as a lazy fly. In QABs, that line-drive out counts as a success, not failure in a game ruled by failure.
Ripley won five games last season, so Gafford was looking to make changes. After hearing Toronto Blue Jays scout Steve Springer give a speech on quality-at-bats, Gafford found the spot.
“We went with it. It’s a different approach,” Gafford said. “Some people probably think we’re crazy, but I think it’s working out for us right now.”
Springer sells a DVD dedicated to the approach and Gafford doesn’t claim to have started it. But he will claim to be a believer. Ripley is 11-6 thus far, maybe no coincidence.
Ripley charts its QABs and Gafford still keeps batting averages for coaches who are recruiting his players. But on their track, hits count, hit-by-pitches, sacrifices, seeing three-or-more pitches on a two-strike count or even hitting the ball hard right at somebody all count as a quality at-bat.
Gafford says as a team, 15 QABs should equal a win. They’ll give an award at the end of the year for the QAB leader.
“Batting average is did I get a hit, did I not get a hit,” Gafford said. “If you hit .300, you’re a good hitter. But that means you got out seven times,” Gafford said. “With this, there’s more than one way to have success, more of a mentality thing that allows them to relax and still see some positive results without just getting a hit.”