9. Painting a Bigger Picture

Perhaps the most famous baseball statistic—batting average (or hits divided by at-bats)—was invented by H. A. Dobson in 1872.1 Although simple to calculate, batting average treats all singles, doubles, triples, and home runs equally, and it ignores walks and stolen bases entirely. Around 1910, the flaws in batting average led Ferdinand Lane to declare that batting average is “worse than worthless.”2 Although Lane spent years as a writer and editor for Baseball magazine discussing the problems with how performance was measured in baseball, he was not able to convince people that batting average was inherently flawed. Consequently, batting average is still one of the most frequently cited statistics when people discuss ...

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