A huge difference exists for the highest batting average at the youth levels and the higher levels of baseball. At the professional levels, I am extremely impressed with the highest batting average, but at the youth levels it is irrelevant. Of course, when I relay that idea to parents and players, they look at me as though I am crazy. It takes some convincing.
One of the very first things I hear from successful hitting students or their parents is their batting average. Usually, I am not impressed, especially with inflated numbers, as that is a sure sign of unchallenged players.
Having taught hitting for 26 years now, I have a pretty good feel for good hitters. What I am not good at is observing a team of young players and figuring out which one has the highest batting average. That may seem odd. However, I am very accurate at predicting player that will have the highest batting average when they reach the junior high and high school levels.
At the youth levels of baseball and softball, the highest batting average means very little. So often, youth with the highest batting average do not even play into their high school years. What happens to these apparently accomplished players? At the youth levels, players with the highest batting average mean one or all of three things. Those players have very good hand eye coordination, are physically stronger than other players and have fast running speed.
Notice not mentioned was that those players have the best hitting mechanics. Until the competition level rises and kids physically develop, usually around the junior high levels, players often have batting success, even without good hitting fundamentals. However, solid hitting mechanics is crucial for long range success, and a big equalizer when players mature. Successful young hitters often fall by the wayside when efficient hitting fundamentals are mandatory.
At the advanced levels of baseball all players are on an equal footing, skill and strength wise for the most part, so the highest batting average players are worthy of respect. Additionally, the large sample size of at-bats at the professional level signals a great fundamentally-sound hitter. Even at the professional levels now, it means less than in the past with all the advanced statistics like OPS (on base plus slugging) and WAR, (wins against replacement), weighing in as more important than batting average for player evaluations.
This argument is not to say that he highest batting average does not have some advantages at all levels. Good batting averages bring confidence to players, which is very important and builds on the important OPS statistic. Also, as mentioned, with a great enough sample size and high quality play, it may be a sign that players have the necessary hitting fundamentals.
What is unfortunate is that many good youth players are led to believe they are not good hitters because of low batting averages, even though they have good hitting mechanics and probable future success. They simply lack strength and size or are not fast enough runners to get base hits in that manner. When players with the best mechanics mature, there is a great chance they will have the highest batting average. Hopefully, but all too often, they give up on baseball young because they felt as a failure and do not wait until they grow and develop, physically and mentally.
Parents, players, and coaches should not get caught up with batting average numbers. It often means nothing at the youth levels. Patience, along with focus on continual development of the fundamentals and staying positive, no matter a players' batting average, pays off in the end.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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