QAB stands for “quality at-bat” and is used to denote a plate appearance that helps the batter’s team advance toward their goal of scoring runs and winning the game.
Quality at-bat is a broad concept and not directly reportable as a statistic, but it’s a term that’s widely used in the game, particularly among players, coaches/managers, and broadcasters.
Often “quality at-bat” is a euphemism for an at-bat that results in an out but that still produces some value, though it can be used to describe situations that do lead to a player reaching base safely.
Here are some examples of different types of QABs …
A Hit – Single, Double, Triple, Home Run
Hard to argue that a hit does NOT contribute to the team’s goal of scoring runs and winning games, so almost any safety qualifies as a quality at-bat. There may be cases, however, where a walk, for example, is more valuable than a single if it forces the opposing pitcher to use more pitches, thus adding to his fatigue.
Likewise, a walk is almost always a quality at-bat since it ends up with another man on base, thus representing a potential run.
Though a sacrifice fly or bunt does not end with the batter on the bases, it DOES advance the team’s goals by advancing other runners or even driving in a run.
Strikeouts are not QABs at first glance because they always cost a team an out and usually don’t move runners along. However, there are a few cases wherein a strikeout could be considered a quality at-bat:
- Lots of pitches – a three-pitch punch-out doesn’t do much for the batting team, but if a batter can coax five or ten pitches from the hurler, that moves the batting team closer to bouncing that pitcher from the game due to fatigue.
- Stolen base – sometimes, a swinging batter can help shield a baserunner who’s trying to steal a base, delaying (even slightly) the ability of the catcher to make a gun-down throw.
- On-base! In the case when the catcher drops a third strike, an alert batter may be able to sprint to first base in time to avoid a tag or force play. If he can, then he stays on base and represents another potential run.
Any Long At-Bat
As with the case of a very long strikeout at-bat, any plate appearance that results in the opposing pitcher making a lot of throws benefits the batting team in several ways.
Among those are:
- The pitcher becomes more fatigued with each pitch, making it more likely he’ll make a mistake at some point and that the manager will have to pull him from the game as he tires.
- The batting team gets to see more of the pitcher’s repertoire, and the sequences of pitch calls that the opposing manager, pitcher, and catcher are likely to use for future at-bats. This is a key bit of strategy that can yield dividends in upcoming innings.
- Long at-bats can give other players — especially pitcher — on the batting team a chance to rest up. This can help prolong that team’s starter’s stay in the game.
As long as the batter does not get injured and lost to the team, then getting hit by a pitch can be considered a quality at-bat since it puts another runner on base.
On the other side of the coin, here are some at-bats that would usually NOT be considered to be QABs:
- Quick strikeouts (five or fewer pitches) that don’t help runners advance
- Groundouts that don’t help runners advance
- Foul outs
- Fly outs that don’t help runners advance