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Batting average in baseball
The Major League Baseball batting average championship (often referred to as "the Batting Title") is awarded to the player in each league who has the highest batting average with at least 3.1 plate appearances per game that his team has played.
First devised by Henry Chadwick in the 19th century, batting average is a measure of a player's ability to hit. In modern times, a batting average over .300 is considered to be good, and an average over .400 a nearly unachievable goal. The last player to do so, with enough at bats to qualify for the batting championship, was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, who hit .406 in 1941.
For non-pitchers, a batting average below .250 is poor, and one below .200 is totally unacceptable. This latter level is known as "The Mendoza Line", named either for Mario Mendoza, a stellar defensive shortstop who hit .215 over his Major League career, or for Minnie Mendoza, also a shortstop, who was a long-time minor-league player who finally reached the majors briefly in 1970 at the age of 36 and hit .188 in 16 games. The league batting average in Major League Baseball for 2004 – the most recent completed season – was just over .266, and the all-time league average is between .260 and .275.
Sabermetrics considers batting average a weak measure of performance because it does not correlate as well as other measures to runs scored. Batting average does not take into account walks or power.
The decline of the .400 hitter
Many scientists believe that the range of a given species will tend to decrease over time. That is, the average difference between the tallest and shortest members of a species will tend to decline over time; the difference between the fastest-running and the slowest members will tend to decline; and so on.
In the same way, as biologist and baseball fan Stephen Jay Gould argued in one article, in baseball the difference between the strongest hitters and the weakest hitters has declined over time. Not only has the .400 hitter disappeared; so has the .150 hitter. Thus the evolution of baseball players can be said to mimic other evolutionary groups.
Batting average in cricket
In cricket, a player's batting average is the total number of runs he has scored divided by the number of times he has been out. Most players have batting averages in the range 10–40: between 30 and 40 is typical for specialist batsmen and all-rounders, while between 10 and 20 is typical for specialist bowlers.
Career records for batting average are usually subject to a minimum qualification of at least 20 innings played. This is because it is easy to sustain an artificially high average over a career spanning few matches. Under this qualification, the highest Test batting average belongs to Australia's Sir Donald Bradman, with 99.94. Given that a career batting average over 50 is exceptional, and that only four other players have averages (barely) over 60, this is an outstanding statistic.
Batting averages in one-day international cricket tend to be lower than in Test cricket, because of the need to score runs more quickly and the lesser emphasis on building a large innings.
Some cricket followers have noted that the batting average is inflated by the number of not-outs (innings in which the batsman has not been dismissed), and argue that a better measure of a batsman's quality is the number of runs scored divided by the number of innings played. This proposed statistic has never been given an accepted name and is not commonly used by cricket fans or commentators. It may have the disadvantage that it would deflate the apparent quality of lower-order batsmen who are often not out but are rarely given the chance to bat for long.