It’s “three-forty-two” not 34%

When I moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago in 2006, I started getting into baseball (go White Sox!) because of my friend and his family’s love for the game. On one bright summer day, my friend’s dad took us to a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park, for my friends who are still in denial). I was intrigued by all of the stats that are displayed on the big screen when each player goes up to bat — it was amazing.

I learned quickly that the batting average[1.], a percentage calculated by comparing the number of times a player hits the ball by the number of times he goes up to bat, is not spoken as a percentage. I made the uninformed statement that the particular player had a 34% chance of hitting the ball based on his batting average. I also noted that he doesn’t hit the ball 66% of the time.

It was at that moment that I knew I shouldn’t have said that out loud. I was given the “bless his heart” look from my friend and his dad who quickly corrected me by saying “he has a three-forty-two (.342) batting average.” They remarked that .342 batting average was good, and we had a good laugh.
 I still chuckle about my experience whenever I’m at a baseball game. To me, a percentage, not matter how it’s spoken, is still a percentage. I do say it correctly now, as to not be ridiculed by other fans, and often wonder how long I would have a job if I was reporting data and was only accurate 30% of the time. It wish I could get paid $1 million a year to hit a ball 30% of the time[2. Yes, I do realize there is more to baseball than just hitting the ball].

Originally published at what do the data say?.