What is Quality of Contact?

Quality of Contact Definition

Quality of contact is a measure of how hard a batter is hitting the ball. It stands to reason that hard hit balls are going to be more productive than softly hit balls, so tracking quality of contact is a useful measure of a batter’s ability.  

The Concept of Quality of Contact

The concept here is that a player’s hitting ability cannot be accurately measured by traditional results-based statistics alone. Instead of simply counting hits, home runs, or RBIs, quality of contact evaluates how well the batter is striking the ball, independent of outcomes. 

Quality of contact is actually a collection of three statistics which work together to provide a picture of a batter’s ability to hit the ball hard. Those three statistics are Soft%, Med%, and Hard%. Each batted ball is placed into one of those three categories, so the sum of the three for any given player will always equal 100%. 

While there is subjectivity involved, a ‘hard’ hit ball is something that you know when you see it. For instance, a double that is lined off the wall in center field? Certainly hard hit. On the other hand, a double that is blooped over the head of the first baseman will likely land in the ‘soft’ category.

Why is Quality of Contact Important?

Hitting the ball hard is going to lead to better outcomes, on average, than hitting the ball softly. So, using this category of statistics, it’s possible to see who is hitting the ball hard frequently, and who should be achieving good outcomes as a result. Hitting the ball hard on a regular basis is associated with improved results across the board, including in traditional statistics like batting average and home runs. 

One of the useful elements of the quality of contact statistics is that they can be used to evaluate who may be getting lucky or unlucky over a portion of a season. For instance, if a player has great quality of contact numbers, but low numbers in areas like batting average and home runs, that player may be running into some bad luck that is likely to turn around. 

Of course, just the opposite is true. If a player has great traditional batting stats, but measures poorly in quality of contact, it could be that the player has been getting rather lucky for a portion of the season. It’s extremely difficult to post good numbers over the long run without registering a high rate of hard hit balls. 

How is Quality of Contact Calculated?

The formula for calculating quality of contact is not publicly available. Baseball Information Solutions is the company responsible for producing these statistics, and the underlying calculations are not known to the general public. However, it has been said that trajectory, hang time, and location of batted balls are used in the formula to categorize each ball in play. 

What is a Good Quality of Contact?

The idea of quality of contact is quite simple – a hitter wants to maximize hard contact and minimize soft contact. Generally speaking, any player with more than 40% of his balls in play registering as ‘hard contact’ is doing quite well. Likewise, keeping soft contact down in the range of 15% – 20% is a good effort, also. 

To highlight some of the best performances in the game within this category, we have assembled two top-ten lists below. 

Top Ten Batters Hard Contact %, 2018 Season (min. 3.1 plate appearances per team game)

Player Hard Contact % Medium Contact % Soft Contact %
Matt Carpenter 49.0 41.7 9.3
David Peralta 48.6 34.9 16.4
Eugenio Suarez 48.6 43.0 8.4
Joey Gallo 48.5 38.9 12.6
Tommy Pham 48.5 38.9 12.6
Nicolas Castellanos 47.9 40.0 12.1
Christian Yelich 47.6 37.9 14.5
Matt Olson 47.3 38.9 13.8
Paul Goldschmidt 46.2 36.9 16.9
Salvador Perez 46.0 42.0 12.0

Top Ten Batters Soft Contact %, 2018 Season (min. 3.1 plate appearances per team game)

Player Soft Contact % Medium Contact % Hard Contact %
Eugenio Suarez 8.4 43.0 48.6
Joey Votto 9.1 49.9 41.0
Matt Carpenter 9.3 41.7 49.0
Jackie Bradley Jr. 10.0 49.0 41.1
Khris Davis 10.8 43.9 45.3
J.D. Martinez 10.9 44.2 44.9
Freddie Freeman 11.0 47.2 41.9
Kyle Seager 11.1 51.9 37.0
Bryce Harper 11.8 45.9 42.3
Ben Zobrist 11.9 52.6 35.5

What are the Problems with Quality of Contact?

One of the notable limitations of these statistics is that without being able to see the underlying calculations, you can’t judge the accuracy of the information for yourself. It may be that you would disagree with some of the methodology behind the stats, and therefore would not agree with how Soft%, Med%, and Hard% are calculated, but that is not known at this time. So, you are left to simply take the stats for what they are. That doesn’t mean they are not useful, but the degree of trust you can place in them may be somewhat limited without all of the information. 

Also, the relationship between quality of contact and actual results is not perfectly understood at this time. It stands to reason that hitting the ball hard is a good thing, but just how important this stat is in the big picture of hitting is not quite clear.