While its star has been dimmed by the emergence of OBP and SLG as performance metrics, looking at batting average can provide useful information, particularly when it jumps up or down by a lot across seasons.
One thing about playing fantasy baseball: it forces you to ask--and answer--some questions you'd otherwise never think twice about. One of the ones a friend and I debated this past off-season was: Is Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell worth keeping for the 2004 season?
For what it's worth, Baseball Prospectus 2004 had this to say about Burrell: "Burrell's batting average dropped 73 points from 2002 to 2003, the 42nd-largest drop in history for a player with 500 at-bats in both seasons. That's bad enough, but there's only one other player above him who, like him, didn't hit .300 before plummeting. What happened?"
Thing is, batting average is one of the most volatile stats in baseball; when it spikes, we call it a "career year," and when it falls off a cliff we call it...well, a lot of things, not many of them printable. But take another look: While Burrell's batting average declined in 2003, his hitting peripherals--patience and power--remained very close to levels which he'd previously achieved...