New bat standard in college baseball
Monday, March 7, 2011
New bat standard in college baseball
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A new bat standard adopted by the NCAA, effective January 2011, could help the pitching staff of the Bemidji State University baseball team keep baseballs inside the confines of the ballpark this season. After watching 67 homeruns fly over the outfield fence in 53 games played, a new bat standard called BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) has changed the way manufactures make their aluminum and composite bats, resulting in a decrease in bat performance by 10-15 percent. This modification will not only change the amount of long balls launched, but also make the game more safe to play.

“With the sweet spot being smaller, you aren’t going to see as many balls go out of the yard,” said head coach Tim Bellew. “Really, the biggest reason for the change is safety. The old bats were so lively. We’ve clocked the exit rate at over 100 miles per hour, which made it dangerous for the pitcher and infielders.”

The old standard BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) measured the exit speed of the ball off the bat, while BBCOR measures the “bouciness” of the ball on the bat. Whenever a ball hits a bat it is decompressed by a third and what BBCOR measures is the loss of energy at collision. Thicker walls and a smaller sweet spot makes the new bats’ result mimic the result of wood bats, which absorbs a lot of the energy generated by a pitched ball. The good hitters will still hit the ball well, but the new technology should even the playing field among all batters.

“I think the biggest difference will be less cheap hits,” said senior Colton Smith. “Batters will have to barrel everything up to get hits.”

As the season wore on, so did the old bats, resulting in faster exit speeds of the ball, making homeruns even more common. The old hollow aluminum bats would flex a little bit on impact, generating even more speed off the bat. The exit speeds the bats produced has created a different kind of game at the college level, forcing coaches to go away from “small ball” and working on situations. The times of playing manager and asking the, “What would you do?” scenarios were gone from the college game, but the new standard will bring some of those lost arts back and force teams to bunt, hit-and-run and steal more often.

“The bats made small ball almost nonexistent over the last few years,” Bellew said. “We didn’t bunt or hit-and-run a lot because, really, what did it mean? Everyone was hitting the ball out. It was giving up an out. What’s the point of trying to steal a bag when the next guy comes up and hits a bomb? I don’t think it will be that way anymore and it will force teams to handle the little things.”

“The outfielders won’t have to play with their backs to the wall,” Smith said. “Balls were hit pretty hard with aluminum bats, now the infield will have to be more ready. There will be a lot more action with ground balls and bunting.”

The BSU pitching staff returns student-athletes who pitched a lot of innings last season and gave-up a lot of homeruns. Coupled with experience and the standard change, pitching can also go back to the mano-a-mano chess game it used to be.

“The changes have placed an emphasis on pitching,” Bellew said. “The pitchers can go after guys. They can have the mentality of get ahead in the count, throw strikes and make guys beat you.”   

The new bats are also cost effective, getting the production of wood bats but not breaking as often. The old hollow aluminum and composite bats also would dent, crack and break, making it hard on the wallet of low-budget NCAA teams.

“What we have found about the BBCOR bats are they tend to be a little more durable,” Bellew said. “It’s a cost effective measure.”

The Beavers will get their first taste of the live action play with the new BBCOR bats as they open the 2011 season at the RussMatt Greater Phoenix Invitational in Phoenix, Ariz. tomorrow against Northwestern (Iowa).

Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).