Baseball Starting Off With A New Swing

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College baseball is about to experience a drastic change to the game offensively. As of Jan. 1, 2011 the NCAA will be replacing the “ball exit-speed ratio” (BESR) baseball bats with a “ball-bat coefficient of restitution” or BBCOR bat, because it is a more direct measure of bat performance.

The NCAA Research Panel decided to test the performance of aluminum baseball bats and after finding their results, decided that old aluminum bats would no longer be of use in baseball.

The rules committee made the change because of the NCAA Division I baseball statistics that indicated an increase in offensive performance, particularly in home runs and runs scored. After the 1998 College World Series, when 35 runs were scored in the title game and 62 home runs were hit in 14 tournament games, NCAA baseball began steps to test the standard called BESR.

The committee believes the rise relates to the aluminum bats in use today. To allow time to adjust, the NCAA will enforce this standard in the beginning of January and will allow only BBCOR bats in the 2011 season and beyond. There will be no opportunities to be exempt from this new regulation.

Senior starting pitcher, Taylor Siemens thinks the impact will be significant but rather in a negative way.

“It’s going to change college baseball. No doubt about it. It’s a change that needed to be made,” Siemens said, “because it’s also trying to take a step for getting college players ready for the pros, since aluminum is not allowed in the MLB. Instead of aluminum they use wood bats which makes it a challenge if you rely on your offense.”

So what’s the big difference between aluminum and wood? Aluminum bats are hollow, meaning properties other than weight and length contribute to the power produced. Aluminum bats compress upon impact, resulting in a hit that adds distance and speed to the baseballs when hit. Aluminum bats started out as an alternative to wood bats breaking constantly and were made more like wooden bats.

Another reason for the mandatory switch is that some firmly believe that the game would be safer for fielders, pitchers and in some cases coaches. There have been many injuries over the years from batted balls. Within the past 15 years it seems as if there have been more serious injuries and even deaths on the baseball diamond due to batted balls. An overwhelming majority feels that the game would be safer for today’s youth, high school and college players.

California Baptist University third baseman, Brian Sharp said, “Too many pitchers were getting hurt. I’ve seen some pretty close calls. We are used to aluminum, which allows the ball to bounce off stronger where as BBCOR bats mimic wood causing the balls to come off slower when in contact.”

The fear is this could make a certain type of player obsolete and shrink the pool of successful players, possibly hurting the quality of the game.

“I think it’s a big change for college baseball, but for a team like us that doesn’t require a home run to score multiple runs we’re fine with it.” second baseman, Cole Bullard said. “Offensively it’s going to hurt teams. In the long run it will help CBU, because our pitching is so dominant. I think CBU baseball will be fine.”