One of the greatest differences between college baseball and the professional leagues is the baseball bat. Wood vs. Metal. *Crack* vs. *PING!*.The NCAA began regulating bats in 1998 and has made a new decision beginning this year which will begin to move the game closer to the wooden bat-level. Gone is the Ball-Exit-Speed-Ratio (BESR - That thing we all saw on our bats but never knew what it meant) and in comes something called the Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution, or BBCOR for short. Essentially the BBCOR shrinks the sweet spot of an aluminum bat from 22 inches to only 5 inches (77%). The BBCOR is all about ball speed after making contact with the baseball bat. As the sweet spot gets smaller, the ball bounces off in a lesser manner.
What this change means first and foremost is that the college baseball game is safer, both for the fans and for the players. We've all seen enough games where somebody gets rocketed by a baseball hit off a metal bat and the chaos that ensues. It also means that the advantage is going to swing more in favor of pitching and defense while only the best hitters in college baseball will continue hitting like they had in the past.
California baseball coach Dave Esquer (who has bigger issues to deal with than bat regulations):
"Ninety feet might not be what it used to be...Teams might play a little bit smaller. They can’t wait for a double or a home run." source: AP/ Rivals
Not all coaches are happy about the change. After all, it drastically changes the strategy of the game that so many coaches have used to win and succeed
"I feel we've taken this too far," said Paul Mainieri, who led LSU to the 2009 title. "I'm very concerned that we are going to create the type of game that is not very appealing to our fans.
"One of the things that separates college ball from the majors is we have more offense, and that gives us a niche. If we have a lot of 3-1, 2-1 games, I'm worried how the fans will react."
Other coaches fear it could hurt the game with the fans as the game goes more "old-school" and it could potentially lose an excitement factor.
"The thing that frustrates me is in one breath everybody involved in college baseball talks about how popular it is," [Ole Miss Baseball Coach Mike ]Bianco said. "You have all these stadiums and attendance and more games on TV, a new Omaha (College World Series) contract with ESPN and people love it. Then in the next breath, they tell you the games are too long and too many runs are scored and you're driving people away."
How will these new bats affect Georgia Tech? The Yellow Jackets have always played with a "hitting first. pitching second" mentality. When this combination aligned, the Jackets have been near unstoppable. But the dependency on a great offense has also been the crutch Georgia Tech, especially during the postseason. A great debate amongst the baseball fans has been why Danny Hall does not implement more "small ball" techniques and add some bunts and steals into the offensive strategy. With these new bats, he may just have to.
Georgia Tech opens the 2011 college baseball season against the Kent State Golden Flashes this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium. Individual tickets are now on sale and more information, including schedules can be found here.