Going, going, but not quite gone? St. Thomas baseball players may not be able to hit the ball as far due to new NCAA bat standards.
The NCAA is trying to increase player safety, which was a concern with the previous type of aluminum bats. As of Jan. 1, NCAA schools must meet Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution standards. The BBCOR is a new form of testing being used on aluminum bats and is replacing the former, less accurate Ball Exit Speed Ratio test.
Experts recommended new, safer bats after testing the speed of the ball after leaving the bat.
Pitchers have been seriously injured by line drives, and the NCAA wants to prevent these injuries.
St. Thomas baseball coach Chris Olean said the big difference between the bats is exit speed.
“You can tell it will be harder to hit the ball,” Olean said. “The barrel size is very similar, but the sweet spot is going to shrink quite a bit. The players aren’t seeing that same explosion off the bat that they’re used to.”
Teams may have to adjust strategies to adjust to the new bats.
“It’s going to take the game back to an older style of playing,” Olean said. “There is going to be a lot of pitching, a lot of defense, a lot of execution of bunts, [and] players being able to handle the bat a little more than they used to.
“The guys who can hit home runs probably are still going to hit home runs. It’s the ‘tweener,’ the guy who probably didn’t quite have that kind of power but would occasionally hit a few out. I don’t think he is going to get many anymore. Certainly there is not going to be a lot of cheap ones.”
Mixed feelings on new bats
Players said the effects can be seen in the batting cages.
“I’m not a big fan of the new bats,” senior outfielder Taylor Rahm said. “They lack the pop they had last year, and the margin for error is definitely less than prior years.”
Senior catcher Brady Field isn’t thrilled with the new bat standards either.
“I understand the change,” Field said. “Do I like it? Not necessarily. There’s not as much pop, the sweet spot is a lot smaller and it’s more comparable to a wood bat.”
But third baseman Charles Bruchu likes the bats because he said they are safer.
“I think this a good change,” Bruchu said. “College kids get too big and too strong to have metal bats. I think if anything they should be using wood bats.”
Olean said the new standard for bats was an important change for safety because a hard-hit ball at a pitcher can be dangerous.
“When you see how hard those balls are coming off the bat, the pitcher has no time to react,” Olean said. “It’s just a matter of time before people started getting killed if things had remained how they were.”
He added, “Guys are going to continue to get bigger and stronger and they just wield these bats like they’re toothpicks. You will kill a pitcher somewhere down the line if the ball is hit right.”
Several Tommies would prefer to switch to wood bats.
“I would prefer wood bats over these new bats,” Rahm said. “They feel smoother when you swing, and I think eventually the NCAA will move toward wood bats.”
But Olean wouldn’t prefer wood bats for college athletes unless they used them in high school.
“I think a lot of these kids don’t know how to handle a wood bat yet, and they’re going to just snap them in half until they learn how to hit with them,” Olean said.
He said fans will see the effects of the new bat standards this season.
“It’s still a metal bat,” Olean said. “I still think you’re going to see a few more home runs than people maybe think, but it is going to affect how we play.”
Dan Cook can be reached at email@example.com.