Sounding off on BBCOR

Published: Friday, April 27, 2012 7:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Herald Photo by Lisa Pesavento — lpesavento@morrisdailyherald.com)
Area coaches talk about the switch over to the BBCOR bats this spring.

Ping!

That loud, high-pitched noise has been heard around high school baseball for years.

With the IHSA adopting a rule from the National Federation of High Schools, there will be a lot less pinging around prep baseball.

Following the lead of the NCAA, high school baseball replaced the normal metal bats with BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats this spring. Collegiate baseball went to the BBCOR bats last year.

The new bats affect the exit speed of the ball coming off the bat, and in turn should make the game safer for pitchers and infielders, as well as help lead to a decline in offense.

"It sounds different, that's for sure," Morris coach Todd Kein said. "I notice it mostly in practice when we're in the cage or working on our fundamentals, and I've taken some balls off the face and off the head in my day just throwing batting practice.

"It makes me a little more comfortable knowing that if that happens, it's not going to travel at the same speed."

BBCOR bats are supposed to behave like wood bats — without breaking as much. Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said that his players will use wood bats in practice to help them with the adjustment to BBCOR, while Gardner-South Wilmington coach Jon Posing mentioned the fact that he's already seen opponents using wood bats in games, which they are allowed to do under IHSA rules.

"I guess the jump off the bat is similar, if not the same, as a wood bat," Posing said. "The ball sounds dead when it hits. Completely different sounding than the ping of the aluminum bats.

"A couple times guys have hit the ball [hard], I'm yelling at my outfield 'Back!' and they're camping [under] them."

Hitting with BBCOR bats, coaches say there won't be as many players getting jammed and still muscling the ball into the outfield for a single, or routine pop flies leaving the ballpark.

Posing said that BBCOR has gotten rid of the "trampoline effect" of bats, with the ball basically bouncing off them.

"If you get a guy jammed or something, it's a lot harder to fight it off and get it out into the outfield again. Just the jump on the bat isn't there," Posing said. "I think it's a good thing safety-wise. There's really no need for balls to be flying out of our park by 50 feet, by 100 feet. Power hitters are still going to hit the ball out of the park, not as much as a routine pop-up."


Big changes in the NCAA

Last season, the new bats made a huge impact at the collegiate level.

Will the bats have the same effect on high schools that they've had on the NCAA? Logic would say yes.

To Kein, the good hitters will always be able to hit, regardless of what bat they're going to use.

"I still think good hitters can hit the ball and the bat may effect the speed that it travels off the bat, it may effect how far it goes in some respects," he said. "I'm a true believer in the hitter when it comes to baseball. I still think if you have the right approach and the right mechanics, and can put everything together and square one up, I still think you're going to get your hits."

Still, coaches know that they're going to be forced to make adjustments.

Petrovic says that back in 2004, 2005, his Indians were attempting at least 125 stolen bases. Obviously those numbers have declined.

The reasons? According to Petrovic, pitchers relying on slide steps more and pitchers becoming faster to the plate.

With the BBCOR bats in play and teams not being able to rely on the home run quite as much, Petrovic thinks teams will have their strategy shift back into more of a "small ball" approach.

"I think that you're going to see a lot more small ball in terms of bunting, hit and runs, things of that nature," Petrovic said. "But I think that the game has really changed in terms of how much we're going to run."

Putting more strategy into the game is something that Coal City coach Jerry McDowell enjoys. He's already noticed that there less line drives and more pop-ups, as well as slower balls in the infield where it's easier to turn a double play.

"More small ball is needed to swing a run across earlier," McDowell said. "There's just not a lot of run scoring right now with the bats the way they are. Right now there's a lot of lazy pop-ups.

"I like it. I like the lower-scoring games, more strategy involved. Your check swings were a single or a double or went in he gap. Now you don't have that, you have to hit the ball on the nose. It changes the game a lot."

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