published Friday, March 23rd, 2012

BBCOR takes some of the ‘ping’ out

Two of the new, safer bats sit in the dugout Monday evening at a game between East Hamilton High School and East Ridge High School held at Chattanooga State Community College. High School baseball teams have switched to new bats that are deemed safer and help prevent fielders from being at risk of getting hit by a line drive.
Two of the new, safer bats sit in the dugout Monday evening at a game between East Hamilton High School and East Ridge High School held at Chattanooga State Community College. High School baseball teams have switched to new bats that are deemed safer and help prevent fielders from being at risk of getting hit by a line drive.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.

NEW BBCOR DESIGNATION

BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution). Instead of measuring the speed of the ball after it is batted, BBCOR measures the “bounciness” of the ball and bat, or the “trampoline” effect. Bat performance is specified by using the BBCOR, which for mathematicians is calculated using the inbound and rebound speeds of the ball.


OLD BESR DESIGNATION

BESR (Ball exit speed ratio). The BESR is a number, once known, that allows one to determine the ball exit speed when the bat speed and the pitch speed are specified.

The pinging sound that had become so familiar from college to youth baseball fields is slowly disappearing. Although aluminum bats are the norm, new bats are sounding more like their wood predecessors still used by the pros.

That new bat, which carries a BBCOR designation, is closer to bringing back the crack of the bat.

“It’s closer to wood than others, sounds more like wood. The [old] aluminum bats made an obnoxious noise,” East Hamilton standout player Patrick Parris said.

“I’m still hearing it with some of them — certain brands like the Marucci, a couple of the Rawlings bats and the Rip It [bats],” Signal Mountain coach Bumper Reese said. “It’s nothing like you’d hear several years ago, and in order to hear that ping you still have to hit it solid.”

East Hamilton coach Steve Garland said the ping definitely is not what most have gotten used to.

“It’s a flatter sound, not as high-pitched,” he said.

Sound, though, wasn’t the reason for a change in bats.

“I think it was definitely a safety issue, and how often does the NCAA do something and the [high school] national federation doesn’t follow,” McCallie coach Chris Richardson offered.

Most are interested in the end result and had to be taken aback after seeing the NCAA numbers.

The BBCOR bats now mandated by the NCAA and the National Federation of High Schools caused a major dip in offensive production when they were introduced, and area coaches figured the same as high school teams were forced to abandon the BESR bats for the new models.

The BESR bats were regulated based on speed coming off the bat. The new bats were designed by measuring inbound and rebound speeds of the ball.

NCAA batting averages dropped from a composite .301 to .282, and home runs per game fell from 0.94 in 2010 to 0.52 last season.

“Our numbers have changed quite a bit, but that is partially due to our approach at the plate,” said Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley, mindful that his team is without James Fowlkes and Talon Harris, who tied for the area lead in home runs a year ago.

Last year the Trojans averaged slightly more than eight runs per game. This year through their first nine games the average was slightly more than three.

Where the BESR bat might have been considered a hitter’s savior, today’s bat is less so.

“Absolutely,” Hensley said. “With the old bats you sometimes could get jammed and almost force it into the outfield. Now if that happens it looks like it’s going to be a soft liner to third or a two-hopper to short.”

Reese said he was seeing balls hit off the end of the bat or off the fists becoming routine pops rather than loopers into no-man’s land.

“Right now I don’t think we could hit with a telephone pole,” he said. “We’re hitting the ball better in batting practice, but I attribute that to us being a year older. Still, the new bats are not nearly as forgiving if you hit it down near the hands.”

Parris agreed.

“You have to be better at your craft,” the senior said. “Last year you could hit one off the handle and you might get it into the outfield. This year it might go 90 feet. Still, it’s going to fly if you hit it on the sweet spot.”

Ringgold, if not a team with a power-hitting reputation, was at least one with an aggressive batting approach.

“That hasn’t changed. We’re still going to be aggressive at the plate ... drive the baseball,” Tigers coach Brent Tucker said. “As far as hitting hard line drives and doubles, we’re still seeing that, and when we hit a home run it’s still a homer but it’s probably 30 feet shorter.”

The new bats still have a sweet spot, but it is much smaller and they have less give.

“If you hit it in the right spot you can still hit it a long way,” Richardson said.

But he and his peers are viewing the bats as a gateway to what many consider the more pure forms of baseball — bunting, base stealing and more use of the hit-and-run.

“I don’t think [the bats] have affected the game drastically,” Reese said. “I’ve seen more ‘small ball,’ but I anticipated that. I thought the game would go back to more of a speed game. I’ve seen more high-scoring games, but that’s been pitching and defense.”

Pitchers could enjoy lower earned run averages. Last year the NCAA average was 4.62, falling from 5.83 in 2010.

“I would say yes and no,” Hensley said. “A pitcher can afford to miss some spots, but he can’t throw it right down the middle and expect to get away with it. There’s still pressure to make pitches, and anybody who says differently probably has a guy that throws 94 mph.”

Parris also pitches.

“There were times last year,” he said, “when you’d be almost out of an inning and somebody would hit one off the handle and two runs would score. I think ERAs across the board will be lower, as will batting averages.”

And now there may be more pressure on batters as a group.

“Teams have to string together more singles and doubles rather than waiting on a three-run homer,” Tucker said.

“It hasn’t been as much of a change as I thought it would be,” Garland said. “We’ve played 10 games and we’ve hit six home runs. That’s not a lot of home runs, but it isn’t the drought I expected.”

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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