Players and coaches not going “batty” over new sticks
New equipment has changed the game of baseball at the collegiate level. Now it’s high school baseball’s turn.
It’s now mandatory for high school teams to use aluminum/composite bats as college teams do. In fact, Steve Griffith, head baseball coach at Little Cypress-Mauriceville said a coach can be ejected from the game if a player is using an illegal bat.
He said officials made the change for safety issues and to protect against come-backers at the pitchers who are only 60-feet and six inches away from home plate.
“The ball doesn’t come off the bat like it used to. Our home runs have been cut in half,” Griffith said. “I was not a big fan of the new bats until a local kid got hit in the head with a ball and went to ICU. The offense’s numbers are down. Pitchers are glad to hear that.”
The National Federation of State High School Associations has adopted a bat standard for this year called BBCOR (bat-ball coefficient of restitution), which basically requires that metal bats act more like wooden ones, reducing the speed of the ball off the bat, according to an article in USA TODAY.
The NCAA adopted the BBCOR standard in 2011, and batting averages, homers and ERAs in Division I dropped to their lowest in 30 years.
“The NCAA’s home runs are down 60 percent. It’s (high schools) the exact same kind of bat as their bat,” Griffith said. “I think it’s a money deal. They pass a law then go back and forth. They sell one million bats and then go back and sell another one million bats when they change. It’s lobbying.”
Since the Bears’ power has been trimmed down the team is focusing on pitching — throwing strikes are important — and playing defense to win.
The biggest change for the bat is that balls hit off the handle won’t carry, and the bats have a smaller sweet spot than previous metal bats. The impact might be more noticeable at the bottom of batting orders.
Because hitters get less response on balls hit on the handle, pitchers are likely to throw inside more.
Chad Landry, head coach of the Bridge City Cardinals, called the new bats as a game changer.
“It will cost the good hitters hits and the average hitters will no longer have dying quail hits,” Landry said.
Bridge City’s offensive numbers, as with LCM, are down. Last year at this time the Cardinals had 18 home runs. This year they have three home runs. The team’s batting average is down 20 percent.
Most games are pitching duels and he predicts fans who like to see doubles and homers will leave and no longer watch.
As with Griffith, Landry believes the team that makes the least amount of errors and who throw strikes will win in this new environment.
“Several other teams have gone back to using wooden bats because they have a bigger sweet spot,” he said.
Landry believes the bat companies are driving the change.
“It’s a permanent thing. It trickles down from college,” he said. “We’re going with what we have.”