The Lorton team — and just about every other team in the country — likely will launch far fewer balls over the fence this season, now that the National Federation of State High School Associations has mandated use of bats with less pop than the old ones, a switch that some hitters liken to basketball players trying to shoot a ball through a narrower hoop.
High school baseball players, teams adjust to new ‘BBCOR’ bats with less pop
Recalibrating the game to a purer brand of baseball and minimizing risk were the main reasons for the rules change by the NFHS.
The “BBCOR” bats, a performance standard designation short for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution, could fundamentally change high school baseball. If results in the college game are any indication — the NCAA began using BBCOR bats last season — the new bats will slash the number of home runs hit and runs scored, embolden pitchers and more than ever reward teams that can throw strikes, bunt effectively, are aggressive and smart on the base paths, and play sound defense.
“It’s a little bit more like real baseball in terms of you don’t have guys that shouldn’t be mashing balls mashing balls,” Paul VI Catholic Coach Billy Emerson said. “All the little things are important, instead of sitting back and waiting for a big donkey to bail you out with a home run after four or five mistakes you made.”
The metal BBCOR bats act — and sound — more like wood bats, with a smaller “sweet spot” on the barrel, an area that Woodbridge 2010 All-Met Tyler Thomas figures to be about half the size of the previous bats’ sweet spot. That makes it more challenging to square up a ball and drive it. And when ball and bat do meet, a dull thud has replaced the perky ping of the old bats.
“If you have a high average with these bats,” Thomas said, “it definitely shows that you can hit the ball.”
High school hitters are allowed to use wood bats, but few do other than for batting practice at times. A BBCOR bat still has a larger sweet spot than a wood bat. And even though a BBCOR bat (average price is about $300) is far more expensive than a wood bat ($50), it also is far more durable. One could last entire high school, summer and fall seasons, not to mention countless batting practice sessions. Wood bats break easily, particularly when wielded by weak hitters.
“An average hitter with a wood bat, he’d be toast,” said Mike Colangelo, a former Hylton and George Mason University player who spent parts of three seasons in the major leagues and now runs a baseball instructional business. “His parents would have to take out a second mortgage to pay for his bats.”
With the diminished “trampoline effect” of BBCOR bats, balls do not fly off as sharply, which could be good news for infielders and pitchers, who now might have a fraction of a second longer to react to scorching line drives, although not everyone agrees the change makes the game safer.
The switch is not particularly good news for hitters, especially marginal ones, who will be more exposed because those cheap hits off the end or handle of the bat now are more likely to be routine outs. Woodbridge Coach Jason Ritenour, whose team reached the state final two years ago, said he could count on one hand how many balls left the infield on the first day of tryouts at his school.