How To Hit With New BBCOR
LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
March 11, 2011 Edition)
- LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The new BBCOR
specification bats being utilized in college baseball today are a huge
factor in game times being reduced as well as lower offensive production,
according to Gary Ward, Hall of Fame assistant coach at New Mexico St.
- Known as one of the best offensive minds
in the history of college baseball, Ward was the head coach of Oklahoma St.
for 19 years as his teams led all NCAA Division I teams in run production
six times, including four consecutive years from 1985-1988.
- He now coaches with his son Rocky, the
head coach of the Aggies.
- During those years with the Cowboys, his
teams averaged 9.2 runs per game.
- Ward said the new BBCOR specification
bats are totally different than non-wood bats used in prior years.
- “We did a static ball test to the bats
we first got last fall, and those DeMarini bats had balls come off barrels
5-7 mph slower than tests in previous years by players in our program,” said
Ward. “There is a good, consistent testing procedure we utilize. So if you
are putting that in real game terms, you are having 25 feet less of ball
flight with good contact. And that held true during all of last fall.
- “It makes you work with more precision.
You must be a little more linear and more square. The sweet spot is reduced.
I thought it was an extremely drastic change. But when the votes are there,
the votes are there.
- “Since the inception of the aluminum bat,
it has been refined to a degree that you had a superior tool. That is one of
the reasons I liked to work with engineer Jack McKay. I wanted to know what
was going on with the technology of these bats. I would go to his shop in Mt. Pleasant, Tex., and we would have six or seven radar
guns set up in a test station and use different bats and cut some of them
apart and look at them.
- “A lot of things were refined over the
years, including the end plug, sting stop and many other things. I thought
engineers were doing a pretty good job with the technology. The composite
bats utilized a couple of seasons ago created the change we now have in the
game. Manufacturers made a bat knowing that the barrel material would break
down and become hotter than when it was brand new. It was extraordinarily
hot, and many teams had great success with it.
- “Coaches understood that if they weren’t
using the bat, then they were behind the curve. The new specification bats
are kind of a knee jerk reaction to those hot composite bats. But with that
being said, I personally don’t have any problem with the change.”
Bat Hitting System
- Ward said that smart coaches will
integrate a wood bat hitting system into their program.
- “It ultimately gives our program an edge
with our hitting system from the standpoint that we have always taught a
wood bat system.
- “If you put it in simple terms, batters
who swing wood bats must be more rotational in their lower body and more
square or linear in their upper body in order to expose as much of the
hitting surface to the pitch area for as long as you can.
- “Aluminum bats taught hitters that you
can be rotational upstairs and linear downstairs and load with your upper
body and rotate that aluminum bat into the hitting area because the bat
barrel had eight or nine inches of sweet spot. You didn’t have to square it
- “You could indiscriminately hit the ball
on the barrel. When Jack and I tested bats, we checked every two inch node
on barrels, and there were about five nodes that could give you 97 percent
of the power of the bat within a 10 inch range.
- “As a result, you didn’t have to be
precise. You merely needed to load up and be strong. And we saw an awful lot
of opposite field home runs.
- “Based on everything I saw last fall, it
was very apparent that you can’t be a fly ball hitting ball team with the
new (BBCOR) bats. There were an inordinate amount of balls hit to the
warning track that probably would have been home runs with (non-wood) bats
from 2010 and earlier.
- “In our season-opening series with
Houston Baptist, I would say there were four to five balls that would have
left the park last year. The weekend before, we had an alumni game, and they
used the other bats (utilized prior to 2011). All of those guys were pretty
mature physically. We took batting practice, and they took BP. And it looked
like men playing against boys.
- “And it startled you. It was clear that
the adjustment in the bat is really significant. I think you will see the
pitcher throwing his fastball more. The fastball had virtually disappeared
unless you were a high velocity guy or had natural movement. The last 25
years, pitchers have learned they had to throw the changeup and breaking
ball and pitch backward. Throwing those pitches first would make their
fastballs a better pitch.
- “If you can recruit great arms at some of
the elite programs around the country such as a Stanford, Texas or Arizona
St., that is a huge advantage because they can throw their fastballs. But
even the best we saw during my tenure at
Oklahoma St., they still had to be pretty good
- “A lot of our big winners tended to be
lefthanded guys who could finesse and change planes and change the rhythm of
hitters. You routinely saw 10-8 games, and it was a game where a pitcher
simply couldn’t go the distance because his pitch count got too high.
- “Aluminum is a substance that is a little
easier to fight pitches off with. And the other factor is when you reduce
the exit speed of balls off bats, you also reduce the speed of balls that
get through the infield. If you are reducing the ball 3-4 feet on an infield
grounder, then that increases the range of every infielder.”
Healthier Game In Long Run
- Ward said that the game of college
baseball has re-gained some normalcy that will be healthy in the long run
- “Certainly under this situation as I see
it unfold, it won’t hurt the aluminum bat companies who have been so
gracious and so good to college baseball. I personally like where the game
is going. Umpires might interpret the strike zone more literally rather than
bring their own zone to every game in order to speed the game up.
- “If the game keeps going on the path we
have taken, the game times should be reduced which will make it more
appealing to television people and fans. Basketball games take place in
about two hours. When baseball games go on and on, it makes it less of a
sellable entity with commercial markets.
- “If I am a television network and
schedule 2 ½ hours, and the game goes over four hours, I’m losing a bunch of
- “We will all adjust just like we adjusted
from wood to aluminum. But I think you will have to teach hitting much more.
Almost every kid who comes to you in an NCAA Division I program comes from
an aluminum system of hitting. They are used to swinging the pipe and
getting results with less precision.
- “And I think this new (BBCOR) tool is
going to make all of us work harder. I wish we had more hours in the day to
teach because it takes an awful lot of repetition and discipline and be
relentless beyond belief in order to change a kid from an upper body rotator
to a lower body leverage guy in order to get the bat square.
- “During all those years I coached at Oklahoma St. and
Junior College, we used
wood bats extensively during the fall for that purpose. Our intent was to
prepare hitters professionally. I never wanted a hitter coming out of my
system where some guy would say he didn’t know if he could hit with wood.
- “There were very few who came out of our
system who couldn’t hit with wood because they had been taught a wood bat
system and had worked with wood up until January of every year. At that
point, you take the aluminum tool and hopefully have wood bat tendencies in
- “If you put it in scientific, precise
thoughts, it would be one that says if wood is a little heavier, then I am a
little later to the ball which means I must start a little earlier and means
I get less visual information or travel time from the pitched ball. With
aluminum in the past, you could swing it quicker and easier which resulted
in more travel time for the bat barrel. Therefore, you would be later to
commit the bat to the ball.
- “I still feel you can swing the new (BBCOR)
bat a little faster than the wood bat. I’m not sure how that variable will
play into this.”
- It was brought up to Ward that the time
of games seems to be shorter so far in NCAA Division I games.
- “Our recent Sunday game with Houston
Baptist was well pitched with a liberal strike zone. It was a 1-1 game going
into the sixth inning. Had we not scored six runs in the eighth to open the
game up to 9-1, the game would have been played at about 2:20. The NCAA
Rules Committee is looking for that. And in the long term, shorter games
will help our sport.”
- Ward said the game with the current BBCOR
standard bats is an interesting dynamic that has changed how teams approach
- “It will bring contests back to a
situational game. There will be less power hitters. We have a few power
hitters returning, but you don’t try to hide it from them that the power in
the new bats will be less. You just have them pay attention to this. We
don’t want them to be fly balls hitters because of the reduction in the
power of the bat.
- “But just watch. There will be another
generation of these bats that will be refined and might gain a mile or two
back as engineers understand the sweet spot better.”