Back to the Future: BBCOR Bats are changing the mind-set in baseball
Sporting federations and leagues dedicate enormous resources in regulating the impact of technology on the integrity of their respective sports. For the first time that I am aware, baseball has joined this ever expanding group, with more restrictive regulations for bats being used in High School and College Baseball.
BBCOR bats are designed to act more like wood bats, as they are engineered to reduce the speed that a ball leaves the bat. This nationwide movement to BBCOR bats was spurred, in part, by the near death of Marin Catholic pitcher, Gunnar Sandberg, last year after being struck in the head by a comebacker.
While there are many voices for and against these changes, there is no doubt that the advent and implementation of these bat changes have taken baseball back to its roots. No longer can a hitter get rewarded with an artificial hit just because his bat is made of some chemical compound.
A recent NCAA article lends some initial support to the effectiveness of BBCOR bats, as 2011 mid-season offensive statistics are below those of 2010. The trend is expected to continue as long as bat standards continue to be compared to wood bats, not last year’s model.
“Small ball” is making a comeback because it has to. BBCOR bats seem to be leveling the playing field and separating better players from average ones. If this progression continues, position players in baseball will be forced to develop more all-around offensive abilities and develop a hitter’s “tool box” that includes different ways to get on base and score runs.
One of my core beliefs, is that inherent in sport is the need to adapt and adjust. In earlier years, talent can carry someone a long way. Yet, as talent gaps shrink, adversity increases and athletes reveal their ability or inability to cope with different, stressful and ever-changing circumstances.
BBCOR bats are revealing weaknesses in hitters who benefited from the technological advantages provided in the pre-BBCOR era. Hitters will now begin to experience difficulties earlier in their careers, as before BBCOR bats many baseball players eventually learned that their metal bat swing did not get it done when they moved to wood.
Wood bats are simply the tool that separates good hitters from average hitters. With BBCOR bats being made to react more like wood bats, this separation will begin to occur sooner in one’s career, rather than later.
From the psychological perspective, BBCOR bats will also reveal how hitters cope with and respond to the adversity created, either real or imaginary. There are certain patterns I see with hitters, in both baseball and softball, no matter what bat they have in their hands.
Hitters will show their frustration through swinging more or swinging less. They will become indecisive and not be able to start their swings or they will swing at any pitch thrown. Physical tension will show itself in a hitter’s forearms and grip of the bat. Every hitter knows the feeling of what it is like to freeze on a pitch down the middle of the plate and not understand why they could not swing the bat.
Hitters will think they are thinking too much. They will search for mechanical and technical quick-fixes, yet their performance may not improve. In sports, especially baseball, the first thing athletes do is to try and fix something mechanical, when what plagues them is something else.
This all occurred before BBCOR bats and it is my belief that more hitters are experiencing these roadblocks, frustrations and dips in their offensive production than ever before.
This is also occurring to a generation of hitters who were used to certain expectations when they hit the ball, fair or unrealistic, and now they will have to not only adjust to the physical limitations but also the psychological ramifications of not having the same outcomes.
Individual players will now have to work harder and work smarter. No longer can the average baseball player just take 100-200 swings a day. BBCOR bats will challenge individual players to focus more on improvement, doing things correctly and becoming a complete and all around hitter.