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An Examination of the BBCOR Bats

This year the NCAA implemented new rules regarding the manufacture of the aluminum/composite bats that teams would be using. The concept behind it would be to bring college offenses down to a more reasonable and realistic level, reducing the risk of injury from batted balls to pitchers and infielders and cutting down the outrageous scoring from teams that sit back and wait for the 3 run homer.

So what affect did it have on Clemson?

Thats what we want to look at. Below I've compiled the lineup data from the regular season headed into the final weekend vs FSU for the last 2 years. The reason why I've left out further postseason data is because the number of games is not a constant between two seasons due to the playoffs, though if we make it to Omaha this could be revisited. Obviously things like SoS do change and there are injuries, so you'll have to grant some leeway there, but the overall trend should be telling.

First, this excerpt from an interview with Illinois physics professor, and baseball rules committee member, Alan Nathan on the measurables of this bat standard and their expectations.

The new non-wood bats which meet the Bat-Ball Coefficient Of Restitution (BBCOR) testing protocol must pass a number of performance standards, including Moment of Inertia and BBCOR.The Moment of Inertia test prevents new bats from carrying the bulk of the weight near the handle which makes the bat swing faster than barrel weighted bats. For instance, a 28-ounce bat may feel like a 23-ounce bat to a hitter because of the weight placement in the bat. For that reason, a minimum allowable Moment of Inertia for different length bats is now in effect. The BBCOR test essentially limits the trampoline effect of bat barrels to that of wooden bats.

Nathan was asked how closely the new BBCOR approved bats will perform to wood bats.

"Very close. When the standard was set up, we had a decade worth of data on how non-wood bats performed and how wood bats performed. With the BBCOR approved bats, the average seems to be .48 or .49, and at the very upper level, .50. The limit was at .50.

"What these figures mean is that there will be no trampoline effect for the new non-wood bat barrels. From a trampoline aspect, the barrels will react just like wood. A wood bat is essentially a perfectly hard surface. When a ball hits a wooden bat, it has the same trampoline effect as a ball hitting a massive, rigid floor.

"In the past when a ball hit a hollow non-wood bat, then the surface of the bat compressed a little bit. Some of the ball energy compressed the barrel wall of the bat by a little. The net amount of energy lost in that collision was reduced, so you got a bigger bounce back.

"With the previous standard (BESR), the best performing non-wood bat outperformed wood by about five percent and maybe as much as six percent.

"That five or six percent will now be reduced to zero percent with the new BBCOR bats. Roughly speaking, that translates to about five miles per hour less off the new bats which is the same as wood bats. Currently, BESR certified non-wood bats outperform wood bats by five miles per hour. In effect, what we are doing is removing that five miles per hour gap. Non-wood and wood will perform at the same level in terms of batted ball speed with the BBCOR standard in place." 

Nathan was asked how a five percent reduction in bat performance will impact offenses.

"That’s a very difficult question to answer. But one thing is sure. There will be fewer home runs. However, it is not clear that batting averages will come down. Despite the fact that the BBCOR standard bats will in theory be the same as wood bats, there are still differences between wood and non-wood bats.

"The Moment of Inertia (MOI), or swing weight of a bat, will be less than a wood bat. This means the bat will be more easily maneuverable.

"It doesn’t mean there will be any advantage when it comes to ball speed off the bat. In fact, there is no advantage with the minimum allowable Moment of Inertia figures we have in place for the different length non-wood bats with the new standard. A batter may get a higher swing speed with a lower MOI bat, but that is almost completely compensated by a less effective collision with the ball because there is less weight behind that collision.

"The effect of MOI on bat speed is minimal at best. However, there is a positive benefit with a lower MOI in that a batter will have a quicker bat. You can wait on the pitch a little longer and adjust your swing once you have committed to the swing. You can do this more easily with a non-wood bat that has a lower MOI than with a wood bat. Even though you might not hit the ball any harder with a non-wood bat, you might make good contact more often."

So basically, the bat now has less trampoline effect and imparts less energy to the pitched ball than before, resulting in lower batted ball speeds. If the ball comes off with less velocity, it has less energy, since energy is proportional to the velocity squared. Hence, it doesnt travel as far. However, because the MOI is still lower than wood, even under the new standard, the bat can be maneuvered in the swing easier and contact rates (Batting average) can still be high. Lets see what it did to Clemson's returning regulars from last season.


Team Batting Statistics
2010 .303 .292 570 465 112 11 73 423 307 89-109
2011 .321 .297 580 380 108 15 33 338 250 94-123

So you can readily see from this that the BBCOR bat severely impacted our HR totals without affecting the number of doubles too greatly. With the number of homers nearly cut in half, the number of innings where we put up crooked numbers was way down, killing the RBI totals. With fewer games putting up big numbers, the number of ABs went down but the hits went slightly upwards, which pushed the total averages up.

Triples are more of an indicator of someone else messing up in the OF rather than a true power number, in my opinion. Doubles and HRs are more telling.

For our regular players, I do not have data on Kieboom, Pohl, or Stolz from 2010 at this point in the year. Kieboom really cranked it up at the end of the season, pushing Nester out of the starting lineup. Stolz did not play regularly after his early injury and Hinson took the job at 3B as a result. Pohl was in almost the same boat as Kieboom and we didn't know how good a hitter he really was until this year. This leaves us 6 players to compare (relatively) fairly and we'll look at the BA and power indicators for each.

2010 and 2011 comparison of regulars
Player BA '10 2B HR RBI   BA '11 2B HR RBI
Brad Miller .352 15 5 28 .429 10 3 43
John Hinson .341 8 12 59 .328 10 6 31
Chris Epps .218 8 3 14 .273 5 7 32
Jeff Schaus .313 10 13 70 .316 16 0 38
Will Lamb .304 6 2 30          .344 11 1 33
Richie Shaffer .316 5 3 16 .321 13 8 43

Recall that Brad Miller played a few less games this year, and that Shaffer missed a similar number in the middle of last season. Hinson became a regular quite quickly because of his bat in 2010, and Epps split more time with Boyd in the OF and DH spots.

Notice that the number of doubles was up for the regulars overall, as was the batting average. The HR numbers plummeted however, with the truest and fairest indicator of the BBCOR change being Jeff Schaus. He played nearly every game in both seasons.

Considering what Dr. Nathan said above, it appears to ring true that the new bat is more maneuverable in the zone due to its MOI. The team average came up along with the averages of nearly every returning regular player. The NCAA wanted the batted ball speed to come down, and home runs have been cut bigtime across the lineup. Therefore the total number of runs scored have been decreased. Balls that were once in the seats are being soundly hit into gaps, so the number of doubles went up some among the regulars and stayed roughly the same across the team.