How the new BBCOR regulations will affect baseball as we know it

As part of a capstone project at the University of Missouri, Ross Taylor and J.J. Stankevitz created KBIA Sports Extra in August of 2010. In January, as part of my own journalism capstone, I joined J.J.'s team. The following infographic was created as part of a story entitled Mizzou and the NCAA's new baseball bat regulations. The story ran on Wednesday, March 2. Justin has been so kind as to allow us to post that infographic, as well as a revamped version of the story, for the pleasure of your collective eyeballs and brains. Enjoy!

In May of 2009, the NCAA made an official ruling on the changes to be made to its baseball bats. It was decided that the existing method of measuring bat power, known as Ball Exit Speed Ratio (BESR), was unacceptable. That formula tracked the speed of the ball as it left the bat, which worked well to test the bats prior to distribution, but it did little to measure how the bats would perform once they had been used and "broken in." Thus, a new system of measuring bat power was devised, and the formula for Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) was born. 

I'm sure the words "coefficient" and "restitution" have the more mathematically inclined readers of this site salivating, but for those (like me) who are unfamiliar with the concepts behind the BBCOR method, allow me to explain: 

As I mentioned earlier, BESR simply measured the speed of the ball once it left the bat. The BBCOR method is different in that it tries to quantify the "bounciness" or "pop" of the bat by measuring the force of the bat on the ball during the one millisecond of contact. 

The graphic below explains the BBCOR method in detail. You can find more information and analysis about what this means for the future of baseball after the jump. 

 

Ncaabats_medium
Click pretty picture to make big.

 

 

In addition to creating a new way to measure bat power, the NCAA's new bat regulations have brought about a change in the specific type of bats used. Under the BESR standard, players were permitted to use composite-barrel bats; the new BBCOR standard prohibits the use of composite barrels and instead only permits solid alloy-barreled bats. This alloy is not only thicker than the composite, but the sweet spot on the barrel is also a lot smaller. Many players have likened the feel of the new BBCOR bats to wood, saying they have less room for error when they make contact. 

This is, one would think, bad news for NCAA baseball and good news for the MLB.

Though the main goal of the new regulations is to reduce injury, the more noticeable effect will be a sharp decline in power numbers throughout the NCAA this season. Before the even season began, players and coaches anticipated a steep decline in home runs and offensive production in general. One coach even went as far as to ban his players from complaining about the bats during practice.

Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs had a nice piece discussing the issue earlier this week, and he threw out some preliminary statistics that were pretty eye-opening. 

 

There have been about 900 NCAA games played so far this season, so we’re starting to get to the point where we have a decent sample to draw from. Have the bats made a significant impact?

Absolutely. From the twitter feed of the guys over at collegesplits.com, we get these two notes:

New bat update, comparing first 10 days of 2011 vs. first 10 of 2010. 2010: HRs were 2.8% of BIP. 2011: 1.8% of BIP. Huge.

Also, with new bats, run scoring down even more last weekend. Again, thru first 10 days: 2010: 7.5 runs/game. 2011: 6.25 runs/game.

Home runs are down roughly 36 percent, while run scoring is down 14 percent. We’re still dealing with smaller samples than we would like, but as a first glance, the changes seem to be as advertised. The ball is simply not traveling like it did before, and while it’s possible that weather or other factors could be impacting the results, it’s likely that the change in bats is the main driver of the lower levels of offense.

 

While the newer, deader bats might make the game less exciting to watch for some, they should prove helpful to MLB scouts looking to really hone in on the true values of college sluggers. For years, there has been a concern that power in college won't translate into power in the Minor or Major Leagues because of the difference in bat behavior from metal to wood. Now, it seems the new BBCOR regulations will significantly reduce the performance gap between the two bat styles, making it easier to distinguish between a player with a pure stroke and one with a little fat-barreled luck. 

This change might also prove useful those who view college baseball from the sabermetric perspective. It will take far less consideration of bat adjustment factors to calculate ISO and wOBA numbers for this new crop of college players, which will allow the very over-zealous among us to start projecting their futures even sooner. 

What are your thoughts on the new regulations? Good news? Bad news? Should we care? Feel free to discuss in the comments, and make sure to head over to KBIA Sports Extra and share your opinions with the rest of the team. 



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