Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: New bat standards affecting power numbers in high school baseball
The new regulations for baseball bats have sapped the power from hitters this season, and Cedar Hill star Caleb Hamrick has felt the difference. The senior hit 13 home runs over his sophomore and junior seasons, but he only has two this year.
Stepping to the plate just isn’t as fun anymore. But stepping on the mound is more fun for the guy who has been the workhorse of Cedar Hill’s pitching staff for three seasons.
“You can throw a lot more fastballs because people just can’t hit them as far,” said Hamrick, who has signed with Dallas Baptist. “That’s why ERAs are down around the area.”
It’s no surprise. Last season the NCAA instituted the new Batted-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard to help protect pitchers from batted balls. The BBCOR standard limited the trampoline effect of a batted ball, and the results were dramatic. Home runs decreased by 47 percent.
The BBCOR standard was adopted by the University Interscholastic League and Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools this season, and so far, and the effect has been similar. Last year at this time, 13 Dallas-area players in Class 4A and 5A had hit seven or more home runs. This year, nobody in the largest two classes has hit that many.
As for the pitching numbers:
At this time last year, two Dallas-area pitchers in 4A and 5A had thrown at least 30 innings and had ERAs of less than 1.00. This season, there are 11 pitchers in the largest two classes with 30 or more innings and ERAs of less than 1.00.
It creates an interesting situation for players who star as pitchers and hitters. Guys like Grapevine junior Connor McGuire, Frisco Wakeland senior Willie Schwanke and Rockwall-Heath’s Jake Thompson are seeing both sides of it.
The new bats have reduced the size of the bat’s sweet spot, said Thompson, who hit .485 and had eight home runs last year. The senior, who has signed with TCU, is hitting .355 and has three home runs this season. But as a pitcher, he’s 5-0 with an ERA of 0.34.
“When you square it up, you can still hit home runs. But there are no more slightly jammed home runs,” Thompson said. “I can attack the zone a little more instead of nibbling. I’m challenging hitters.”
So is Hamrick, who is 4-2 with a 0.91 ERA. When hitting, Hamrick said, he’s focused more now on making contact and putting the ball in play. The new BBCOR-standard bats, he said, feel like wood bats he used in summer leagues. You really need to hit the ball square to send it rocketing deep.
But at least the hitters should see better pitches. A pitcher doesn’t need to throw outside the strike zone as much anymore in the hope that the batter will chase a bad pitch.
“You don’t have to waste as many pitches or throw as many pitches in the dirt,” Hamrick said. “You can throw the ball down the middle of the plate and still get a lot of ground-ball outs and fly-ball outs.”