Baseball coaches preach the fundamentals of the game, especially when it comes to defense. It's the reason why infielders see countless ground balls in the spring and outfielders shag endless fly balls during Fungo work.
Constantly honing in on the fundamentals results in making tough plays look easy in game situations.
At one point, it may have seemed like the fundamentals took a back seat to the power bats that have dominated high school and college ball for the past several years. As recently as last year, it wasn't uncommon to see final scores reminiscent of football.
But good news has emerged, especially for defensive-minded ballplayers fitting to take their game to the next level. An article on espn.com presents some interesting stats from the early weeks of the college baseball season. The numbers were crunched to determine how the less-lively BBCOR bats are affecting the game.
If you're not familiar, this is the first year that bats must be BBCOR-certified at the college level. BBCOR refers to Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution, which measures the rebound ratio of a batted ball. The certified bats have less of a trampoline effect than other bats. In fact, the BBCOR .50 rating required for metal bats is nearly the same as the BBCOR of a wooden bat.
Simply put, it's a metal bat with the same capabilities as a wooden bat.
Jeff Sackmann, ESPN Insider and co-founder of College Splits, writes, "Less lively bats mean fewer lightning-speed line drives. Thus, fielders can get their hands on more balls, and defenders who are both reliable and rangy are more valuable than ever."
Now, on to the numbers:
- Through the first 45 days of the season, Division I teams are averaging 6.2 runs compared to last year's 7.6 runs per game.
- Through 45 days last season, 3 percent of batted balls were home runs. This season, the home run rate is 1.7 percent.
- The top-ranked team in defensive efficiency—the rate at which batted balls are converted into outs—is at 74.6 percent, two points better than last year's league leader at 72.6 percent.
Upon further review, extra base hits have remained constant, "meaning outfield defense is more important than ever," writes Sackmann, who opines, "We may start to see more defensive specialists starting over sluggers, and even more small ball than we're already accustomed to."
What this means for you:
It's too early to reach final conclusions on the effects of BBCOR-certified bats; but early indications are that they reduce the risk of injury caused by batted balls.
Not only will defensive skills be more valuable, but also the fundamentals of hitting will be in sharper focus, resulting in more emphasis on skill over power.
To brush up on your hitting skills, watch the following video on the Rhythm Hitting Drill. And in the coming weeks, keep your eye out for drills to improve your defensive performance, all here at the STACK Blog.
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