The NCAA Baseball Research Panel, a group charged with maintaining the protocol for testing baseball bats in the college game, has recommended changes to the means for measuring performance in those tests.
The panel recommended replacing the “ball exit-speed ratio” with a “ball-bat coefficient of restitution” or BBCOR, because the latter eliminates discrepancies with different length bats and is a more direct measure of bat performance. At its meeting in July, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee, which oversees and determines the actual performance level of bats, approved the new protocol and established the performance standard based on data collected from available wooden bats.
The committee and the research panel found that for a given bat length, batted-ball speed is a near-perfect correlation with BBCOR – that is, a bat’s BBCOR will predict the speed with which the ball will leave the bat. Because wood and non-wood bats with the same BBCOR produce essentially the same batted-ball speeds, it is relatively easy to relate a non-wood bat’s performance to that of a similarly sized wood bat.
The panel believes most bat designers are more familiar with the BBCOR than with the previous standard, which should help them create bats that meet NCAA performance standards.
The rules committee made the change in part because of NCAA Division I baseball statistics that indicate increased offensive performance, particularly in home runs and runs scored. The committee believes the rise is due, in part, to the kind of bats in use today.
“But the modification in the measure of performance doesn’t mean that the testing process itself has changed,” said the NCAA’s Ty Halpin, associate director of playing rules administration and staff liaison to the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee.
The rules committee has determined, based on a large sample of wood bats tested in the same manner, that an appropriate maximum standard for BBCOR is 0.50. Halpin said that satisfies the NCAA’s intention to maintain its non-wood standard using available scientific data and – as nearly as possible – achieving wood-like performance in non-wood bats.
“The 0.50 standard sets the performance line slightly higher than the best available wood bats in our database,” he said. “This will ensure that all wood bats continue to be legal under the new standard.”
The NCAA will maintain other standards, such as the current length-to-weight difference, the “moment-of-inertia” (MOI) standard and bat-diameter limit. No “sliding scale” will be associated with the new BBCOR standard; thus, all bats must meet the 0.50 limit regardless of length. The new standard is likely to require an adjustment in the design of all bats currently legal under the BESR.
To allow manufacturers sufficient time to adjust, the NCAA will enforce this standard beginning January 1, 2011, and will allow only BBCOR-certified bats in the 2011 season and beyond. You can get BBCOR bats at Baseball Monkey, as there will be no opportunity for “grandfathering” old bats.
Halpin said the change does mean that existing bats will need to be tested again, and that by 2011, bats will be required to be designated with a BBCOR certification mark to be considered legal.