11 days. That’s all that’s left until first pitch of the 2015 @RazorbackBSB season. While there are a lot of players and coaches returning, there will be one major difference at Baum Stadium. That little white thing that gets hit, thrown, and pitched is new, improved and ready for action.
On November 5, 2013, the Division I Baseball Committee made the unanimous decision to switch from a raised-seam baseball to one with a flat-seam. Why switch? The answer is pretty simple. Offense in the college game has been hard to come by (to say the least).
The NCAA changed the bat standards in 2011 and since then, offensive numbers have been some of the worst in decades. This downswing has been most visible on the game’s biggest stage.
The 2014 College World Series featured three home runs and just 86 runs scored – the lowest in the tournament’s history dating back to 1950. In 2013, three batters also knocked one out of the park. The CWS moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to spacious TD Ameritrade Park in 2011, so there is no comparison to make there. However, that same year nine homers were hit at the new field.
Dave Van Horn was very excited about the new ball speaking at his Swatter’s Club luncheon on Monday and players I’ve talked to are equally optimistic. Hitters are clearly happy with the change, but pitchers say the flat seam actually helps them get more movement on certain pitches. It will be fascinating to monitor the new ball’s effect throughout the season.
Numbers like batting average and home runs are as low as they have been since the wooden bat era in the ‘70s. A change was sorely needed, but what kind of impact can you expect?
The new ball travels an average of 20 feet further, which can easily be the difference between a dinger and a fly out. Though, the committee did not want to change to the minor league ball, which has a livelier core due to player safety concerns, this ball has the same exit velocity as before.
If we call a spade a spade, the new ball should open up the field for more runs. But, what the change really does is it ensures that a ball that deserves to be a home run actually goes out of the park. Hitters should be rewarded for getting all of one.
Hopefully, when you hear that perfect “crack of the bat” sound at Baum Stadium this year, the next thing you see is that new baseball soaring right over the fence.