With the impending start of the upcoming baseball season fast approaching, it’s a good time to review important guidelines pertaining to equipment. In recent years, there has been a major change related to the legality and certification of wood composite, aluminum and alloy bats being used by amateur players across several levels.
Current BBCOR Guidelines
Between 2011 and 2012, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), respectively, adopted new bat measurement guidelines, establishing specific measurements that would be enforced on a go-forward basis to determine the legality of bats being used by its players.
So what was the biggest change? The speed of the ball coming off the bat.
The newer rating system is based on a compression measurement referred to as “Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution” or BBCOR. It’s worth noting this more recent BBCOR rating system replaced the BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) rating system that was being used in prior years.
What is BBCOR?
Where BESR only measures the velocity of the ball leaving the bat, BBCOR goes one step further and measures the compression force of the pitched ball hitting the bat, which creates a recoiling or trampoline effect that sends to the ball into flight.
The more the bat compresses, the higher the trampoline effect. It’s this trampoline effect that creates the velocity.
In more simplistic terms, the old rating system only considered the effect while the newer rating system takes into account the relationship between both cause and effect. Based on the newer bat guidelines, the BBCOR rating is not to exceed 0.50.
Additional guidelines include:
Barrel – The barrel of the bat cannot exceed 2 5/8″ in diameter
Bat Length – The bat itself cannot exceed 36″ in length
Drop (aka Length-to-Weight Ratio) – The length to weight ratio cannot exceed -3.
At the end of the day, the combination of these newer guidelines has given baseball officials a more consistent and reliable method for checking bats for compliance and safety.
Why the Change from BSER to BBCOR?
There were two primary reasons NFHS and NCAA officials thought a change was in order.
1) First and foremost was the safety of players, especially pitchers. Under the BSER rating system, the ball would typically come off the bat at close to 108 m.p.h., leaving little time for reaction. Under the BBCOR rating system, velocity has been decreased by as much as 5%, which translates to a marginally safer reaction time.
2) The other concern involved the distortion of offensive statistics. The bat made too much of a difference in stat compilation, making it more difficult and more unfair to compare one player’s stats versus another.
How has the BBCOR Rating System Affected Performance?
After several years using the BBCOR rating system, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of runs scored and home runs hit at both the high school and college levels when compared to numbers established under the BESR rating system.
In fact, the statistics are now falling in closer proximity to the statistics typically expected from the use of standard wood bats. When looking at player performance, some estimates indicate that players experienced a 5-15% decrease in their offensive output after the change.
Given this apparent impact on player performance, coaches, scouts and the players themselves have had to alter the metrics that are typically used to determine a player’s value. More emphasis should now be placed on hitting ability and defensive play.
As a player or the parent of a player, it is incumbent on you to make sure the bat you use falls within established guidelines. The best way to tell if the bat you want to purchase is approved for organized high school or college baseball is to confirm measurements and look for the manufacturer’s BBCOR certification mark on the bat. Without that mark, your bat will be subject to disqualification.