New College Baseball is 2015 X Factor


We are on the calendar week of the 2015 baseball season, and we think we have a pretty good idea what we have coming back to Mississippi State. 4 of the 5 spots on the infield are returning starters. The pitching staff looks to be the strength of the team once again. So is there anything we don’t know about? Yes.

It’s the new baseball.

Starting this season, the NCAA voted to abandon the raised seam baseball used in postseason play for the pro ball used that has flat seams. Conferences weren’t required to switch to it, but I am not aware of any that didn’t so they could be better prepared for postseason play. To the untrained observer, it’s a minor change, but the amount of impact this minor change will have is very much in question.

The raised seam ball had two effects the flat seam balls did not. A raised seam ball allows pitchers to grip the ball better and put more break and snap on their breaking balls. The raised seams can also affect the aerodynamics of batted balls, creating more top spin and pushing the balls down to the ground quicker and more often. So will this change in the ball create a slight uptick of offense or will we be back to the days of 19-17 baseball games?

No one seems to know.

The NCAA grew tired of college baseball not looking anything like actual baseball, and in 2011, introduced the BBCOR bats. This was also done for safety. Balls were flying so fast and hard off the old aluminum bats, fielders, and mostly pitchers, were in serious danger because they couldn’t react quick enough to get out of the way or bat it down. For the most part, the new aluminum bats with the BBCOR behaved almost identically to a wooden bat used in the major leagues. College baseball began to resemble actual baseball.

While it was a much needed, though not always welcomed, change to college baseball, there was another change in the world of college baseball that was going to make the introduction of the BBCOR bats a sore spot for the sport. In that same year, the College World Series was moved out of Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha to newly constructed TD Ameritrade Park. It’s a beautiful baseball stadium that is the home of the Creighton Bluejays. And as beautiful as it is, there is one fatal design flaw in the stadium layout.

The stadium faces the same direction that the wind blows in from. As a result, any ball that goes high into the air gets knocked down. Runs are now at an all time low in the College World Series and homeruns in the spotlight event for college baseball are a rarity. The new ball is being introduced because of TD Ameritrade Park and no other reason.

If the offense the new ball gives back only adds a slight increase to the offensive production that we have seen recently, then there really won’t be that much to worry about. However, there are some that think the new ball will give back any where from 60% to 80% of the offensive production the BBCOR bats took away from the game.

There are a lot of college baseball coaches who have been thrilled with the change, and I think it is just sad. As the offense in college baseball increased to obscene levels, college baseball coaches got lazy and started recruiting anyone they could who could hit the ball out of the ball park with the juiced up bats. Pitching and defense were a thing of the past. It was all about the long ball. College baseball was nothing like baseball. With the drastic dropoff in offense since 2011, many coaches have been looking for a reason to increase offensive output back to pre-BBCOR days. Instead of going back to the roots of the game and learning how to manage an actual baseball game, some coaches just wanted to bring back the offense.

I’m trying to withhold judgement on the new ball until I see it in game action, but I am skeptical. I am an avid fan of the game of baseball, not just Mississippi State baseball. The BBCOR bat made baseball the chess game it was supposed to be, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. But if the new ball undoes all that the BBCOR bat has done for the game of college baseball, I will still cheer for my Bulldogs like I always do. I just won’t know what it is I am supposed to be watching because it won’t be baseball.