Could livelier baseball help?
Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
Fans dig the longball.
Like college basketball, college baseball is looking for ways to increase offensive production after toning down its metal bats in 2011. Clemson coach Jack Leggett has provided one suggestion — a livelier baseball.
“It would make it more interesting,” Tennessee sophomore shortstop A.J. Simcox said. “I think it would help at times. All the fans love the home run ball. I think it would help benefit crowds and get people more interested in college baseball.”
Division I baseball teams are averaging a home run every three games, according to an NCAA midseason report. In 2010, before metal bats were toned down, Division I teams averaged one home run per game.
In last weekend's series between Florida and Tennessee, there were four home runs hit during the three-game series. Three were hit by the Gators on Friday night, with the wind blowing out to right field.
“I just look out and see how Florida is playing their defense in the outfield, they're playing extremely shallow and there's a reason for that,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “Look at our extra-base hits. We've got a lot of young guys, but our power numbers are down.
“I would like to see something with the ball changed to bring liveliness back to the game a little bit. In the long run, I think it could end up costing the game of college baseball. I think we're at a peak right now with how much popularity it has, and I'd hate people to go away from it because it turns into a low-scoring affair.”
A livelier ball could increase offensive numbers. NCAA rules mandate balls used in regular-season and tournament play have a COR, or coefficient of restitution, of no greater than .555. The COR is a measure of bounciness at impact. The higher the COR, the greater the bounce. Balls used in pro baseball have a maximum COR of .578.
The NCAA does not set standards for seams, but national tournament games are played with a Rawlings ball that has raised seams. Because of that, most conferences choose to use the raised-seam ball in the regular season as well.
Though science hasn't offered a definitive answer, it's widely believed that raised-seam balls have a “drag” effect and don't travel as far as those with flat seams.
No changes in the ball could be instituted until 2015. But considering the recent state of offense in college baseball, change may be needed. The midseason Division I batting average of .270 and per-team scoring of 5.25 runs are the lowest since 1973, the year before aluminum bats were brought into the college game.
Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan agreed that more needs to be done to increase offense, but he doesn't know if a livelier ball is definitely the answer.
“Across the board, most people would like to see a little more offense,” O'Sullivan said. “How we get there, I don't quite know.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.