I love to hear the discussions over the BBCOR bats. Well here’s my two cents on the subject. I love it! I’m not getting into the safety argument, that’s a whole other conversation. I’m talking about making hitters hit and let pitchers pitch. The days of the wimpy swing with a BESR bat that’s a double in the right center gap are gone. That wimpy hit will be a ground out to the second baseman with the BBCOR. Your “true” hitter’s, power or not, will still hit and the others will have to finally learn/ be taught how to hit. Which brings me to the main point – many coaches will have to teach hitting again!
This is to the 18U and under teams, including high school and elite summer/ showcase teams. Coaches will actually have to take time and teach the correct way to hit a baseball. As a coach and instructor since 1992, I’ve seen too many players not being corrected when their swing fundamentals were horrible. A lot of coaches had gotten lazy when it came to hitting because the bats were so unrealistically forgiving.
About 4 years ago, I was speaking to a hitting instructor whose first year in the Majors was with the Padre’s and it was Tony Gwynn’s last year. (For you young guns who don’t know, Gwynn made a name for himself by being one of the most consistent contact hitters in the game’s history). He said he spent every moment with Tony picking his brain on hitting and taking notes. The one theme that came out was that most high school and college players coming out had an “aluminum bat” swing. Batters were relying on the technology to hit vs. actual proper techniques to hit. To validate what he had learned, he told me of a team mate of when he was in college. This team mate lead in batting average and slugging percentage. When it came time for the draft, not one pro team drafted him. The report on this player was that he had an aluminum bat swing.
Do I blame the player? No. I blame the coach.
I went to a High School game last year and watched a player that hit the ball with some power (using BESR bat). Unfortunately, his swing was atrocious! Completely off balance, stepping out and a couple other things. Everybody in the stands were like “Boy he can really hit” and “Wow he’s gonna be a monster”. In truth, the hits were BESR bat hits. If it wasn’t for the assistance of the large sweet spot and trampoline effect of the BESR bat, his three hits were all outs. Two of the three hits were “check swing” doubles. I spoke to the coach a few days later and we were discussing the player. He even admitted to me that this player had an “unorthodox” batting stance and swing. I asked him why he doesn’t try and correct it now so he might actually hit better. His response was “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” because he was hitting the ball. WHAT? I feel sorry for this player. As he gets in front of better pitchers, he will not hit the ball. The sad thing is you can see that this player has potential but until someone decides to teach him the correct way of hitting, we will never know.
Cut to this year with BBCOR and no change in his swing. His batting average went from a little over .400 last year to an abysmal .194. YIKES! In contrast, another player on the same team who has great mechanics AND understands hitting AND led the team and league in hitting the previous year still led the team in every hitting category and top in the league. That player continued to win several awards and named athlete of the year for the league of 18 teams at a DI High School. The switch to BBCOR from BESR didn’t affect his numbers. Why – because he is a true hitter with proper mechanics and fundamentals.
Running a 60 in 6.7 seconds doesn’t help you hit the ball. A strong arm doesn’t make you a hitter. Understanding the pitch count helps you be a hitter. Knowing what the pitchers “out pitch” or “go to pitch” is helps you be a hitter. But the most important thing about hitting is technique and fundamentals. Hitting a baseball is about technique not athleticism. Just look at Michael Jordan or Bo Jackson when they tried baseball. Great athletes but didn’t do well in baseball because both of them admitted the hardest thing in sports to do is to hit a baseball. Consider Bo Jackson. He did play 8 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1986-1994 (he missed the 1992 season) with 2,393 AB’s. His life time strike outs – 841*. Bo struck out 35% of the time. The average strike out percentage for the Major League during that same 8 year time frame was only 15.2%**. Bo struck out more than twice the average! Anything over 27% is considered awful. Compare that to Tony Gwynn’s numbers. Twenty years in the Majors with 9,288 AB’s. Tony struck out 434 times* – that’s only 5%. Technique makes you a hitter.
If you have bad fundamentals/ technique, nothing else will help. Sure, knowing the pitch count and the pitchers go to pitch will help and are extremely important, but if you can’t hit the ball because your technique is bad – well, I guess it really doesn’t matter then does it.
Back to the BBCOR. As you can see, many players and coaches have become complacent. The BESR bats have created a false sense of security. Now that this has been taken away, batters are going to have to learn the correct way to swing a bat. This isn’t going to affect the ones who have good fundamentals and technique, but there are fewer of them than the ones who don’t. It will also probably affect the high school ranks more than the elite/ showcase summer teams. With high school, the coaches are pretty well locked to the players who live in their district so they the greater odds of having players who don’t swing correctly. The summer elite teams recruit and usually get the top players from a large geographic area and those players tend to have better hitting fundamentals.
Either way you look at it, many coaches are going to have to teach true hitting again and many players are going to have to learn to hit correctly.
*Baseball Almanac (www.baseball-almanac.com)