Last Modified: Thursday, July 05, 2012 7:32 PM
College baseball had itself a home run derby this week, which is sort of like the Rose Bowl having a slam dunk contest.
Neither endeavor is particularly pertinent to the sport they are sworn to promote.
The long ball is about as relevant to college baseball these days as the halfback pass is to the Tour de France.
But they played their little derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha anyway, perhaps working on the theory that somebody might accidentally jack one.
The truly astonishing part to me was that an LSU Tiger, Mason Katz, was invited to partake, proving I guess that LSU wasn’t alone in struggling to the clear the fences this season.
I guess it could have been worse. The Tigers could have put on a hit-and-run clinic, which likely would have caused irreparable damage to the still-new home of the College World Series and probably injured many innocent bystanders.
Katz, the only Tiger to hit more than four home runs last season, made the finals and was even leading going into the last round until Fresno State’s Aaron Judge had a power surge and hit four in a row.
You can see it on CBS at 1 p.m. Saturday.
One can only assume that the event’s organizers fudged a little and, just this once, gave them some decent aluminum to swing.
The flinty stuff they are saddled with during the regular season makes it hard to get a ball to the outfield let alone over it. They might as well be swinging a piccolo in C major.
At issue with the bats is a strictly enforced “Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution” — BBCOR, to its good friends — which I have no idea what it means but probably has way too much physics involved for anybody’s well being.
The bats have had to abide by the latest formula for two seasons now.
The restriction states that no bat can have a restitution of more than 0.50, which is somehow scientifically measured and which, in simple layman’s terms, means you can hardly hit a home run or even get one in the gap anymore.
Some would say this is just more proof that the NCAA hates baseball, whether they are allowing 11.7 scholarships one of the few college sports that actively recruits head to head against the checkbooks of the major leagues or rendering their batsmen defenseless.
It’s also likely the handiwork of the dreaded baseball purists, who hate home runs and, if they could, would put in a rule that no runner shall legally cross home plate unless preceded by two bunts, a stolen base and taking two and hitting to right.
They mean well. There is a certain beauty to it when performed in harmony.
But casual fans dig the long ball, and most places college baseball is still struggling to become a legitimate entertainment option.
Bunts don’t do it for them.
LSU can still draw well even with the Tigers’ baserunning hijinks.
But it was amazing how many people commented that LSU’s 5-4, 12-inning victory over Stony Brook in the super regional opener was the greatest game they’d ever seen.
It wasn’t, but it did have the true oddity of the Tigers extending the game in three consecutive innings, starting in the bottom of the ninth, with the all-but-extinct solo home run.
It was a flashback to the good old days — and a reminder that LSU fans’ love affair with baseball was hatched and evolved when home runs were denting every car in the outfield parking lots.
For now, the safest record in all of sports is the 188 home runs LSU clubbed to set the NCAA single-season mark in 1997, hitting at least one in all 70 games en route to the national championship.
In the two years since the bats were neutered, the Tigers have hit a grand total of 76.
In the 1998 CWS, the Tigers hit eight home runs in the opening game against Southern Cal, but the final straw was probably when the Trojans came back and beat Arizona State 21-14 in the (yes, baseball) championship game.
There needs to be some type of happy medium — and there was.
The hardware that batters were allowed to lug up there during the true Gorilla Ball days had gotten out of hand. It was over the top. Some of those bats looked to be on loan from the Flintstones, and you could flick them as easily as a pitching wedge.
So college baseball introduced another formula, this one (Bat Exit Speed Ratio, or BESR) a little more self-explanatory and a lot more rational.
It seemed to tone down the nuclear bats without completely neutering them.
Using LSU as an example again, the 2009 Tigers’ CWS championship team had every bit as good of a hitting lineup as any of the Tiger Gorillas.
They hit 107 home runs, which seems reasonable. They were very good. The next year a less talented LSU team hit 78.
That’s about right, the perfect bats. There was no reason to water them down again as they did to change the sport before the 2011 season.
You’ll hear that the new aluminum more closely mimics the qualities of an honest wooden bat.
Maybe. I guess they have the science to back it up. My eyes tell me different.
What I’d really like to see is a college team bring some real wood for a season and see if it’s not better than this flimsy stuff they’re saddled with now.
Posted By: fred johnson On: 7/7/2012
If you want to see a home run derby, they held one during the CWS. If you want to see great baseball -- which a knowledgable fan knows includes pitching, defense, and ALL elements of offense -- the college game is at its best.
You really feel college baseball is better when the median TEAM batting average is .305?!? That's what it was at the height of the unrestricted aluminum bat.
Why do you think junior college leagues in AZ, NV, WA, OR went to wood bats long ago? They wanted to develop hitters the college coaches and pro scouts would want. And they've succeeded in spades.
It's about PLAYING THE GAME, not just hitting home runs. A fact this Hobbs person just doesn't understand.