The new ball

new ballIn response to the BBCOR bat, TD Ameritrade Park and lower offensive outputs across the country, the DI baseball committee’s unanimous 2013 vote to change the ball to a flatter-seam version was put in play. Beginning this past fall, college baseball implemented the new ball and Inside Pitch asked coaches to chime in on their overall observations, any changes that they intend to make with coaching philosophies for their hitters or pitchers, and whether the new ball will change their recruiting mindset:

HITTING

“We are a team that likes to lengthen and shorten the field- we like to make the field real big, and we like to make the field real small- and these balls play into that. They’re going to level off the playing field, and a five-run deficit is not insurmountable anymore. It won’t be as prevalent as it was 5-7 years ago, but it is going to give hitters a fighting chance when they’re dealing with adverse conditions like wind or a bigger ballpark. I really like the new baseball, I think it’s going to add some more excitement to the game, and it might put us just about where we want to be.”

Matt Deggs, head coach, Sam Houston State
Helped UL-Lafayette to a banner 2014 season where they finished the top 10 in the nation in 14 offensive categories and had an OPS of .902

“I think you’re definitely going to see more home runs, but it’s not going to go back to ‘gorilla ball’ or anything like that. As far as coaching goes, I still like power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the top and the bottom, so we aren’t going to approach it a whole lot differently.”

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina University
His hitters ranked first in the SEC in batting average and second in home runs and runs scored in 2014

“It’s a little tough for me because I’m in a new park with new hitters, too. I think the feedback from the kids was that the ball traveled farther, which is what everyone was looking for. Hopefully it’ll balance the game back out a little bit more, adding the home run as an element for most teams. Recruiting-wise, we’ve always liked to have a nice blend of power and speed, so I don’t know that it’s going to change much. Maybe the bigger corner infielder or outfielder becomes important again, which the game has kind of gotten away from the past few years.”

Chris Lemonis, head coach, Indiana University
Former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville helped the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances and back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 Continue reading

Kyle Peterson, the face of amateur baseball

Our latest Inside Interview features Kyle Peterson, former major leaguer and three-time All-American at Stanford and current ESPN analyst. Check out his thoughts on Midwest baseball, the evolution of the college game, and what he would do if he called all the shots:

How did you develop your passion for baseball?

Baseball was just one of those things that was always there. My mom would tell me that from the time I was little, everything that I could throw, I would throw; that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I had kind of a unique situation growing up- my dad would always play catch with me when he got home, but my mom would do it during the day if I wanted to, at least when I was little.

The College World Series also played into it because we went every year- my grandparents had tickets years ago, and they’ve been passed down to my dad. We posted up there for two weeks from the time I was born, basically. Continue reading

Making the “cut”

With the introduction of the BBCOR bat resulting in much lower offensive outputs, amateur baseball is undergoing a significant shift in terms of how the game is played. Taking an exclusively offensive approach in hopes of outscoring opponents has taken a backseat to an emphasis on the fundamentals of the game. One of these fundamentals is hitting the cutoff man, which has become one of the most valued commodities in baseball.

Until recently, however, “making the cut” hasn’t seemed so important. At the lower levels, which are normally played on smaller fields, hitting the cut may not be a necessity during game action, leaving youth coaches with the difficult decision of whether to work on something in practice that will not likely be an in-game issue.

In general, players are first introduced to this aspect of the game once they reach the middle school level, if not later. The 90-foot base paths are hardly an equal trade-off compared to the exponentially larger outfields at the high school level and beyond. Therefore, when prep outfielders are asked to “show off” their arms, throws from the outfield are sent sky-high in hopes of falling near third base or home plate. Continue reading

John Savage interview

John Savage and the 2013 National Champion UCLA Briuns (AP photo)

John Savage and the 2013 National Champion UCLA Briuns (AP photo)

John Savage has been at the helm of the UCLA baseball program since 2005, guiding the Bruins to the NCAA postseason in seven of the last eight seasons. This past season, he surpassed the 300-win mark at UCLA and the 400-win mark in his coaching career. Before UCLA, Savage restarted the baseball program at UC-Irvine, and led the Anteaters to an NCAA Regional in just his third year. He’s also one of just six active head coaches to coach a no. 1 overall MLB draft pick, a Golden Spikes Award winner, and lead his team to Omaha.

A former assistant at the University of Nevada and the University of Southern California, Savage is a graduate of Santa Clara University, where he pitched for three seasons before signing with the Cincinnati Reds after being drafted in the 16th Round. Savage was a 6 th-rounder out of High School at Reno (NV), where he began his coaching career. He and wife Lisa have four children: Julia, Jack, Ryan and Gabrielle.

Inside Pitch recently had the chance to catch up with Coach Savage about some unique opportunities that coaching has provided him and some of the philosophies he implements at UCLA: Continue reading

The bats have changed… is the baseball next?

Taking a round bat and hitting a round ball squarely is arguably the hardest thing to do in all of sports.

It got even harder in college baseball recently when BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats were implemented to lessen the trampoline effect the barrel has on the ball. The immediate effect of the bat regulations has resulted in a considerable transition process in the college game, as teams have gone from “Gorilla Ball” to more of a small ball approach. Sitting back and waiting for the long ball has taken a backseat to pitching, defense, and situational play.

In our Winter issue last year, Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell admitted the challenge the new bats posed; “With the change in the bats, we saw the game change right before our eyes and I’ll be the first to say we weren’t prepared for it. We weren’t prepared to defend the bunt, and on offense we didn’t incorporate it enough.”

After finishing 32-29 in 2011, the 2012 Cardinals won the Big East and finished the season in the top 25, bowing out to eventual national champ Arizona in the Tucson Regional.

While generally supported throughout college baseball, the new bats certainly have their detractors. In Small ball returns to the college game, a 2011 piece by the L.A. Times, Oregon head coach George Horton claimed that the bats had “changed our game for the worse,” and UC Irvine head man Mike Gillespie agreed, noting that “balls that might have gone 10 feet over the fence are landing 10 feet in front. It just dies and comes down like one of those parachute toys.” Continue reading