July 8, 2002
Based on advice from the Baseball Research Panel, a group of scientists and baseball experts who met last week at the site of the Men's College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, the NCAA has finalized establishment of a sliding scale for non-wood bats of differing lengths, based on the Bat Exit Speed Ratio (BESR).
A sliding scale was approved by the NCAA's Baseball Rules Committee in July 2000 and becomes effective in the 2003-04 season. Previously, one standard has been used for all lengths of bats.
"The sliding scale represents a minor change in the standard. Though a small loophole existed before this standard, it does not appear to have been taken advantage of," said Todd Petr, NCAA director of research and a liaison to the panel. "It is important to note that the panel is extremely comfortable with the method for testing bats."
The panel also reviewed a report released in April by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which indicated the NCAA has taken appropriate action to monitor bat safety. In addition, the NCAA's Injury Surveillance System consistently rates baseball as one of the safest sports sponsored by the Association.
The CPSC report said the NCAA is "actively involved in evaluating the performance of non-wood bats and their possible impact on safety."
"The NCAA panel will continue to monitor the standard and make any changes necessary to maintain a decreased performance of non-wood bats," Petr said. "We feel comfortable that we've had a positive effect on bat performance."
On the field, Division I baseball statistics indicate a return to balance between offense and defense, a major goal of the rules committee and panel. At the mid-season mark, offensive statistics were similar to those from a year ago.
Division I teams averaged .80 home runs per game at the mid-season point, down dramatically from the high point of 1.06 per game in 1998, the year the NCAA began testing and certifying non-wood bats. Major League Baseball teams average about one home run per game, according to the most recent statistics available.
"The offensive game is back in order," said Dave Keilitz, a member of the research panel and executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA). "The large majority of coaches are satisfied with the performance of the bat we're presently using. The ABCA is supportive of improving the bat standard to maintain the current level of performance, and that's what is happening."
The NCAA's protocol for testing non-wood bats is available at NCAA Online by clicking here.