Mizzou and the NCAA’s new baseball bat regulations

Through seven games Mizzou, as a team, has shown about as much power as former St. Louis Cardinal and current Philadelphia Phillies infielder Placido Polanco.

The Tigers’ team isolated power (ISO, slugging percentage minus batting average—which measures a player’s true power) sits at .087 through 230 team at-bats. In 2010, Polanco’s ISO was .088.

That’s just for reference—Mizzou hardly is fielding a team solely comprised of Polanco incarnates. But the point is that Mizzou has hardly shown off a powerful offense in its first seven games.

Behind that are two factors: first, Mizzou’s offense wasn’t powerful to begin with; and second, the NCAA’s new bat regulations.

With Brett Nicholas and Aaron Senne off to the minor leagues, Mizzou lost its two top home run threats from the 2010 squad. Jonah Schmidt and Eric Garcia entered 2011 as the leading returning home run hitters from last year, but they hit seven and six home runs, respectively.

So it’s not altogether shocking Mizzou’s power stats aren’t high to begin the season. What is surprising is that the team’s power numbers are those of a slap-hitting infielder. And that’s where the NCAA’s new bat regulations may just come into play.

It’s not as if players simply cannot hit home runs with alloy bats. But as outfielder Blake Brown put it, “You have to barrel it up. If you miss it, you miss it.”

Even without perfect timing or swing mechanics, college players were able to drive the ball with composite bats. With the alloy bats, better timing and mechanics are necessary for offensive production. It’s no surprise, then, that through two weeks of play offense is significantly down across college baseball:

New bat update, comparing first 10 days of 2011 vs. first 10 of 2010. 2010: HRs were 2.8% of [balls in play]. 2011: 1.8% of BIP. Huge.

Also, with new bats, run scoring down even more last weekend. Again, thru first 10 days: 2010: 7.5 runs/game. 2011: 6.25 runs/game.

Source: Collegesplits.com (twitter), with a tip of the cap to Dave Cameron at FanGraphs

Mizzou, like every other team in college baseball, will have to deal with these new bat regulations by finding ways to score not based off the long ball. But for Mizzou especially, that means getting on base at a better rate—a .317 team OBP won’t cut it—and aiming more for the gaps than over the walls—something the team may have been shooting for anyway given its makeup.

That being said, seven games into a season is too small a sample size to hit the panic button. And with a 19-game homestand starting Friday against UIC, Mizzou has plenty of time to work out its offensive kinks without leaving campus.

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