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ACC batters – and many pitchers – welcome significant change
NOTE: All numbers reflect totals prior to the 2015 #ACCBASE Championship.
Fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park might notice a shade more offensive production this week than they witnessed during the ACC Baseball Championship’s last visit in 2013.
NCAA Division I teams are playing with a flat-seamed baseball this season. The change came about in hopes of moderately increasing offensive numbers while not compromising player safety or stacking the deck excessively in favor of the hitters.
Based on the ACC’s regular-season numbers, the change has achieved its desired effect.
Collective run production among conference teams is up by over 11 percent, while home runs have increased by an eye-opening 65 percent. Power hitters such as Miami’s David Thompson and Wake Forest’s Will Craig have joined other league home run and RBI leaders in putting up individual numbers that far outdistance those of their 2014 counterparts.
At the same time, there has not been an epidemic of football-score slugfests. Clemson’s Jack Leggett, one of the Division I head coaches who lobbied for the flat-seamed ball, believes fans, players and coaches are enjoying the “win-win” he predicted.
“The new flat-seam baseballs are much better for the game,” Leggett said. “It has made the game more fun and more offensive. Pitchers actually like the new baseball, too. The quality of baseball is much better overall thanks to this change.”
Mike Buddie, senior associate athletic director at Wake Forest and vice-chairman of the ACC Baseball Committee, has heard similar comments from throughout the league.
“The feedback that I have received has been overwhelmingly positive,” Buddie said. “The hitters are being rewarded for making good contact, and most offensive categories are statistically up this year – most notably home runs. It truly seems like it has been a good balance. We have gotten away from having so many low-scoring games and made it more exciting without changing the integrity of the game.”
Buddie, a former major league pitcher, said he was “slightly surprised” to learn that a number of pitchers have embraced the move to the flat-seamed ball. At the same time, he believes that reflects a change that has truly been good for the college game.
“Having used the lower seam ball as a professional, it certainly does have some advantages to those pitchers who can locate fastballs and pitch at a higher velocity,” Buddie said. “The old, high-seam balls could cause blisters and other challenges for pitchers so that is another positive for the newer ball.
“At the end of the day, a pitcher should pay the price for making a bad pitch, and the hitter rewarded for solid contact, and I think the new balls have accomplished what we were hoping to see.”