Posted: 4:47 pm Monday, February 13th, 2012

Baseball: More on the new bats, and more on the new season 

By Matt Porter

As noted in our season preview, high schools this season will swing BBCOR bats, the standard adopted by colleges last season. The bats are less powerful than the bats used in recent years. The goal is to make them perform like wood.

It’s the latest step in baseball’s tango with bat technology. Since aluminum bats were introduced to amateur baseball in 1974, the keepers of the game have had to tweak the rules to keep things safe.

Dwyer's Jamal Martin, a Forest Hill transfer, is one of the reasons why Dwyer is among the top teams in the area. (Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Dwyer's Jamal Martin, a Forest Hill transfer, is one of the reasons why Dwyer is among the top teams in the area. (Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

In 1986, the minus-5 rule was enacted, meaning the difference of a bat’s weight (in ounces) and the length of the bat (inches) could be no more than 5. That meant a 34-inch, 29-ounce bat was legal.

Dwyer coach Frank Torre told one story about his college days. He preferred the extra heft of a minus-3 bat, but he shakes his head when he thinks of some of the sticks others were swinging.

“Those were weapons. It was totally ridiculous,” said Torre, a freshman All-American for the University of New Orleans in 1996. “We used to play LSU all the time. There were guys with 30, 35 home runs. It was crazy.”

In Torre’s junior year, 1998, LSU and several other teams played in a College World Series that was unlike any other. More than 50 offensive records were broken or tied. The final game was won by a football score: Southern Cal 21, Arizona State 14.

Following that season, the NCAA enacted several limits on bat performance, including the BESR standard that would remain in place for 10 years. Also, the NCAA reduced the size of bat barrels and set a minus-3 standard.

Midway and through the latter part of last decade, composite bats became the weapon of choice. Once the NCAA discovered new composite bats became more potent with use, they changed the standard again. They were banned in 2009 until the NCAA could conduct proper performance research.

In 2011, the NCAA introduced the BBCOR standard, which states that speed and conditions being equal, a baseball must jump off a non-wood bat the same as it would a wood bat. The National Federation of High Schools adopted the BBCOR standard this year.

Click here to read more about the BBCOR bats in a Post story from last March.

Expect fewer home runs and more small-ball, but don’t expect the season to be any less exciting. Couple thoughts that couldn’t fit into the preview:

– A preseason top 10 for any sport is little more than an educated guess. I feel the 10 teams I ranked are the 10 best teams in the area, but there are several that could have been in there. I’m not sure Jupiter will do better than Dwyer this year, or that Park Vista isn’t a better team than both of them. Trinity Christian intrigues me, too. I like Jupiter’s overall depth and pitching the most, which is why they’re No. 1. For now.

Here’s the top 10, in case you didn’t see the preview:

1. Jupiter
2. Dwyer
3. Park Vista
4. Palm Beach Central
5. Trinity Christian
6. American Heritage
7. West Boca Raton
8. Wellington
9. Martin County
10. Palm Beach Gardens

I think Santaluces, Summit Christian, Atlantic, Seminole Ridge and Royal Palm Beach have chances to be ranked in the coming weeks.

– In my season preview survey that I sent to coaches, I asked them to give me a team they think could surprise. Many self-identified as underdogs and said “us.” I did see John I. Leonard and Lake Worth on a few ballots. Pope John Paul II made a few more. Benjamin was another, along with Jupiter Christian. If you’re asking me whom I think could surprise, I’d say Boca Raton. Big first baseman/lefty Mike Tallet, Los Angeles Angels draftee Dominic Jose and catcher J.C. Coban are gone, but I like the Bobcats to make some noise in District 10-8A under new coach Jeff Rosa.

– I’ll be at the Santaluces (D-1 Sporting Goods) Slam tonight, checking out American Heritage vs. Jupiter (and keeping an eye on the rest of the teams there). If you get a moment, the Slam is worth your time. You can see four teams in our preseason top 10: No. 1 Jupiter, No. 4 Palm Beach Central, No. 5 Trinity Christian and No. 6 American Heritage. Defending Class 1A state champ Summit Christian, Atlantic, Suncoast and Santaluces are also competing.

Elsewhere, the Forest Hill City Tournament should be good. Cardinal Newman, Lake Worth, Forest Hill and Seminole Ridge are all capable squads.

– Three games to watch this week:
Tonight at Santaluces: Jupiter vs American Heritage, or Trinity Christian vs Summit Christian. Both games at 6:30 p.m. … Wednesday, Palm Beach Gardens at Park Vista, 7 p.m.

– Rewind: If you’re just diving into baseball season, click the links below to see some highlights from last year.

Final stats for 2011 regular season

Last year’s playoff preview, predictions

2011 large schools all-area team

2011 small schools all-area team

Full list of area players drafted in June 2011 MLB Draft

All-time MLB draftees from Post coverage area

Video highlights and more from the 2011 Dick Howser All-Star Game at Roger Dean Stadium

From October: Early thoughts on the 2012 season