“The NCAA baseball has higher seams, and the higher seams certainly affect the aerodynamic properties of a ball. Laboratory experiments have been done where you set the two balls spinning at the same rate and look at how much movement there is. The data show that there’s more movement with the high-seam ball. Moreover, a pitcher can get a different grip on the high-seam ball. I think you can grip the ball better and probably put more spin on it as a result. For both these reasons, there will be more movement with a high-seam ball. It is also true is that there is less air resistance on the flat-seam ball, on the major-league ball. That is fairly well known, but it’s only been well know recently, at least from laboratory experiments. Straying a little bit from your question, there is a move afoot among NCAA coaches who are lobbying to change the NCAA baseball from a raised-seam to a flat-seam ball in order to get back some of the home runs that were lost when they went to the BBCOR bats.” – Alan Nathan, Nov. 5 2013, speaking on flat-seamed baseballs
PITTSBURGH – Near the end of the 2015 season, the American Baseball Coaches Association conducted a survey of member head coaches in NCAA Div. I, II and III as well as the NAIA regarding the coaches’ opinions about the “flat-seam” baseball used in 2015.
The survey received 456 total responses from the four divisions.
Among respondents, coaches’ overall impression of the flat-seam baseball was: 42.1% highly favorable, 40.8% favorable, 14.5% neutral/no difference, 2.2% not favorable and 0.4% highly unfavorable.
Additionally, a combined 79.8% of respondents answered that the new ball improved the college game either “significantly” or “somewhat” and 83.3% of respondents answered that no further changes to equipment were necessary at this time.
This is on the heels of 7.0% scoring increase of 0.36 runs per game (5.08 runs to 5.44 runs) and a 44% home run increase of 0.17 (0.39 to 0.56) from 2014 to 2015 after the NCAA mandated a switch to a flatter-seamed baseball.
And while the scoring increase – specifically home run increase – came as no surprise…
NCAA flat-seam ball: Less air drag->longer fly balls->more HR, but batted ball speed not affected->no change in BA. http://t.co/T6auiU2ql6
— Alan Nathan (@pobguy) April 1, 2015
…how has the flat-seamed ball fared so far in 2016 after college coaches and players have had a full year to adjust.
We looked at the total runs scored in the ACC and SEC since they currently have eight teams ranked in the Top-10 and 14 teams overall in Top-25 (it must be noted, however, that the large majority of the competition is unbalanced – case in point, Pittsburgh scored 48 runs in a three-game series versus Grambling State, accounting for over half of its runs this year).
Through Sunday, ACC teams are averaging a combined 10.6 runs per game with the aforementioned Pittsburgh Panthers leading the way with 87 runs through seven games played.
As a team, Pitt is currently batting .352/.459/.658 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI. Overall, teams in the ACC have combined for 1009 runs over 95 games, including 84 home runs.
SEC teams are currently averaging a combined 8.1 runs per game, with Vanderbilt leading the way with 93 runs scored through eight games. As a team, Vandy is batting .352/.461/.540 with 9 HR’s and 77 RBI.
Arkansas currently leads the SEC with 12 HR’s and a .577 SLG%
Overall, the SEC has scored 848 runs over 104 games, including 94 home runs.
Clearly, these numbers are not sustainable and will not continue once conference play has begun. But it is a good indicator that offense is still on the rise in college baseball and the switch to a flatter seam ball has paid dividends in the short-term.