Around the Bases Opens with Less Power and Ominous Signs for Georgia

Aroundthebases2010_medium

A look at Opening Weekend in the SEC.

Power Outage? Much has been made of the switch to less powerful metal bats that are meant to resemble wooden bats. (Why not just go to wooden bats? Excellent question, one that I really don't know how to answer without simply pointing out that this is the NCAA we're talking about here.) In any case, several stories were written over the weekend about the change, much of it with all the caveats about the small sample size from this game or series or that one.

Well, we can take a look at nearly 1,400 at-bats by SEC teams in last year's opening weekend and this year's and come up with something maybe a bit more statistically sound. Which would, when we considering which teams have websites with easily retrievably stats from last year and this, give us something like the chart below the jump.

Team and Year AB 2B (AB/2B) 3B (AB/3B) HR (AB/HR)
Alabama 2010 72 5 (14.4) 1 (72.0) 1 (72.0)
Alabama 2011 91 10 (9.1) 0 (NA) 1 (91.0)
Georgia 2010 147 9 (16.3) 1 (147.0) 3 (49.0)
Georgia 2011 103 4 (25.8) 0 (NA) 1 (103.0)
Kentucky 2010 104 8 (13.0) 1 (104.0) 2 (52.0)
Kentucky 2011 94 5 (18.8) 1 (94.0) 1 (94.0)
LSU 2010 107 4 (26.8) 1 (107.0) 5 (21.4)
LSU 2011 103 9 (11.4) 0 (NA) 6 (17.2)
Mississippi State 2010 103 5 (20.6) 1 (103.0) 4 (25.8)
Mississippi State 2011 142 14 (10.1) 2 (71.0) 3 (47.3)
South Carolina 2010 103 4 (25.8) 0 (NA) 6 (17.2)
South Carolina 2011 88 7 (12.6) 0 (NA) 3 (29.3)
Tennessee 2010 107 12 (8.9) 1 (107.0) 4 (26.8)
Tennessee 2011 92 8 (11.5) 1 (92.0) 1 (92.0)
TOTAL 2010 743 47 (15.8) 6 (123.8) 25 (29.7)
TOTAL 2011 713 57 (12.5) 4 (178.3) 16 (44.6)

Let's agree that triples are rare enough in all levels of baseball to take that number with a grain of salt. But we pretty clearly have a slight increase in the frequency of doubles and a sizable decrease in how often batters are hitting home runs. Are those numbers statistically significant? Since "regression analysis" came about the time that math started making my eyes glaze over in high school and college, I couldn't tell you. But it sure looks like it to this journalist.

It's not surprising to see doubles going up with a change to the bats. Think about where the would-be home runs are going to go now. Sure, some of them will be easy fly balls, but a number of them are just as likely to be gappers or hits that bounce off the wall. A change to the bats probably only makes things move one way or the other by a few feet. There's a good chance that's what's happening here.

All that said, there are a lot of variables here. Maybe the teams involved here were facing better pitching on average. (That wouldn't explain the jump in doubles, but it's still one explanation.) Maybe temperatures were significantly cooler this year than last -- though that might seem doubtful, do you remember what the weather was like a year ago? Do you remember what it was like a year ago in Baton Rouge or Starkville?

So maybe we're not much better off than the beat writers in the end. But the trend appears to be toward less power this year, at least when it comes to the home run.

Now, about the chances of switching to wooden bats ...

Georgia got swept. By Stetson. It is almost as dangerous to assume something about a baseball team based on its first series as it is to assume something about a football team based on its first game. But if Georgia was trying to remove any doubts about 2010 being nothing more than a speed bump for one of the better programs in the league, losing three games at Stetson this weekend was not the way to go. For reminders, Stetson was a middling team in the Atlantic Sun last year and went 27-31 overall. And given that much of Georgia's problems last year were centered on the pitching staff, the way the Dawgs lost over the weekend might have been almost as deja vu-inducing as the losses themselves; Stetson scored 21 runs over the three games. But scratch the deja vu reference; as bad as Georgia was last year, the Dawgs still managed to sweep the Hatters.

Best Series for This Weekend: Vanderbilt vs. Stanford. The Cardinal travel to Nashville after winning two-of-three against Rice over this past weekend. If Stanford is truly back to being an upper-tier Pac-10 team after last season's run to fourth in the league, this could be a great series.

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