State of the Hogs: No Offense Please, But ...

The bats are probably not going to change, so what can college baseball do to bring back a little pop in the game? They need shorter fences are a new baseball.

As they say, don't take offense to this. But the offense must return in college baseball.

Home runs and batting averages have dipped over the last three years after the NCAA change to a composite bat with no spring. The ball just doesn't go anywhere off these bats.

It was the result of years of big numbers that lifted college baseball to new heights, but also led to a 21-14 game in the College World Series in 1998. Yeah, that's football-like offense.

Home runs are just 33 percent of what they were three years ago before the modifications. Now coaches are worried about the future of the game, but they are treading lightly because no one wants to scream when it was clear that the rocket shots that were coming off the old bats could injure pitchers.

As LSU coach Paul Manieri was quoted at the SEC baseball tournament, if someone says those old bats were not safe, you can't be asking to bring them back. That seems to be the standard response from all of the coaches. Instead, they want to ditch the college baseball in favor of a more lively baseball, something close to what is used in pro baseball.

The major league baseball has more pop and lower seams. The college baseball, with high seams, is easier for pitchers to spin. And that makes it easier for their curves, sliders and changeups to dip and dive at the plate making it tougher on batters. That high-seam ball also spins more after being batted, meaning it won't fly as far since there is more resistance.

The rules committee might listen to the coaches and make that change at its next meeting, but it could not be implemented before 2014. That means there are going to be more low scoring games next season.

Another option is for college stadiums to shrink. Arkansas pulled in the fence in right field by about 10 feet two years ago. Others have done the same thing. Perhaps they can pull in the fences by 15 to 20 feet, or move to the softball stadium on campus where there might be some home runs.

One of the obvious problems this week at Hoover, Ala., for the SEC tournament is the size of the stadium. It's a cavern. The distance down the line is 340 feet. It's 385 in the alleys and 405 to center. There will be few home runs this week in Hoover with these bats and balls.

It's clear that the bats are not going back to the old days. Coaches have stayed clear of that because they know how much money the bat companies have invested in the new bats. They'll have to manufacturer a bunch of them before they making any money there.

Van Horn knows that there are going to be more games like in the SEC's first round when there was a 17-inning game. The Hogs and Ole Miss Rebels went 10 innings before the Hogs won 2-1 on Wednesday.

The way of the 2013 season is the sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly. It's not unusual for college coaches to call for their cleanup guy to bunt early in the game. That would have never happened three years ago. But as several SEC coaches said earlier this week, you may get very few scoring chances in a game. You have to move runners up in the early innings to maximize those chances.

Arkansas has fought these new bats with the nation's best pitching staff. The team ERA leads the country at 1.90. The bullpen has been rock solid and one of the reasons the team has a 10-3 record in one-run games. Closer Colby Suggs has 11 saves, one short of the school record.

Arkansas is hitting just .262 as a team, but the Hogs are still much better than the opposition. UA pitchers have limited opposing batters to a .202 team average. The Hogs have hit just 27 home runs while allowing 17. The Hogs have bunted for a sacrifice 47 times and registered 26 sacrifice flies.

The good news is that games don't take as long. Perhaps one of the reasons for the change in the bats was the length of time that College World Series games were taking three to five seasons ago. ESPN didn't like those four and five-hour slugfests.

I hate to say this, but maybe ESPN will complain that the games don't have as much offense. Fans all know that and have complained the last three years. But no one listens to the fans. They are the ones paying admission, but it seems the only ones that can get the NCAA off high center is ESPN.

No offense please, but bring back the offense.

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