The new baseballs being implemented in college baseball this year were produced with the intention of helping offenses score more runs.
But the pitchers? They kind of like them, too.
“I like it a lot better,” said LSU sophomore side-armer Collin Strall. “The way I hold the ball, I don’t hold it with seams. I throw a lot of two seams. To me, it’s not a big difference, but if you hold both of them side by side, you can tell a big difference.”
The biggest change in the new baseballs is to the seams, which are drastically lower than the seams on the baseballs from previous years. The intent was to keep the exit speed off the bat in the same non-lethal range but create less drag on the ball as it flies through the air, in theory allowing the ball to travel farther.
When the changes were announced, some thought the lower seams would make it harder to throw a sharp breaking ball, the concept being that the higher seams served as an implement for a pitcher to snap their breaking pitch.
“There’s a little bit of a misnomer that high seams benefits a pitcher,” said ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson, who was a standout college pitcher at Stanford. “ … Sometimes it’s tougher to throw a breaking ball because the seams are too big.”
It seems counterintuitive, but most argued the lower seams will actually help pitchers’ breaking balls, especially the ones with good breaking balls.
The pitchers who have been working with the new baseballs have already figured this out.
“I feel like harder, tighter breaking balls move a little bit more,” LSU southpaw Zac Person said. “It kind of lessens the lower level of breaking ball.”
UL-Lafayette pitchers Chris Charpentier and Greg Milhorn both said the new baseballs may not break as much as the old ones in some instances, but the amount of break isn’t necessarily important.
With the new baseballs, they said the break is sharp and occurs later in the pitch’s trajectory, which is preferred. This may be most evident with pitchers who throw hard two-seam fastballs or sinkers.
For pitchers — who have spent more time handling the new baseballs than anybody else — the new balls have other benefits. For one, the lower seams don’t tear up a pitcher’s fingertips as much as the high seams of the old ball.
“With those big seams I always got blisters, but with these I don’t have to worry about it,” Milhorn said. “They’re still there, but they’re not near as big. Throwing a slider, you don’t have to worry about it cutting your finger.”
The lower seams also make the ball feel smaller in a pitcher’s hand. Some pitchers said this made their grip feel more comfortable and natural, while others said it made them feel as though they were getting more zip on their pitches.
The last time Charpentier played, he remembered how cumbersome the ball used for NCAA postseason play felt in his hand. “But the newer balls feel a lot smaller in your hand,” he said. “It’s almost like you can grip it a lot better. It feels like you can throw it harder.”
Person said, “I’d rather a smaller size in the hand. It kind of feels like you’re throwing a rock.”
Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux isn’t interested in how the changes will impact his pitching staff. In his opinion, the good ones will find a way to make it work as they always do.
“I still subscribe to the same theory,” Robichaux said. “If you have a good breaking ball, you have a good breaking ball; if you have a good sinker, you have a good sinker; if you can pitch, you can pitch.
“It’s like anything, you make an adjustment.”