Flying Tigers: Where are the Bats?

cabbatI have the good fortune to have spent portions of every summer at an old, out-of-the-way place in southwestern New York that historically has named among its variety of curious attributes a large bat population. The particular species is known, semi-colloquially anyway, as the little brown bat, and its surprisingly heavy presence was readily noticeable visually and environmentally (the prime example of the latter being the localized dearth of mosquitos). In the past year or two, the little brown bat population there has declined steeply, however. An invasive mold-related disease seems to be to blame. If the fact of the problem is known and the cause of the problem is suspected, the solution at this time is neither. The situation feels helpless.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, the bats have gone missing too, albeit in a far less dire context. While all eyes are on the bullpen, the simple and obvious truth is that successful baseball teams combine good pitching and good hitting. A shut-down bullpen alone does not a winner make. I’m not saying that general manager Dave Dombrowski’s priorities are misplaced in trading for a reliever (Joakim Soria) or even two (a lefty, please) before the trade deadline this afternoon, but if a trade could inject some life into a surprisingly weak Tiger offense that seems like it’s really missing Jhonny Peralta and a healthy Miguel Cabrera, that might not be a bad idea.

The Tigers plated 796 runs last year. They’re on pace for 758 this season. Continue reading

Nike strikes out at bats

The PostGame reports:

Every college under contract with Nike has been let out of its commitment to use Nike baseball bats during the upcoming season.

Of the top 20 teams in home runs last season, not a single one used Nike bats.

Major schools such as Southern Cal, Miami, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky all used Nike bats and experienced major drops in offensive production. Home runs were 20 percent lower and slugging percentages 44 percent lower for those teams than for the rest of the NCAA.

The Tuscaloosa News, which led the reporting on this story, notes the Hurricanes hit an average of more than 93 homers a season between 2008 and 2010, but last season with Nike bats they slammed just 33 dingers. That’s a staggering 64.5 percent drop in power.

Alabama’s power dropped 86.6 percent over the previous three seasons.

Nike is not an equipment company. Nike is an apparel company. They’ve done a good job of convincing us that apparel is just as important to athletic performance (and even recruiting) as equipment, but there’s a reason you don’t see players wearing Louisville Slugger dri-fits. It takes a different set of institutional knowledge and skills to make things like baseball bats. Keep reading…