“Let’s go out and hit some balls!” To me this sounds like a great thing to do in your free time. But hitting balls only works with the right piece of equipment, in this case the perfect baseball bat.
Choosing the right baseball bat sounds like an easy exercise, but it is absolutely not. There is so much to know about it, which is why I am writing this article for you guys.
As a general guideline, baseball bats are either made from wood or metal materials. There is some general stuff that applies to both kinds of bats, but apart from this there are a lot of differences between wood and non-wood bats. This is why I will start with the general stuff about bats first before taking a closer look at wood and then non-wood baseball bats separately.
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Let’s begin with the general stuff there is to know about baseball bats. Choosing the right bat for you is extremely important, as this is basically a part of your body during the game.
Baseball bats are available in a variety of sizes. Which size you should choose of your also depends on your age (which is supposed to correlate with your height and strength/ weight) and your personal preferences.
Generally baseball bat sizes range from 26” to 34”. This is measured from the knob to the end cap.
You could now think, that the longer the bat, the better as you will cover more plate with it. This is generally not a stupid idea, but not necessarily true. Longer bats weigh more, which could throw off your timing and lead to a worse performance as a batter. You should try out a few different sizes and weights to find the perfect bat for you.
Now that length is covered, let’s talk about another variable that correlates with it.
Weight and weight drop
Interestingly, the static weight of a bat does not really matter much. The weight drop is much more important, as this variable tells you the relationship between length and weight.
Bat length – bat weight = weight drop
This is the formula to calculate the weight drop of a bat. So a 33” bat with a weight of 27 oz. has a weight drop of -6. This also referred to a “Drop 6” bat.
Now the important question is: Which weight drop is suitable for you?
Again there is no perfect answer to this, as personal preference plays a vital role here.
As a rule of thumb one can say, that the higher the level of play the lower the weight drop.
A lower weight drop equals a heavier bat assuming that the bat length is constant. A heavier bat is harder to maneuver, but has more power. A lighter bat in turn is easier to maneuver and offers more control, but has less power.
This has to do with the swingweight, which is also influenced highly by the balance point of the baseball bat. I will talk about this more in a bit.
Another important factor is the governing body you have to obey to as a player, as all of them have different rules.
This is probably the most important set of rules, as it currently governs collegiate and high school baseball. BBCOR is supposed to make sure, that non-wood bats perform similar to wood bats, once they are broken in.This certification measures the trampoline effect of the bat, meaning how much the bat bends under impact. This creates a trampoline effect, which results in further hits.
Other governing bodies like the USSSA also use the BBCOR certification.
Check out this video to understand these rules.
BBCOR bats need to have a -3 drop weight and a barrel diameter of 2 ⅝” or less.
If you play high school baseball or collegiate baseball, make sure that your bat has a BBCOR stamp on it. Otherwise it is not legal to play with it.
BBCOR bats are also always non-wood bats, as the regulation is supposed to make sure that they play similar to wood bats.
This is probably the most important variable that nearly everybody forgets about, because nobody really understands it. Think about how you use the bat most during a game. Do you just hold it in your hands or do you swing it?
If you hold it in your hands most of the time, you are doing something wrong. Usually a batter swings his bat. Now here comes some physics, as the static weight (displayed via the weight drop) on its own does not really matter, as what you feel by swinging the bat is the swing weight. The higher the swing weight, the heavier it feels but the more power you have.
In order to feel the difference between static and swing weight, take a shoe with laces and swing it while holding at the end of the laces. Do the same thing now, but grab the shoe at the tongue. Did you feel the difference? The first swing felt heavier, as the swing weight was higher, even though the static weight did not change. Why is that? It is because you changed the balance point of the shoe.
Check this video, if you find my explanation to be confusing instead of helpful.
There is a lot of research online regarding swing weight and balance points. The balance points tells you, how the static weight of the bat is distributed.
Generally you can differentiate between a balanced bat and an end loaded bat.
Balanced bats distribute the weight evenly along the bat. No end is heavier than the other one. This allows for high swing speed and great control.
End loaded bats have more weight towards the end cap, where you hit the ball. This results in a slower swing speed, but a drastically increased swing weight. This means that more kinetic energy is transferred into the ball. In plain English: End loaded bats generally have more power, but are harder to swing.
This is all the general stuff you need to know about baseball bats. The following paragraphs will take in depth looks into non-wood bats and wood bats and what special things there are to know about them.
A wooden bat is probably the piece of equipment in baseball, that makes every fan’s heart jump. It is the epitome of craftsmanship and resembles the rich history of baseball best.
Maybe this is the reason why other materials are not allowed in MLB. Yeah you read that right. Wooden bats are the only legal kind of bats in professional games. Crazy huh, given how many other materials are out there nowadays.
Before you buy a wood bat, check if they are approved for the league you play. Certain leagues do not allow wood baseball bats.
In this post I want to help you figure out, which wood baseball bat is the best choice for you.
Let’s first take a look at a few key differences between different wood baseball bats.
Material: “What is wrong with you Jan? Wood baseball bats are made from wood. What else is there to know?”
Not so fast my friend. There is actually a lot more to know, especially the kinds of wood that are used for wood baseball bats and what characteristics they have.
- Ash: I am not talking about compressed burned wood here. These bats are made from the Ash tree. This kind of wood is a bit softer than other kinds of wood, which gives it a bit of extra whip. This one reason why it is such a popular choice. Moreover these kinds of bats are usually the cheapest kind of wood bats available.
- Bamboo: Yep. Bamboo is not just for sweet Pandas, but can also be used to produce extremely strong and durable baseball bats. It is also often used for composite bats in combination with a different wood, as Bamboo alone can give you a pretty dull feeling during your hitting sessions.
- Birch: Birch is also a softer kind of wood, but it is much more durable than Ash bats, which is a great choice for every player. The downside to this kind of wood, that it needs a break-in period in order to really harden the material. Out of the box this kind of wood does not have the maximum wood density and hardness.
- Composite: Of course composite is not really a type of wood, but describes baseball bats made out of different kinds of woods, mixed together. This kind of baseball bat is usually a bit more expensive, as it requires more work to fuse the different types of wood together. The upside is, that some bats come with a breakage warranty, which is something normally unseen for baseball bats.
- Maple: Maple bats are the most used ones in professional baseball, as they allow the ball to fly off super fast, because of the hardness and density of the wood. These bats are not as hard as bamboo ones, but are close second. This close grained wood is also known for its durability. If you decide to buy a maple bat, be ready to spend a bit of money on this piece of equipment. Cheap maple bats are available, but are mostly made from lower quality maple, which results in faster breakage of the bat.
Designs: For wood baseball bats there are some basic design, also called Turn Models. It is crucial to know about them if you plan to buy a wood baseball bat.
271: This is the most common turn model out there. 271 baseball bats have a slight end-loaded feel (see balance under general knowledge) and can be used by all types of hitters.
Barrel diameter: 2.5”
Handle diameter: 15/16”
110: The basic turn model. This turn models is perfect for contact hitter who look for a fast bat, as these bats are mostly lightweight ones. They are moreover also perfectly suitable for wood bat beginners.
Barrel diameter: 2.5”
Handle diameter: 1”
243: This is the powerhorse of wood bats. 243 wood bats are extremely end-loaded, as the barrel is really wide, while the handle is slim. This means that most of the weight is distributed towards the end cap of the bat. This is a great choice for experienced players.
Barrel diameter: 2.5/8”
Handle diameter: 1”
I-13: The I-13 turn model is similar to the 271 turn model. The I-13 is more end loaded than the 271, as it is tapered more radically. This makes it the perfect choice for power hitters.
Barrel diameter: 2 1/2″
Handle diameter: 15/16″
Pro tip: Avoid breakage with this simple trick
Have you ever taken a closer look at your wood baseball bat? Wood is a natural material and has grains. Optimally you want to “hit with the grains” in order to avoid fast breakage. How do you do it? Well actually the manufacturers make it quite easy for you. They have decided to place their logo on the weakest spots of the wood baseball bat. This is where the bat is most likely to break, if you hit the ball there.
This is why you should always make sure, that the logo of your bat either points to the ground or to the sky. This way you “hit with the grains” and it will make your baseball bat last you much longer. Easy peasy.
Everybody knows wood bats. The problem is, that not all leagues accept them, so you might need to find an alternative. Luckily there are quite a few non-wood alternatives.
One-Piece or two-piece
Given that these bats are not made from a natural material, there is the possibility to manufacture the barrel and the handle from different materials and later fuse them together.
This then gives you a two-piece baseball bat. On the other hand side you can of course just use one material for the whole bat. This then gives you a one-piece baseball bat.
Two-piece baseball bats tend to have less vibration and a bigger trampoline effect, while one-piece baseball bats are a lot stiffer and preferred by power hitters.
Check this video to see how a one-piece baseball bat is made:
There are two types when it comes to non-wood baseball bats.
Alloy baseball bats: These bats consist out of aluminium combined with other materials. This makes the bat extremely stiff, which allows for light weight bats without sacrificing durability.
What is great about these bats is, that you do not need to break them in at all. They are game ready from second one.
Sadly, these kinds of bats have a smaller sweetspot than other bats and there are different grades of aluminium used with these bats. Alloy bats can be incredibly cheap, but if you want a solid bat you should spend a bit more money in order to have a bat made out of high quality aluminium.
Composite baseball bats: This is the holy grail for many players. Composite baseball bats perform insanely well on the field, which is why most leagues banned them. They are just to good.
Composite baseball bats are mostly made out of a mixture of different materials, most often containing fiberglass and carbon fiber. Sometimes the manufacturers even throw in some Kevlar into the mix. All these materials are then layered to manufacture the finished baseball bat. This also explains, why they are so expensive. First of all the materials used are not really cheap and second of all, the manufacturing takes quite some time and work.
There you have it. This is everything you need to know about baseball bats.
Get home safe,