A Few Things to Consider When Shopping for a Baseball Bat
A baseball bat is not just a baseball bat. Even the bats that might appear the most simple, turned and styled out of wood, contain an impressive amount of engineering to ensure they are properly sized, weighted, balanced, and more.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of bat production to ensure that the players they rely on precision equipment to refine their game can get the same results from a bat time and time again. Carefully production practices and procedures guarantee that uniformity in quality as well as other features that make different bats useful to players with different needs.
There is no such thing as a ‘best’ bat. Instead, bats of all different makes and models possess different specifications that make them suitable to different players with varying skill levels and strengths and weaknesses. While you’re shopping for a bat, make sure to keep these in mind.
Your Own Strengths As a Player
One of the first things to keep in mind when you are shopping for a baseball bat is how you fit into the game. Are you a strong hitter who needs to deliver home runs consistently? Are your personal style and strength more geared toward getting the ball as far out there as possible to buy the players on base time to get home? In that case, you might find that you gravitate towards heavy, front-loaded bats that enable you to put a huge amount of power into your swing, even if they come at the price of a little bit of speed and accuracy. If you don’t know what we mean just yet, hold tight because we’ll explain shortly.
Conversely, you might be a player in the lineup who delivers quick, accurate hits designed to get you on base or other players around the bases rather than cleaning up an entire set of loaded bases. If you are a quicker hitter with a need for a lighter, more balanced bat that makes more accurate hits possible, your needs in a bat will be very different from the player described above.
In addition, you may find that you like to train with a different bat from the one that you actually go to bat with. There are plenty of reasons that might be the case - some players practice with the same exact bat they swing with in games, but that is not always the case. What is the case is that your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as your skills, will play a hand in determining what kind of bat you need.
Moreover, your physical size will play a role, subsequently, in the size, you need in a bat. This is easier to determine with simple measurements than the other considerations, but there is such a thing as a properly sized bat, as well as an improperly sized bat. Keep that in mind as you’re shopping, and be sure to check the section in this article on sizing.
Length, Weight, and Weight Drop
Once you’ve taken a little quality time to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are as a player as well as how you fit into the strategy of your team, you can get into some of the metrical considerations in choosing a bat. The first one to look for, and perhaps the easiest one to settle on, is the length of the bat.
There is no one standard length that will fit a given player. That being said, consider the following. Standing upright in a t-pose and with the knob of the bat at the center of your chest, ideally, you should be able to reach to the tip of it. Still standing upright, if you place the knob against your chest but angle it out away from your body, you should be able to reach the barrel.
This is a good place to start. However, to understand what length bat is truly a good fit for you, you will need to pick up a few different lengths, handle and swing them to feel the balance, and gauge your control of the swing. That is the only way to truly fit a bat to a player.
Keep in mind that longer bats do allow you to reach farther over the plate, but they tend to add mass toward the end of the barrel and might be unbalanced, given the size of a player. Bigger does not necessarily mean better. Remember, you need to feel a bat and test it out to be sure.
Weight is another thing to consider in your search for a bat, as well as weight drop which is a factor of length and weight. Measured in ounces, bat weight varies, and fitting the weight of a bat to a player will require even more subjective experimentation to determine what feels right. Generally, heavier bats will require more strength to swing accurately, whereas lighter bats will be easier to control. That being said, weight drop will also affect a player’s ability to tune their game.
Weight drop is measured according to the following equation - bat length - bat weight = weight drop. Weight drop matters for a few reasons. It will affect the balance of a bat, which in turn will affect the way a player handles a bat. The other reason it matters is that different leagues have varying regulations for weight drop, but we will touch on regulations shortly.
The smaller the weight drop, the heavier the bat will feel. To illustrate, a drop 3 will feel heavier than a drop 10. Therefore a bat with a smaller weight drop might be more difficult to control than one with a larger weight drop. In order to gauge the way a bat feels, stand and grip the bat by the knob, extending it horizontally away from your body. You should be able to stand comfortably in this position for an extended period of time; some will tell you anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. If you cannot stand comfortably with the bat extended in this manner, it might be too heavy for you.
Material and Construction
After you’ve figured out what length, weight, and weight drop work for you as far as your personal preferences and measures are concerned, you can start to determine your preferences in material and construction. Or you can start with material and construction and then work the other way around. The point is that you should also consider the benefits and drawbacks of the different materials in order to determine what suits you best in a baseball bat. There are three main categories of materials from which bats are made: metal, composites or alloys, and wood.
Composite bats, as the name might suggest, are made from a combination of materials, commonly including carbon composites like carbon fiber. Composite bats can be more forgiving than other similar bats of the same weight and length for a few reasons. For example, composite bats tend to be easier on the batter. They transfer less energy from the ball into the batter and so they may be suitable for younger or inexperienced batters to learn on, especially while they are learning to identify the ideal contact point or “sweet spot” on a bat. In addition, composite bats sometimes are more forgiving in that they offer a broader or less restrictive sweet spot than alternatives, which can make them easier to learn on. For these reasons, composite bats are sometimes common in youth and amateur leagues.
Metal or alloy bats, as their name suggests, are made from a combination of metals. In contrast to composite bats, metal bats tend to feel more rigid (they are less flexible than composites) and they’re also a lot tougher than both other alternatives. Composite and wood bats do break from time to time, but a metal bat more or less will last forever. There is not much that can happen to a metal bat during the course of a normal game to cause it to fail. In addition, some metals bats can be made much lighter than wood bats and also have a larger sweet spot, which can allow players to attain higher swing speeds and accuracy at the same time.
The final category of material from which bats are typically made is wood. Wood bats are used by the pros because, although they are less forgiving than the alternatives when used by a skilled player they can deliver performance that is difficult to wring from composite or alloy bats.
Typically wood baseball bats come in the form of ash, maple, or birch, each of which has its own qualities that distinguish it from the others. Ash bats are known for their flexibility, maple for their hardness and strength which translates to an easier read through the hands, and birch for a combination of hardness and flexibility. Wood bats generally have a smaller sweet spot that requires more skill to identify, but with the right skills, wood bats can be deadly in terms of power and accuracy. The one thing, however, is that wood bats do break occasionally, mostly due to mishits, and wood bats can be expensive to produce. Those are a few of the reasons that their use is sometimes reserved for professional leagues.
Diameter and Balance
When working on selecting the right bat for your use, you will also want to take into account the barrel diameter as well as the balance of the bat overall. As we mentioned previously, the league in which you play will likely specify the requirements in barrel diameter for the bats you are allowed to use, and most bat’s barrels run between 2 and a quarter inches to 2 and three-quarters of an inch. As long as you are within the specified requirement for your league, you will want to pick up, handle and swing several different types of bats with different diameters in order to identify the diameter that works best for you.
Balance is also extremely important, and as we stated many times before, you must use handle bats in order to feel their balance and identify what will be most effective for you. There are two overarching categories of balance, and these are balanced and end-loaded bats.
A balanced bat is one that has a point of balance that is (unsurprisingly) right around the midway point of its length. An end-loaded bat, then, by comparison, is one that has a center of mass that is closer to the end of the bat than the center. These bats will feel heavier in the hand and will require more strength to achieve higher swing speeds and accuracy, but some players will prefer them. As we stated at the outset of this article, the most important thing to know is your style of play and what feels right for you. An end-loaded bat is ideal for some strong hitters; a balanced bat is better for others who need speed and precision.
In addition to these things we have discussed, you should also be aware of the regulations of the league in which you play. There are many governing leagues that will affect the regulations around which you are playing, including BBCOR, USSSA, and USA Baseball. For example, the regulations for BBCOR baseball bats will differ from those for a USSSA baseball bat, so you will have to take these into account.
Whatever requirements you have in a bat for your personal or competitive use, here at HB Sports we offer many of the highest quality bats in the industry from the finest manufacturers in the world. We sell bats from DeMarini, Louisville Slugger, Rawlings, Marucci, and more, many of which are approved for use within the leagues mentioned above. Take a look through our collection of baseball bats today to get ready for next season, and if you have any questions at all, you can take advantage of our superior customer service by calling us at 1-888-540-BATS.
- Christopher Bastien