Bat Buying Guide
Baseball and softball bats have drastically changed over the last decade with new technology that makes it easier to change the design of the bat. The bats are no longer made of just aluminum, but can also be made with composite. There are also strict regulations on what bats can be used at each age level. With all these changes, the choices of buying a baseball or softball bat can become overwhelming. To help you out, we will break down the differences between some of the different types of bats, how to size yourself for them and how to choose the proper weight.
How to Choose the Correct Size Baseball or Softball Bat
When it comes to choosing the size of your bat, there are different ways to measure for it. The best way is to choose what you feel comfortable swinging. A general rule to follow is to never go up more than an inch at a time. This makes it easier to adjust for the new bat without drastically changing your swing. Don’t worry, if you are new to the game or want to re-size yourself, there is a way to estimate what size you should be using. To measure yourself, you want to measure from the center of your chest to tips of your index finger. To measure properly, make sure you have your arm straight out to your side, like in the picture below.
How to Choose the Correct Baseball or Softball Bat Weight
Before looking at weights, it is important to understand the terminology of bat weights first. A bat weight is measured by the minus or drop weight. Drop weight is the difference between the length of the bat and the weight of the bat. So a bat that is 30 inches and has a drop weight of (-10) will weigh 20 ounces. The bigger the drop weight is, the lighter the bat will weigh. The only league that regulates bat weight is High School and College bats, which have to be a (-3).
When choosing the weight of your bat it is important to remember that neither the heaviest nor the lightest bat the best to go with. It is best to find the best balance between the two. After finding a baseline for the length of the bat, it is important to incorporate the length of the bat into deciding on the weight. If you choose a longer bat, it might be better to go with a lighter bat. But if you choose to go with the perfect fit for the bat, it might be a good option to go up an ounce in weight.
The reason that it is important to choose the right balance between length and weight is because it makes a difference in the physics of the swing. For instance, if you have a long, light bat, you can swing it very fast, but it will not have much inertia behind it. If you swing a short heavy bat, you will not have the fastest bad speed but will have plenty of inertia. The choice of which length and weight is a personal choice of what you are comfortable with. The charts below will help give you a ballpark idea of what size and weight you should be using.
Recent Bat Rule Changes
Recent Rule changes in most of the leagues have been made to try to make the game safer and more competitive. For this reason, new safety standards have been issued to new bats and they are expected to be used by every player.
Little League Bats
Little League has a list of approved bats that can be used. This list is made by Little League, however it is only a guide for which bats are legal. Just because a bat isn’t on the list, doesn’t mean it is not approved.
Big Barrel Bats for Pony and Travel Ball
Pony leagues along with most travel ball team require the players to use a bat with the USSSA stamp. Almost all new bats will come with the stamp, aluminum and composite. Depending on the league, it may not allow bats that do not have the stamp.
High School and College Bats
High School and College bats now have to use BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) certified. This new measurement standard replaces the old BESR (Bat Exit Speed Ratio). The new measurement is designed to measure the trampoline effect of the bat and ball on impact, rather than just the exit speed of the ball. This allows the bats to be closer in competition with wood bats. With this new rating system, it is important to make sure that you do not use a BBCOR bat unless you have to, because it will put you at a disadvantage of not hitting the ball as far, as compared to a non-BBCOR bat.
Fastpitch and Slowpitch Softball Bats
The two big stamps for softball bats are ASA and USSSA. ASA bats are more restricted and thus don’t hit the ball as far as USSSA bats will. Depending on what league you play in it will depend on what regulation bat you should buy. It is best to check your league before purchasing a bat.
How to Choose Between Alloy and Composite Bats
When it comes to choosing the material of your bat, it is pretty easy to choose between wood and non-wood bats. Wood is reserved for the professionals, practice bats, and tournaments; with the exception of the states that mandate the use of wood. But once you decide on a non-wood bat, it is hard to decide between the different names each manufacturer uses for the different metals and composites.
Alloy bats, also called metal and aluminum bats, have been around longer than composite. Alloy bats tend to be less expensive than composite bats. Alloy bats do not require a break-in time, which means that the bat is at its prime right out the wrapper. Alloy bats tend to last longer and even when they get damaged, they tend to dent, rather than crack. This means they can still be used once damaged, where as a composite can’t be used once it is cracked. The alloy bats tend to have a smaller sweet spot and less “pop”. A good rule of thumb is the more expensive the alloy is, the longer the sweet spot is and the better balanced the bat will be.
Composite bats are made out of a layered material similar to carbon fiber. This makes it easy to control the weight distribution of the bat. This allows the manufacturer to make it balanced or end-loaded, depending on the style of the bat. This is the reason that composite bats tend to be more expensive than alloy bats. The composite also reduces more vibration to the hands to reduce sting from a miss-hit ball. The composite bats tend to have a larger sweet spot and more “pop”. The pop comes once the bat is broken in. To break in a composite bat, it is recommended that you hit between 150-200 hits with a regular baseball or softball, not a rubber batting cage ball. It is also important to slightly rotate the bat each time you hit the ball, to evenly break in the bat and to make sure it lasts a long time. This is the only recommended way to break-in your composite bat. Methods such as hitting it against a tree or rolling the bat, are not recommended and will damage the bat and void the manufacturer warranty.
If you like both alloy and composite, it is possible to get a hybrid bat. Hybrid bats have a composite handle and an alloy barrel. The benefits of getting a hybrid bat are that you can get the composite handle, which reduces vibration and the alloy barrel for the performance and the cost savings.
One Piece Bats vs. Two Piece Bats
One piece bats are typically stiffer and more balanced. The one piece design does not allow for more vibration control, so they tend to have a lot of vibration on miss-hit balls. Two piece bats tend to have more flex and have less vibration. The down side for a two piece bat is that they tend to be end- loaded, meaning they have a heavier swing weight. Generally, power hitters tend to benefit more from the two piece bats for the added flex and contact hitters tend to benefit from one piece bats for the better balance. The choice between the two is based on your personal preference.