Choosing a Baseball Bat
The bat is the most important tool in a hitter’s arsenal. Like an Olympic athlete choosing the right pair of running shoes, you want a bat fits your style of hitting. From major league players to Little Leaguers, not just any old bat will do. When choosing a bat, consideration must be given to weight, length, balance, material, and league requirements. Most importantly, you want a bat that just feels right and gives you confidence at the plate.
Hitting a ball hard involves three factors: bat weight, bat speed and your swing mechanics. A bat that has more weight to it will hit a ball harder and farther than a lighter bat swung at the same speed. But a heavier bat is not as easy to control, so you may get sloppy with your mechanics and lose a little control. The general rule of thumb to follow is this: The stronger the hitter, the heavier the bat. The only way to know for sure is to test out a variety of bats to see how they feel.
Length factors into your decision similar to how weight does. The shorter the bat, the easier it is to control, but the longer the bat, the more whip and potential power – as long as you are strong enough to control it. Again, swinging multiple length bats to see how they feel is the best way to see what suits you.
Balanced vs. End-Loaded
Bats come in two flavors: balanced and end-loaded. A balanced bat distributes its total weight throughout the bat while end-loaded bats pack more weight into the end of the barrel. The greater the end-load, the more whip during the swing. If the batter already has a fast swing speed, an end-loaded bat may be preferable to maximize power in the swing. Balanced bats are easier to control, so newer and smaller players often prefer them until they are experienced and strong enough to control the heavier feel of an end-loaded bat. Even a half ounce end-load greatly affects the feel of a bat.
Drop or Length to Weight Ratio
The “drop” is the difference between the length and the weight of the bat, so a bat that is 34" long and weighs 25 ounces will have a “drop” of -9.
Baseball bats are available in 2¼”, 2⅝”, and 2¾” sizes. Rules regarding barrel diameter differs based on which league you play in.
Bats can be made of alloy, composite, wood and wood composite material. Alloy bats are ready for the field right out of the wrapper and are typically less expensive than composite bats. Composite bats also tend to have larger sweet spots than alloy bats. They take a little time to break in (50+ swings) and are usually more expensive. Most wood bats are made of Maple, Ash, or Birch. Wood bats are classic baseball, but the ball doesn’t jump off of them the way that it does with alloy or composite and they are more likely to crack or break. Wood composite bats are just that: bats that are composed of several blends or layers of wood. They are not cut from a single block of wood. They are usually more durable than solid wood bats, but to be used legally they must show certification stamps.
One-Piece vs. Two Piece Construction
One-piece bats are stiffer due to the single piece construction. Two-piece bats allow for more flex during your swing and the sting from mis-hit balls is felt less. There are conflicting viewpoints on which style is better for power hitters vs. contact hitters. Some power hitters think that they lose power with two-piece bats while others feel that the flexible “whip” provides more power. The only way to know which style works best for you is to try them out and see what feels better.
There are three major groups here: BBCOR, Senior League, and Little League (Youth). Adult bats are required to meet BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution) Certification. This is the certification that is required for a bat to be used in high school or college level play. BBCOR bats cannot have a drop greater than -3 and cannot have a barrel diameter greater than 2⅝” Senior League bats are made for players 13 and 15 years old, or younger players in youth leagues that allow barrel diameters greater than 2¼”. Little League (Youth) bats are approved for youth leagues where 2¼” barrels are required. To ensure you choose the correct bat, please make sure of your league rules.
BBCOR, Senior League, and USA Baseball
Adult bats are required to meet BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution) Certification. This is the certification that is required for a bat to be used in high school or college level play. BBCOR bats cannot have a drop weight greater than -3 and cannot have a barrel diameter greater than 2⅝”.
Senior League bats are big barrels - usually 2⅝” and 2¾”” in diameter with a drop ratio of -5, through -12 and are used in travel organizations throughout the country such as USSSA. Please refer to your sanctioning organization as to which bat is appropriate for your leagues use.
USA Baseball has implemented a new bat performance standard that affects Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth League, Cal Ripken Baseball, Pony Baseball, American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), and Dixie Youth Baseball – starting January 1st, 2018. The new USA Baseball standard allows the use of barrels up to 2⅝” and does not have a drop-weight limit. This allows young players to use bats made with light-weight materials.
*Note: USSSA youth baseball will NOT be implementing the USA Bat Standard. Players age 14 and under who play on a travel ball team, or are playing in a tournament governed by USSSA, can continue to use bats that have the 1.15BPF stamp indefinitely.
Again, to ensure you choose the correct bat, please make sure of your league's or sanction's rules.