Baseball Bat - Which is right for you?
Finding a new baseball bat used to be much simpler. This was when they didn't have all sorts of proprietary technology, wrapped in cushy grips and painted different colors. But as technology has evolved so too have the bats that litter little league dugouts and high school fields all over the world. Metal baseball bats have so drastically transformed from the glorified fence posts swung just a few decades ago. Now, even the experienced buyer with a bit too much to swallow when it comes time to upgrade bats.
Metal bats used to be only be made with aluminum. This would limit the trampoline effect or “pop” they have when hitting the ball on or near the sweet spot. Nowadays, bats are made from a few different materials that have led to bats that hit the ball much harder. Many of the newer models of metal bats are also made of composite. This material is harder than aluminum and creates more “pop” off the bat. Each tournament and league may have varying guidelines on the types of bats allowed for use in game play, so it is important to check rules and regulations before purchasing a bat.
After eliminating bats that are not legal for use in your current league or tournament schedule, you can then move on to the most important part of bat selection process: the size and weight.
This is the most important part of selecting a new bat because the length and weight of the bat and how well it suites your individual needs will directly impact how successful you are when using it during games. A bat that is too heavy will lead to slower bat speeds as will a bat that is too long. A bat that is too light can lead to incorrect swing mechanics and a bat that is too short will lower the chances of hitting balls on the outside part of the plate. In the event that you are unable to find a bat perfectly suited to your needs, it is better to go with the lighter option as bat speed is the most important factor in hitting the ball hard.
Thankfully, baseball bats are broken down in size based off the age group of the player and fall within certain requirements called “weight drop” or sometimes just “drop.” This number indicates the difference between the length and weight of the bat. For example, a bat like the Louisville Slugger Prime 917
with a length of 28 inches and weight of 20oz would have a -8 drop.
Baseball Bat - How to determine the right size
You can see below the breakdown of the weight drop requirements for each age group:
Choosing a bat that is the ideal size can be difficult, especially if you are looking for a bat for someone who is probably going to grow out if it quickly. A good rule to consider is not increasing from your previous bat more than one-inch in length. Any more of an increase from one season to another can lead to bad swing mechanics and slower bat speed.
There are a few ways that you can determine the right bat size for you. The first is to determine your height and weight and compare it to a standard sizing chart. The chart below shows the recommended bat length based off height and weight.
Of course, every player is different, so this will vary. If you feel more comfortable when swinging a baseball bat that is smaller or larger than the recommended size, you should go with what makes you feel the most comfortable. To make sure the bat is the right size you can stand the bat right next to you (make sure your cleats are on) and as long as the bat reaches but does not go past the waistline, the bat should be the right size to swing.
Equally as important as the length of the baseball bat is the size. There is not too much that can go wrong if you select a bat that is too light. But, it is very important that you do not select a bat that is too heavy to swing. The results of trying to swing with a baseball bat that is too heavy can lead to bad swing mechanics. It can also lead to injury and will probably hurt how well you perform at the plate.
The chart below shows how you can use your height and weight to determine the right bat weight for you:
Once you figure out the right size and weight, your next decision is what type of bat you want. Will you go with the standard aluminum baseball bat or one of the newer composite models. There are generally three different options when it comes to metal bats on today's market. These designs are a full composite design, a full aluminum (or alloy) design, and a hybrid. The standard, full-alloy design like the Rawlings 5150 BB75
. These bats are usually cheaper than its composite counterpart and comes with very few restrictions. The composite design, however is usually much more expensive than aluminum bats. It also comes with a few restrictions that may cause you to a second look at what you’re buying.
The added benefit with any composite baseball bat is that it has a much larger “sweet spot” and tends to have larger trampoline effect than regular aluminum. The problem for some people is that composite bats do not come off the shelf ready to hit. Instead, composite bats need around 150-200 hits with a regular baseball before they will be game ready. This is because, much like fielders glove, the composite material takes a bit of time to break in. It is also not recommended that full-composite bats be used in weather any colder than 65 degrees.
While aluminum bats do not have as many restrictions and often cost less, they suffer from a much smaller sweet spot and less “pop” than composite bats. Alloy barrels tend to last longer than composite barrels as well. Alloy handles are more prone to that uncomfortable or painful stinging on mishit balls.
It seems many people are drifting the way of the hybrid models that combine the benefits from both the alloy and composite. The designs, like the Easton Z-Core Hybrid
, consist of the more responsive and durable alloy barrel. And it has the vibration eliminating composite making up the handle to provide an anchor of strength.
The last aspect of your new bat you should consider is how stiff it is when you swing. Most hybrids come in two or three-piece designs that create more of a whip through the hitting zone. Other one-piece models of either composite or alloy have varying degrees of stiffness that may feel more comfortable to you than others. If you are looking for a bat more in tuned to a contact hitter it might be better to go with the stiffer model. On the contrary, power hitters like bats with more flex.