Understanding Modern Baseball Bats and How to Choose the Right One for Your Favorite Player
When you think about a baseball bat, a lot of things come to mind: you probably think of how it feels in your hands, how easy it is to swing, how much power it packs and whether you've had good luck with that bat (or that type of bat) before. What few of you will think about is technology.
Technology seems separate from bats--heavy sticks, after all, don't seem all that advanced. Guess what: there is a lot of science and technology involved in the making of baseball bats. There is enough technology and science involved that each league, from t-ball to college leagues all the way up to the pros, have very strict rules and regulations about which kinds of bats can and cannot be used for practicing and games.
This means that, when buying your next baseball bat (or buying a bat for a loved one who plays the game), you need to make sure you know what you're doing. Here is the information that you will need to have on hand when you are shopping and selecting your next bat.
Sports injuries aren't really new but they are getting a lot of attention lately. More players from every sport are trying to get rules passed about how sports injuries are approached and treated. While it is true that a lot of sports injuries are caused by interpersonal contact and pushing harder than a player's body was ready to allow, it is also true that many sports injuries are caused by improper use of equipment. In baseball, specifically, this means using bats with the wrong ratios or that have been deemed unsafe.
Finding the correct ratio for a baseball bat isn't difficult. According to Homerun Monkey, a company that indexes its bats by the BBCOR rating system, "Simply subtract the number of ounces from the length inches to get your ratio." They go on to talk about the ratios that certain types of bats (like those used by high school students) must have.
The safety rating for a bat is based on a few different criteria: the material and compositional makeup of the bat, its length and its weight. We've talked about the length and weight ratio already. Now let's talk about how a bat's physical makeup and materials figure into its safety ratings.
This is where technology really comes into play. Most adult players, especially the pros, prefer the "standard" wooden bats that have been used since the sport was invented. Younger leagues, especially those for teens and younger kids, tend to opt for aluminum bats. This is because aluminum bats are easier to manipulate and can be manufactured to do things like slow down a ball after contact is made (as opposed to the "trampolining effect" that was so problematic before).
Sure, the reduction in ball velocity post "hit" has had some adverse effects in terms of overall gameplay: because the ball moves more slowly, there are fewer home runs happening and teams are forced to switch from the traditional strategies of years past to newer, "small ball" strategies. This means that teams are also having to shift their recruitment strategies. Coaches can't simply load their teams with heavy hitters and assume that they will be fine. They have to find players who are great at fielding too.
Still, fewer players are being sent to the hospital with concussions or other injuries because the ball was moving too fast for them to avoid and that's a tremendous achievement.
Figuring Out Which Bats to Buy
The ratio and safety specs of each bat are incredibly important when choosing which bat to buy either for yourself or for the baseball enthusiast in your life. They aren't the only criteria you need to mind, though. Every league from T-Ball to the pros has a set of rules and regulations about the different types of bats (and those bats' specs) that are allowed on the field. The coach of your (or your loved one's) team can provide you with those measurements and other criteria. Make sure you take them seriously! You don't want to get kicked off the field because your bat isn't regulation!
It's hard to think of something as basic as a bat and imagine that ratings on them can vary but they do. Hopefully this short primer will help you get a feel for figuring out which bats are best for you or the baseball fan in your life.