How to choose the right baseball bat?

Are going to buy your first baseball bat? It's good to know everything about it so you get the right bat for your needs. After reading this guide you'll know more about the features of a baseball bat like the materials or the different styles.

Think about this, how can you hit a home run without a bat? That’s right, therefore, a bat is a must-have piece of equipment for the player. Selecting the right bat is a more difficult task than you might have thought. Think about all the different lengths, weights and materials there are. It also has to match your skill level.

Before buying the right bat, make sure to check all the requirements in your local league or let your coach inform you. Also your personal preference helps you to select the right bat.

 

In the picture above you can see the anatomy of a baseball bat. This is very important before buying a bat. All the different parts have a function on their own. Beginning with the knob, this holds your hands in place as they hold on to the grip of the bat. The diameter of the bat tapers from the skinny handle to the wider barrel. The barrel is the part of the bat where you make contact with the ball. At last, you can use an end cap to improve the control of the bat.

League and age

The first thing you should do before buying a baseball bat is to look at the league rules. USABat, USSSA and BBCOR are the most common bat standards. The USABat standard gives that more wood-like performance in the youth bats while still keeping the model lightweight. BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) generates that same wood-like performance in adult bats, even after they’re broken in. USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) provides energy transfer bat regulations for leagues managed by USSSA.

Every league will follow a specific bat standard for the equipment regulations, regardless of age. Here is an indication:

  • Players aged between 4 and 6 will likely need a tee ball bat.
  • Players aged between 7 and 13 will likely need a bat meeting USA or USSSA standards.
  • Players aged between 14 and 18 will likely need a bat meeting BBCOR standards.

These three leagues often have the logo of the standards stamped somewhere on the barrel of the bat. Try to find these logo’s to make sure you found the right standard.

Length

Now that we’ve got the first step out of the way, it is time to look at the suited length for your bat. The length of the bat can affect your swing mechanics and plate coverage. With a bat that’s too long, you can risk losing bat speed or worsen your swing mechanics. With a too short bat and you limit your plate coverage, which results in not being able to reach everywhere across the plate. Having the right bat length makes sure you find that equal balance between good swing mechanics and plate coverage.

There are three options to check if a bat has the right length for you:

  • Place the knob of the bat on the center of your chest, pointing it outwards to the side. Reach out with your arm, if you can comfortably reach the end of the bat with your fingertips, the bat is the right size for you.
  • Place the knob of the bat at the center of your chest, pointing the bat forward. If you can reach the barrel of the bat, not the taper, than it is the right length for you.
  • Stand up and measure the bat vertically against your leg. The end of the bat should be on the ground. Loosen your shoulders and open your hand and let the bat rest against your palm. If the knob reaches the center of your palm, you’ve found the right bat length.

If you’re unable to measure it yourself at home, use the size chart below as a guide to help you out. The size chart helps you get started, but the techniques described above will give you the perfect picture of which bat fits you best.

Weight

The weight is often based on the feel. Try taking multiple swings, when the bat feels heavy or begins to drop during the swing, that bat’s probably to heavy for you. To check if the bat has the perfect weight for you, try holding the bat handle and extend your arm to your side. If you can’t hold your arm extended for 30 to 45 seconds or when the bat starts to drop, the bat might be too heavy for you.

Make sure you look at the “drop weight” as well. A bat’s drop is the amount that’s left after you subtract the weight of the bat from the length of the bat. So for example, a bat which weighs 20 ounces and is 30 inches long has a drop of -10. The bigger the drop weight, the lighter the bat.

Players that have more strength or are bigger, tend to favor less of a drop weight. This can result in more power in hits. Smaller players often go for a bigger drop rate which increases bat speed.

Materials

There are two options in materials you can choose from: metal and wood. Wood bats can be made from different trees like ash, birch or maple. Different types of wood means different qualities. Most of the wood bats have a -3 drop.

Alloy or aluminum bats are ready to use, straight out of the box. There is no break-in time required for this material. A disadvantage is that the sweet spot is smaller, but they are great in any temperature and even last longer due to the durability of the bat. These bats are often more affordable than wooden ones.

Composite bats have a larger sweet spot and absorb more vibration, so your hands won’t have to deal with much impact after a hit. This can help reduce the stinging effect it gives after making poor contact with the ball. These bats are more expensive than wood bats and have a break-in period between 150 and 200 hits.

There are also some hybrid options available. These kind of bats are made with composite handles, they minimize the vibration, and alloy barrels, which don’t have a break-in time.

One-piece vs. two-piece bats

The last thing to keep in mind when choosing the right bat is to make a choice between one-piece or two-piece bats. The main difference between these two options is how much flex and energy transfer your bat will have.

  • One-piece bats are just one complete piece of metal. When contact is made, there is little flex or give in the bat, this results in little or no energy loss. This is great for a balanced and powerful swing. But this often causes stinging in the hands when poor contact is made.
  • A two-piece baseball bat is constructed by fusing a barrel and handle together. Because of the split design, it results in more flex in the swing, which gives faster bat speed. Two-piece bats can also withstand more vibrations, a good option for players looking to restrain the stinging feeling.

The way a bat feels in the hands of the batter is more important than any kind of review. Practice your swings in a safe place and try a few different bats with the right length and weight. The one that feels the most natural and comfortable, is the one to choose for you.