View Full Version : How Much Do Metal Bats Matter?

01-06-2007, 07:25 PM
There's something I've wondered about for those of you in the know.

A lot of times, in evaluating potential draft picks, there are a number of concerns for certain players coming out because people wonder how well they will be able to transition from metal bats to wood bats. Some draft picks flop and various people will blame the fact that these picks did not handle the transition from wood to metal.

Now, I've never played high school or college baseball. I've handled both kinds of bats and I know the differences between them. However, I've always wondered whether there is something to that transition that can hold back otherwise talented baseball players or if instead scouts and other people focus too much on it.

Have there been studies done on the matter? What do you guys think?

01-10-2007, 11:50 AM
Guys that can hit the ball are going to hit the ball. The main thing that happens though is a big decrease in power. The sweet spot on the bat is MUCH smaller on a wood bat than on a metal bat, so those homerun swings might start turning into fly-ball outs. A good hitter will be able to make the adjustment, it just takes a good amount of time and work with them.

01-11-2007, 08:34 PM
I believe there is a lot of differences between Metal(aluminum) and Wood Bats.

-Metal bats are so well balanced that they are easier to handle in the zone.
-Wood bats eat bad swings for lunch, Metal bats turn bad swings into hits and even homeruns.
-Metal bats are like throwing stones in a pond from ten feet away, Wood bats are like throwing stones in a bucket 100 feet away.

For you golfers out there i compare it to hitting a 1 iron out of the fairway on a cold morning!

01-11-2007, 09:55 PM
For you golfers out there i compare it to hitting a 1 iron out of the fairway on a cold morning!


Isn't that why Shane Robinson slipped to the 5th round of the draft last year despite batting .395 his last two years in college? Seems like I remember scouts saying he wouldn't be able to hit with a wooden bat. Not sure why though.

01-12-2007, 11:24 AM
For you golfers out there i compare it to hitting a 1 iron out of the fairway on a cold morning![/QUOTE]

What's a fairway?

01-13-2007, 01:50 PM
One big difference is that there is no weak spot on the handle.

That means that hitters can much more easily protect the inside part of the plate with metal. A pitch that would 'jam' a hitter using wood can be lined into the opposite field with metal.

The ball speed coming off the bat is simply faster. There are movements to ban metal and synthetics from bats even in little league, because of the belief that the ball comes off the bat so fast a pitcher can be struck and seriously injured or even killed.

So, to correct college stats, de-value hitters somewhat, and enhance the value of pitchers. See THIS ARTICLE (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4971)on Baseball Prospectus.

01-13-2007, 02:27 PM
For you golfers out there i compare it to hitting a 1 iron out of the fairway on a cold morning!

Only if you get jammed (which is more likely with a wood bat). Stubbs took a fall because he hit a "soft" .375 or something like that in a wood bat summer league.

01-13-2007, 02:49 PM
It was actually a soft .304

01-21-2007, 08:43 AM
I believe there is a lot of differences between Metal(aluminum) and Wood Bats.

-Metal bats are so well balanced that they are easier to handle in the zone.
-Wood bats eat bad swings for lunch, Metal bats turn bad swings into hits and even homeruns.
-Metal bats are like throwing stones in a pond from ten feet away, Wood bats are like throwing stones in a bucket 100 feet away.

For you golfers out there i compare it to hitting a 1 iron out of the fairway on a cold morning!

Who carries a 1 iron anymore?

01-21-2007, 02:21 PM

Batter Up: Metal Baseball Bats Outperformed Wooden Bats In Brown Study

Source: Brown University
Date: November 20, 2002

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Metal baseball bats can significantly outperform wooden bats according to a recent study by a group of Brown University bioengineers, confirming a belief widely held by players and coaches.

The average speed of a hit off the fastest bat, a metal model, was 93.3 mph; the average off the slowest bat, a wooden model, was 86.1 mph. Only 2 percent of hits made with wooden bats exceeded 100 mph, while 37 percent of the hits with the fastest metal bat more than 100 mph, according to Joseph J. Crisco, associate professor of Orthopaedics at the Brown Medical School. However, researchers also found one metal bat performed similarly to wooden bats.

The findings were published in the October 2002 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Although there is a general consensus that metal bats outperform wooden bats, few scientific studies have documented performance differences.

In addition, the study confirmed the notion of a "sweet spot" associated with maximum ball speeds those within the top 20 percent of the fastest hits from each bat model. The sweet spot was located approximately the same distance from the tip of wooden bats as it was from the tip of metal bats, according to Crisco.

Researchers concluded the metal bats produced faster batted ball speeds in part due to faster swing speeds, and, in part, to greater elastic properties found in nearly all of the metal bat models. In general, the lighter bats were swung faster and were associated with faster batted ball speeds.

Nineteen right-handed male baseball players at the level of professional minor league, collegiate and high school participated in the study. They used two wooden and five aluminum models from four manufacturers. Researchers measured batted ball speed, bat swing speed, bat impact location, and the elastic performance properties of the bats.

Each player faced 10 to 20 pitches from a pitching machine with each bat. Researchers surrounded home plate with scaffolding supporting four infrared-sensing cameras to track the three-dimensional trajectory of the bat before impact as well as the pitched and batted ball; the cameras sensed reflective tape affixed to the bats and the balls.

More than 1,000 pitches were recorded, of which about half were able to be analyzed. The others resulted in foul balls, pop-ups, missed pitches, or incomplete data.

The findings contribute to an ongoing dialogue about whether metal bats increase the chance of injury to a pitcher something this study did not examine and therefore should be regulated.

Currently high school and college players use aluminum and other metal alloy bats and wooden bats are used in major and minor league baseball. However that may change. A recent decision by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which regulates high school play, requires wooden bats in the 2003 tournament.

Metal bats were introduced in the 1970s as a cost-saving alternative to wooden bats that were prone to break. A decade later, a general consensus had developed among players and coaches that metal bats could outperform wooden ones. In the late-80s, the National Collegiate Athletic Association implemented guidelines for weight and length of bats.

01-21-2007, 07:00 PM
Ok, so for the dunces among us who are somewhat clueless on the mechanics of baseball: why would anyone use a wooden bat then? Because of the difference in weight? Because it looks prettier?

01-21-2007, 07:06 PM
vaticanplum, I prefer a wooden bat becuase of the feel. Sure, you dont get the power, but it feels much better in your hands, and when you make solid contact and center the ball....there is no other feeling like it. Of course, it also sucks when you get jammed and snap the bat.

01-21-2007, 08:15 PM
Ok, so for the dunces among us who are somewhat clueless on the mechanics of baseball: why would anyone use a wooden bat then? Because of the difference in weight? Because it looks prettier?

tradition & rules are probably the biggest factors.

But metal bats can take and bend technology seemingly endlessly.

USC & ASU played in a 21-18 home run derby several years ago in the College World Series final, the NCAA instituted some rules requiring lower exit velocities from all NCAA approved bats. That's brought down scoring significantly. About the same time, the ASA - the American Softball Association, came up with the 98 mph rule - all bats have to pass ASA tests stating that their exit velocities can't surpass 98 mph to be used in ASA games.

So manufactures simply took those restrictions, and made changes. Now Demarini has "Whippy" bats that apparently whip before you hit the ball to give you more pop without going over the stated exit velocity limit.

I can easily tell you that the mens softball bats are better than they were when the 98 mph ban started, and they get better every year.

01-21-2007, 08:50 PM
Ok, so for the dunces among us who are somewhat clueless on the mechanics of baseball: why would anyone use a wooden bat then? Because of the difference in weight? Because it looks prettier?

If a league allows alluminum, then you should probably use that because they are unreal these days.

But a lot of leagues are wood bat leagues for college summer leagues, and some junior college leagues, and of course professional.

I love to hit with a wooden bat. Connecting with a ball hit solidly is the greatest sound in the world. It is best portrayed in Field of Dreams when Ray is pitching to Joe Jackson for the very first time at night. Also the sounds of batting practice are awesome. I worked with a college summer league team this summer, and BP was awesome at fields in the middle of no where, with no other noise like cars or highways.

01-21-2007, 09:53 PM
Aves, I am jealous of your summer. I bought a wooden bat last month for use this spring....hoping it makes it until the summer at least... it really is one of the best sounds you can hear.

01-25-2007, 07:38 AM
I've still got a Willie Mays model, 34 inch, 33 oz from back in the '60's. I love to swing that thing, no other feeling like it.

01-25-2007, 08:22 PM
vaticanplum, I prefer a wooden bat becuase of the feel. Sure, you dont get the power, but it feels much better in your hands, and when you make solid contact and center the ball....there is no other feeling like it. Of course, it also sucks when you get jammed and snap the bat.

And some say that is why pitchers coming into professional ball have to learn to bring the ball in on batters. They're used to guys with metal bats being able to get something on inside pitchers. Going inside, they can saw the guy off.

01-25-2007, 08:41 PM
Thought this was an interesting article on bats and bat weights.

Just don't get lost in the science in there :)


Bat Weight, Swing Speed and Ball Velocity
Content Revised: May 6, 2003
Variety in bat weights
A Little League player is looking for a new bat. Having decided on a certain length the player discovers that in addition to the choices of materials (wood, aluminum, or composite), and the various technologies (Vibration Reduction System, Nitrogen bladders, piezoelectric shock absorbers, double walled barrels, composite materials) there is also a wide selection of bat weights. Consider the following list of 30inch Little League bats which I currently have in the Acoustics Laboratory at Kettering University. Some of these bat models are older, and may be no longer be available, but the distribution of materials and weights are of interest.
Model Material Weight
Bombat 9000Q Aluminum 27oz
Louisville Slugger 225YB Ash (wood) 26oz
Sam Bat CD1 Rideau Crusher Maple (wood) 26oz
Hoosier Bat HB6000 Dream® Ash-Hickory-Maple 26oz
Louisville Slugger YB8 Aluminum 23oz
YardstickTM Ash (wood) 23oz
Louisville Slugger 225YB Ash (wood) 23oz
Easton LK20 Aluminum 21oz
Louisville Slugger 225YB Ash (wood) 20oz
Easton LX10E Black Magic Aluminum (V.R.S.) 20oz
Combat CB-YB1 Composite 18oz

Some of the Little League bats I have tested in
Kettering University's Acoustics Laboratory.
Bats in photo do not exactly match list in table.
It is interesting to note that the heaviest bat in this collection is an aluminum bat, not wood. Furthermore, there are different types of wood bats and aluminum bats at almost every weight. I'll deal with the issues of different wood types, metal-vs-wood and composite-vs-aluminum elsewhere on this website. For now let's assume that the material from which the bat is made does not matter, and focus solely on the issue of bat weight. Which would be better: a heavy bat which packs more punch or a lighter bat which a young player can swing easier? We might start by looking at whether professional players use heavy or light bats.
Do Professional Players use Heavy or Light Bats?
The answer to that question is "both," though past players tend to have used heavier bats than do today's players. Baseball's "king of swat" Babe Ruth reportedly began his hitting career using a 54 ounce (1.5 kg) hickory bat, and is known to have used a 40oz bat in 1927 when he hit his 60 home runs.[1] Ty Cobb and Joe Di Maggio both played with 42oz bats and Rogers Hornsby used a 50oz piece of lumber. George Sisler, playing for the St. Louis Browns in the 1920's, made his bat heavier by hammering Victrola needles into the barrel of his bat.[2] In the 1950's Cincinnati Reds' Ted Kluszeski hammered tenpenny nails into his bat to make it heavier.

Other great hitters including Ted Williams, Rod Carew and Stan Musial used much lighter bats: 31-33oz.[1] Roger Maris used a 33oz bat to hit his 61 home runs in 1961. Many players have tried to make their bats lighter by drilling a hole in the barrel and filling it with cork. Detroit Tigers' Norm Cash admitted to using a corked bat in 1961 when he won the batting title with a .361 average (though he slumped to .243 the next year with the same corked bat).[2]

Kirkpatrick[3] reports that Roger Maris participated in a 1962 experiment in which he batted for distance with 5 different new bats whose weights varied from 33 to 47oz. He hit 5 long fly balls with each bat and the distances were measured and correlated to bat weight. The heavier bats, on average, resulted in further distance. However, Maris' preferred bat (which he used to break Babe Ruth's home run record) was the lightest of the set, even though it produced the shortest distance fly balls. Mark McGwire used a 35oz bat to hit his 70 home runs in 1998, and Barry Bonds used a 32oz bat to hit his 73 home runs in 2001. Most of today's major league players typically use 31-35oz bats.

Physicists have shown,[3,4] from a simple collision analysis, that the optimum bat weight is between 15 and 18oz. However, no professional batter uses a bat this light (in fact, you cannot make a wood bat this light). NCAA regulations[x] recently imposed a -3 rule (length in inches minus weigh in ounces cannot exceed 3) so that 34 inch bats must weigh 31oz. So far no such rule exists for Little League play, and -12 composite bats were introduced for the 2003 season. This brings us back to our original questions: which is better: heavier or lighter bats? So, what is the optimum bat weight, and what criteria influence this choice? Let's start by looking at the collision between ball and bat.

Ty Cobb and his 42oz bat
Collisions and the Conservation of Momentum
The impact between bat and ball is a collision between two objects, and in its simplest analysis the collision may be taken to occur in one-dimension. In reality most collisions between bat and ball (especially the ones I am able to make) are glancing collisions which require a two-dimensional analysis. It turns out, in fact, that a glancing blow is necessary to impart spin to the ball which allows it to travel farther.[5] Maybe I'll write about this more interesting, but more difficult problem later, but for right now I'll keep things simple and look at the collision in one-dimension only. The ball, m1, and bat, m2, both have initial velocities before the collision (subscript "b"), with the ball's velocity being negative. After the collision (subscript "a") both bat and ball have positive velocities. The before and after velocities and the masses of bat and ball may be related to each other through the physical relationship known as the conservation of linear momentum. Linear momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object, p=mv. If the net force acting on a system of objects is zero then the total momentum of the system is constant. While the bat and ball are in contact the player is exerting a force on the bat; the force needed to swing the bat. So, in a completely correct analysis, momentum is not constant because of this force exerted by the player swinging the bat. However, the force on the bat by the player is very much smaller than the forces between bat and ball during the collision, and the contact time between ball and bat is very short (less than 1 millisecond). This allows us to ignore the force on the bat by the player during the collision between ball and bat without significantly affecting our results. If we ignore the force by the player on the bat, we can express the conservation of linear momentum by setting the total momentum before the collision equal to the total momentum after the collision.

m1v1b + m2v2b = m1v1a + m2v2a

Usually when a student encounters the conservation of momentum in a physics course the masses of both objects are given, along with the initial velocities before the collision. A typical homework or quiz question would be to determine the final velocities of the two objects after the collision. When one is searching for two unknown quantities one must have two equations. So, we need more than just the conservation of momentum. For our student in a physics course this second equation is usually the conservation of energy. The conservation of energy relates the change in kinetic energy (associated with motion), the change in potential energy (associated with springs and position), and any work done by nonconservative forces (like friction) which act on the system. The change in kinetic energy includes information about the velocities of the ball and bat before and after the collision. During the collision the ball undergoes a significant amount of compression, and damping forces convert much of the ball's initial kinetic energy into heat. The change in potential energy and work done by friction describe how much of the initial energy is lost during compression of the bat and ball. The manner in which these energies are related during the bat-ball collision is rather complicated. However, the effective relationship between the elastic properties of the ball and the relative velocities of bat and ball may be summarized in terms of the coefficient of restitution, (e)

The coefficient of restitution of a baseball or softball decreases with increasing incoming ball speed (v1b). Modern baseballs are manufactured to have a coefficient of restitution of 0.55 for a 90mph pitch speed, while softballs are manufactured to have e=0.44 for pitch speeds of 60 mph. Assuming a constant pitch speed, we can combine two equations above and do a little algebra to solve for the velocity of the baseball after the collision:

This equation tells us how the batted ball velocity (v1a)depends on the mass of the ball (m1) and bat (m2), the elasticity of the ball (e), the pitched ball speed (v1b) and the bat swing speed (v2b). The properties of the ball may be treated as constants since they don't change during a turn at bat. The hitter has no control over the pitched ball speed, and while it may vary considerably from pitch to pitch we'll assume that it is a constant. The only two remaining variables which determine the final velocity of the ball are the mass of the bat, m2 and the initial speed of the bat, v2b. If we know these two parameters, we can predict the batted ball speed. As we will see, however, the problem is complicated somewhat by the fact that the speed with which a player can swing a bat depends on the weight of the bat.
Bat Weight and Batted Ball Velocity
To see the effects of bat weight and bat speed, here is a summary of an experiment[6] in which the ball mass, pitch speed, and bat swing speed were all kept constant. Only the bat mass was changed. The data shows that a heavier bat produces a faster batted ball speed. This makes intuitive sense since a heavier bat brings more momentum into the collision. Doubling the mass of the bat results in an increase of almost 12mph. So, using a heavier bat should result in faster hit balls, which means the hit ball will travel farther. If a player can maintain the same bat swing speed with a heavier bat, the heavier bat will produce higher batted ball velocity and an increase in distance.

But, any player who has experimented swinging bats with widely different weights knows that it is easier to swing a light bat than a heavier bat. Put another way, it takes more effort to swing a heavy bat with the same speed as it does a lighter bat, and most players cannot swing a heavy bat as quickly as they can a bat which is half the weight. So, we need to see how the batted ball speed depends on bat swing speed.

Bat Weight Batted Ball Velocity
20oz (0.57kg) 68.5mph (30.6m/s)
25oz (0.71kg) 73.0mph (32.6m/s)
30oz (0.85kg) 76.2mph (34.0m/s)
35oz (0.99kg) 78.6mph (35.1m/s)
40oz (1.14kg) 80.4mph (35.9m/s)
Bat Swing Speed and Batted Ball Velocity
Here's the data for a similar experiment,[6] only this time the bat swing speed is changed while the the ball mass, pitch speed, and bat mass (30oz) were all kept constant. The data shows that a faster bat swing produces a faster batted ball speed. Doubling the swing speed of the bat results in an increase of almost 22mph. So, it would seem that swinging the same bat faster is more beneficial than swinging a heavier bat at a the same speed. Ideally, the best result would be to swing a heavier bat faster. But, as I already stated, it is harder to swing a heavier bat with the same speed, let alone swing a heavier bat faster.

So, it looks like we have two different effects (increasing bat weight and increasing bat swing speed) which both result in faster batted ball speeds. However, it does not seem possible to get both effects at the same time. In fact, increasing bat weight might decrease bat swing speed. So, we need to see how these two parameters are related before we can answer the question "what is the final batted ball speed?"

Bat Swing Speed Batted Ball Velocity
20.5mph (9.2m/s) 62.0mph (27.7m/s)
27.3mph (12.1m/s) 68.8mph (30.7m/s)
34.3mph (15.3m/s) 76.2mph (34.0m/s)
41.0mph (18.3m/s) 83.8mph (37.4m/s)
47.9mph (21.4m/s) 91.4mph (40.8m/s)
Bat Weight, Swing Speed, and Batted Ball Velocity
Anyone who has swung a bat knows that it is easier to swing a lighter bat than it is to swing a heavier bat. More importantly, it is possible to swing a lighter bat faster than a heavier bat. Exactly how the bat swing speed is related to bat weight for a given player is a little harder to determine. Terry Bahill[2,7,8] and his colleague have extensively studied the relationship between bat swing speeds and bat weights for a wide variety of players. Bahill developed the Bat ChooserTM machine to measure bat swing speed, and uses the results to determine the Ideal Bat WeightTM for an individual player. This device has been successfully used by numerous players who have greatly increased their batting averages after correctly choosing an appropriate weight bat, as well as by several college teams who have gone on to win championships after finding their correct bat weights. His data shows definitively that players cannot swing heavy bats as quickly as they can lighter bats, and the details vary somewhat from player to player and vary more considerably depending on the technical playing ability of the individual. For example, using results from his published work[7,8] measurements of the bat speed a function of bat weight for a Major League power hitter as may be fit by the straight line equation

v2b= - 0.42 m2 + 75 (power hitter)

where speed is in mph and weight is in ounces. In contrast, measurements for a 10 year old Little League player were better fit by a hyperbola

(m2 + 28)(v2b+12.8) = 2728. (little leaguer)

Let's assume that the mass of the baseball is a constant m1=5.125oz, the coefficient of restitution is e=0.55, and that the initial velocity of the baseball is representative of a typical pitch speed, (v1b=-90mph for the Major League player and v1b=-40mph for the Little League player). Then we can substitute either of the equations for bat speed into the equation for batted ball speed and make some plots like those shown by Bahill in his papers[2,7] and book[8]. The blue dots with error bars represent measurements of bat swing speed for various bat weights. The blue curve in each plot shows how the bat swing speed decreases with increasing bat weight according to the equations above. The red curve in each plot shows how the resulting batted ball velocity depends on both the bat weight and the bat swing speed. Notice that the curves are very different for the Major League power hitter and the Little League. The professional has much more control over his bat swing speed, and can produce much greater final ball speed.

Both plots show that the batted ball velocity initially increases as the bat weight increases until the bat swing speed drops below a certain level after which the batted velocity begins to decrease again. This results in an "optimum" bat weight for each player, indicated by the black arrows in the plots. This optimum bat weight is the bat weight which will result in the fasted batted ball velocity for each player. The optimum bat weight for the professional power hitter is about 41oz, and about 16oz for the Little Leaguer.

Perhaps a pertinent question is why a major league power hitter would choose to use a lighter bat (say 32oz) when an optimal 41oz bat would produce a higher batted ball velocity? Two possibilities come to mind. First, the fact that you can swing a lighter bat faster means that you can wait just a little bit longer before committing to a swing. For a professional, the ability to wait even 1/10th of a second longer to watch a pitched ball can result in a considerable improvement in the chance of making contact. Secondly, most hitters can control a lighter bat more effectively than they can a heavier bat. Bat control affects the location of the bat as it crosses the plate, and more control over bat location is definitely a good thing when the pitched ball crosses the plate considerable variation in height or distance from the batter. Notice further, from the plot for the major league power hitter, that for bat weights in the range of 35oz to 45oz there is very minor change in the batted ball velocity. Using a 33oz bat instead of a 41oz bat will only very slightly reduce the batted ball velocity, but it will have a significant affect on the bat swing speed and the resulting swing time. Based on such a trade-off between ball speed and bat control, Bahill has defined the Ideal Bat WeightTM as the weight at which the batted ball speed drops 1% below the speed of the optimum batted ball speed bat weight. As shown in the plot, the Ideal Bat Weight for the power hitter is about 32-33oz. This is right in the weight range used by most professional players.

The results for the Little League player are quite different. The optimum bat weight, for maximum batted ball speed, is about 16oz, and the Ideal Bat Weight is about 12-13oz. As was shown in the table at the top of this page, most available 30-inch wood and aluminum Little League bats weigh between 20 and 26oz, which is well above both the optimum and ideal weights for this player. From the plot we can see that if this player used a 23oz bat he would have a much lower bat swing speed and a significantly lower batted ball velocity. Most young players are forced to use bats which are heavier than the ideal bat weight because light enough bats are not available. Only this year (2003) have composite bats become available that begin to approach 16oz for a 30-inch bat.
Rules of Thumb for Recommended Bat Weights
The plots above were obtained by using the Bat ChooserTM machine to determine the Ideal Bat WeightTM for a specific player. The data proves the point that bat weight affects both swing speed and batted ball velocity. But, how does an amateur player, without access to this machine, estimate his/her optimum (or ideal) bat weight in order to get the best batted ball speed and still maintain control over the bat? Using the results of a large database of measurements* from the Bat Chooser instrument, Bahill and his colleagues have come up with up set of basic rules of thumb which can help any player estimate the recommended bat weight he or she should be using in order to obtain the highest performance possible. If you want more detailed rules, or information about how Bahill and his colleagues arrived at these rules of thumb I would strongly recommend reading his book.[8] (Note: For calculating bat weight from the formulas in the table, use height in inches, weight in pounds and age in years.)
Player Recommended Bat Weight (oz)
Major League Baseball Height/3 + 7
Amateur Baseball Height/3 + 6
Fast Pitch Softball Height/7 + 20
Slow Pitch Softball Weight/115 + 24
Junior League Baseball (13-17 yrs) Height/3 + 1
Little League Baseball (11-12 yrs) Weight/18 + 16
Little League Baseball (9-10 yrs) Height/3 + 4
Little League Baseball (7-8 yrs) Age*2 + 4