Perfect Wood Baseball Bat
Buying a new bat is exciting.
You can’t wait to try out your bat, to show everyone what you can do, especially if you got a great deal. You want to look great, to play great. But that’s the problem. What should you look for in a perfect wood baseball bat.
In this part 1 of a 2 part series, you will learn how the wrong bat will hurt your game. What is the difference between white ash and hard maple and yellow birch?
The wrong bat will hurt your game.
When it’s noticeable, your bat breaks in front of everyone, right after you bought it. A little embarrassing, but it happens, bats break.
When it isn’t noticeable, it creates subtle problems in your game – the ball never seems to go where you tell it to. You struggle to move the bat as fast or as smooth as you’d like to. Your good technique stops working as you struggle to swing the bat properly.
You're constantly hitting pop flies and foul balls.
This is the part where most players make a terrible decision. They train harder. But that’s a mistake. If you have a bat that’s too heavy, too long, too light, too whatever — and you train harder, you train defects into your game. Your procedural memory compensates for terrible equipment, and you play a little bit worse.
Who needs this buyer's guide?
This buyer’s guide isn’t for everyone. Odd as it may sound, some players don’t care about performance. Good enough is… well… good enough. If you’re okay with good enough, this guide isn’t for you. Now would be a good time to walk away.
So who is this for?
- Collegiate, semi-pro, and professional athletes pushing to become all-stars.
- Youth players who are passionate about the game and looking to improve their personal best.
- Parents, family members, and friends who want to help the players in their families grow.
- Players who want to look good, feel good, and end their games injury-free.
This guide is the perfect shopping companion for performance-oriented buyers.
Does that sound like you? Fantastic!
How to use this guide
Use this guide as a reference manual. Feel free to read the whole thing through in one sitting, skim around, or scan for the topics that matter to you.
We’ve included lots of pictures and plenty of mistakes to look for when you’re shopping.
We’ll cover that in the right amount of detail, so it’s a good idea to read through this if you can. Doing that means you’ll have everything you need to avoid buying the wrong bat.
You want the perfect bat, right?
Here’s what you look for. The perfect bat (for you) starts with a basic understanding of wood.
When wood bats are made, they’re usually made from…
Northern White Ash bats
Northern White Ash is what’s used most often. It’s usually grown in the Northeast, in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. This wood has been used for 100 years since the game of baseball began. It’s perfect because it’s so hard.
If your bat is made from Northern White Ash, it’s porous, flexible, and very hard. It has very distinct grain lines running from one end of the bat to the other.
When this bat makes contact with the ball, it gives or flexes a little. If you take a swing at the wrong pitch or swing at a pitch to protect yourself, this bat is forgiving. It’s less likely to break, and it’s able to stand up to more punishment.
Northern White Ash works well if you're...
Professional quality bats made from White Ash have straight grain lines, running from the knob of the bat, all the way to the barrel like this:
While poorer quality bats have grain lines that look like this:
The grains are important because it tells you a lot about the health of the tree; the healthier the tree, the better the bat. These grains or wood rings, they tell you a lot about the bat you’re looking to buy, if you know what to look for.
Pro players typically use bats with 12 grains per bat, max. Minor league players use bats that are more forgiving, so they’ll use a bat with 8 – 15 grains. Anything over 15 is usually reserved for collegiate athletes, which, as you can imagine, affects their performance!
The straighter the grain lines, the better. If you see a bat with sharp curves (18 inches+) in the grain, it’s a good idea to keep shopping. Bats with poor grain quality are far more likely to break.
As far as wood bats go, Maple is a newcomer, first used in major league baseball around 1996. Maple’s a hardwood just like Ash; it’s more dense than Ash, which means it’s more prone to breaking due to a lack of flex, but there’s an upside. That density means it doesn’t “give” or flex as Ash does, so all that energy is transferred back into the ball.
Players routinely talk about crushing the ball when they swing, adding an additional 10 – 15 feet to their hits. There’s a distinctive crack when you hit the ball, it’s loud.
With Maple bats, the grains (growth rings) are just as important. As a buyer, you want to look for…
- At least 24 inches of straight grain going up the bat
- A black dot 12 inches off the knob of the bat where you can see the fine grains and the angle of the slope.
Maple works well if you're...
The Ink Dot specification
A woman was seriously injured by Brett Lawrie’s broken bat. Injuries like these were common thanks in part, to Maple’s density. While there are several other factors that control quality, Maple’s density has been a concern for MLB officials.
The Ink Dot specification is their solution.
From July – September 2008, 2,232 bats broke during Major League games. These bats, including cracked bats that remained intact and bats that broke into multiple pieces, were collected and analyzed. Officials were searching for the cause of the problem.
And they found it.
What is "slope of grain," and why does it matter?
Ever heard the saying “always slice meat against the grain?” The reason they say that is because slicing meat with the grain makes it tougher, more difficult to chew.
In baseball, it’s the opposite. Turning bats from “split log” billets produces a bat that’s tougher, stronger, and far less likely to break prematurely. When you create a bat you want the grains to be straight and parallel with the bat, like this:
When you don’t have that , you end up with splits and breaks like this:
So in 2009, MLB officials created a 9 point plan1 to fix the breaking bat problem. When you see a baseball bat that looks like this…
You know it’s gone through a rigorous inspection process requiring the slope of grain on all bats to fall within 0 to 2 degrees. Anything over that, and it’s not approved for pro ball play.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break your bat, just that it’s far less likely to break because of manufacturing errors. And, if it does break, that it won’t break into multiple pieces.
As I’ve detailed in this Part 1 article, the science of wood baseball bats is important information for you to decide how your hitting will be successful.
In Part 2, we will complete this subject. We will talk about Yellow Birch bats and how this newer wood for baseball bats can improve your game.
The truth about “retail bats” and how they ruin your game and how to choose the right wood bat.
Click here to see our current custom models.
Until next time, bye.