Each player has his own feelings about the bat that performs best for his game. Each X BAT can be ordered in a length and weight commensurate with each player's size, weight, age and strength. We frequently get asked how to choose the right wood bat for players switching over from aluminum. Aluminum bats have been designed to be easy to hit with. They are weighted with the majority of the weight in the handle so they feel light for the mere 3 sizes and one shape they come in. Wood bats are made of a natural material so the weight is where the wood is, at the end. A player who swings a 33 inch 30 ounce aluminum bat usually finds a 33 inch 30 ounce wood bat much heavier. The closer a weight is to your body the more manageable it is to hit with. Pick up a wood bat and swing it. Now hold it by the barrel end and swing it again. It feels much lighter, right? Same length, same weight, same bat but it "feels" lighter to swing because the weight is closer to you.
To get the right feel for the type of hitter you are there are factors such as handle shape, handle thickness, knob shape, barrel shape and balance that can be adjusted to find the right combination for each player. Players first switching from aluminum usually want a better balanced bat. For these players we have designed the Model 73 to have the best balance, the extra weight acting as a counter balance to the weight at the barrel end of the bat. This has been our most popular model for this reason. Other bats with good balance are the Model 27 and Model 11 followed by the Model 15, 16, 16T, 16VT, 20, 35, 53 and 72. The JR42 has the best balance of all by far but it is an "old school" bat with a very thick handle. The wood is like iron on a JR42 because it feels light even at an even weight. Other players who have been swinging wood for a while like an end loaded bat, that is, they want to feel the weight at the end of the bat so they can generate more power. These players select the Model XX, 13, 17, 23, 24, 25, 45 or 98. The Model 98 is similar to the shape of an aluminum bat. An aluminum bat has a large long barrel and a thin handle but since it the weight is in the handle it generates power and balance. This is not achievable with a wood bat. The Model 98 has a large long barrel so it is quite end heavy. It is an end loaded bat with a large hitting surface. Although it shares the same shape as an aluminum bat, it does not have the same feel or balance. Thin handled bats are the Model 2, 13, 14, 15, 24, 35, 53, 72 and 98. Thick handled bats are the Model JR42, 16VT, 16T, 16, 11T, 11 and 20. Small knob bats are the Model 13 and 27S.
Selecting what is right for you is an exercise in combining the shape that feels best in your hands with the balance that suits your swing and experience. This is part of the fun of swinging a wood bat. You can tailor the bat to your style of game and become a better hitter using wood to practice daily. Wood bats make your swing shorter, more direct to the ball and more efficient. The sweet spot is smaller and the accuracy necessary to swing a wood bat is far greater than with aluminum. Swinging a wood bat will make you a better hitter with aluminum and teach you to play the game the way it was designed to be played.
When choosing the weight of the bat, many people ask what does -2 or -3 or even or +2 mean? The weight differential is the difference between the length and the weight. So a 34 inch bat with a -3 would weigh 34-3=31 ounces. A 33 inch bat with a +2 would weigh 33+2-35 ounces. Subtract or add the weight differential from the length and that will give you the weight in ounces.
From the middle to the end of the 20th Century, ash was the wood of choice for serious baseball players. It was strong, light enough to get a nice size barrel and still maintain a -2 to -4 weight differential. The woods used in the early part of the 20h century- maple, hickory, elm, chestnut were all too heavy for the speeds of modern pitching. With the advent of new hard wood drying equipment and techniques, maple became another hardwood which could be used in modern baseball bats for the first time in 50 years. It is our experience that upwards of 80% professional players swing maple now over ash. We have made more maple bats then any company over the last 6 years so we can speak from our experience with hundreds of professional and thousands of amateur players world wide. If you are reading this, you may wondering which wood is best suited for your game.
Maple is a much harder more dense wood than ash. The grain doesn't split with continued use while a top quality ash bat will break apart and split after a day or two of use by a professional ballplayer. Because maple is more dense, it compresses the ball more and it rebounds between 15-20% more than an ash bat. Maple is more resistant to breakage than ash by a factor of 3 to 1. It is a stronger wood which lasts longer and hits harder and farther than ash. It is most definitely the choice for power hitters. It is a better bat for BP and training because it is more durable than ash.
If maple is such a superior material why do some players still swing ash? There is a great variation in quality ash and quality maple. X Bats is the only company that proved the same quality maple to it's customers as it does for it's 240 Major League players. Other bat companies may provide a lesser quality maple than X Bats does but the quality of that wood still exceeds the junk ash that most companies make for the public and sell through large sporting goods stores. There is a greater difference between quality ash and junk ash than there is between the higher quality maple and lesser grades of maple. Ash is a much less expensive wood to produce for bats and many people think they are saving money by buying ash bats for under $30.00. In fact, 3 or 4 of those bats may last as long as one good maple bat so the savings is a fallacy. There are some players who just prefer the flexibility of ash to the stiffness of maple. To these players, the ash seems more forgiving and these players say they feel the ball better with ash. Once Major League center fielder told us that our wood is too hard for his game. He says he makes his living dumping the ball over the infielders before it gets to the outfielders. When he used X Bats' maple, his singles turned into fly ball outs. He isn't a power hitter and his ball just carried far enough with maple to turn his hits into outs. With ash, the carry was better suited to his style of play.
About 20% of the bats we make are ash. We suspect that some people are buying ash to save a few bucks. If the truth be told, they would save more money if they bought a maple bat. Some players really understand their game and specifically want ash for reasons based on what works best for them. They feel it flexes more during the swing and they get more whip with ash. Some like the barrel a little bigger and maple is just too heavy to allow barrels as large as ash bats. Others just say they have more feel at the plate with ash. We think ash will soon disappear from modern baseball as maple, elm, hickory and chestnut did at some point ion baseball history but for now we will accommodate players who want the best wood- be it ash or maple.
We are always discussing issues of bat weight vs. bat speed with our pro players and amateurs alike. Choosing the right bat is key to your performance and that means bat weight and handle thickness. Much research has been done on this subject by physicists. So many players now grew up with aluminum bats and the aluminum bat marketeers have indoctrinated hitters to think about nothing but bat speed and light weighted bats. We have seen a tremendous resurgence of wood bats in all levels of amateur baseball as well as softball and youth leagues. Over 80% of Major League players now swing maple for it's performance benefits. As maple is a heavier more dense wood than ash, it outperforms ash by as much as 20%. The heavier the maple bat the stronger and more dense the wood and the better it performs in exit velocity and distance.
We dug up some research done by physicists at UCLA with Reggie Smith, a 17 year Major Leaguer and professional batting coach (Dodgers, US Olympic team, Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and Team USA's Olympic Qualifying tam this summer as well as running the Reggie Smith Baseball Academy in Encino, CA where many pros train with to get the benefit of his expertise) regarding Newton's Second Law. We use this when talking to the pros about their bat selection.
Newton's Second Law
F (Force) = M (Mass) x A (Acceleration)
Example: If a player can swing a 35 oz. bat @ 90 MPH he exerts a force of 3,150 Oz./MPH.
To equal the same force (which gets applied to the ball), that same player would have to swing a 31 oz. bat @ 101.6 MPH, which is 13% faster.
Conversely: If a player swings a 31 oz. bat @ 90 MPH he generates 2,790 Oz./MPH of force.
To equal that same force, that same player would only have to swing a 35 oz. bat @ 79.7 MPH, or 11.4% slower.
While Newton probably couldn't hit a curve ball, there is no denying his Second Law when it comes to hitting the ball hard.
To optimize the bat weight for a given player, one could use a radar gun or strobe of some sort to measure the speed that the player could swing several different weight bats. Using M=FxA there will be an optimal weight/acceleration combination that results in the greatest force. Above this weight a heavier bat couldn't be swung fast enough. Below the optimal weight there wouldn't be enough mass to couple with whatever bat speed is generated.
Bottom line, swing the heaviest bat you can master even if it means sacrificing a little bat speed.
The most frequent call we get is from people trying to decide how to select a youth bats for their young player. Players are raised on aluminum bats and they may as well be trying to translate a golf club into a wood bat as an aluminum bat into a wood bat. Aluminum bats are so very different than wood bats. They are ridiculously light, in some cases as light as -12 (that means take the length of the bat and subtract 12 and you'll get the weight in ounces). They are balanced so the weight is in the hands so they are easy to swing. They have a huge sweet spot from the handle all the way to the end and they cost a small fortune. They lose their pop after a few months and players will be spending $250.+ to replace them at least once a season. Many players now want to train with wood to strengthen their hands, wrists, shorten and quicken their swing and sharpen their eye by hitting with a smaller sweet spot. The problem is choosing the right bat.
We make different youth bat models to accommodate the size, strength and experience of every young player. We make bats in different lengths from 24 inch to 31.5 inch with weight differentials from Even to -5 (again, take the length and subtract or add the weight differential and you'll get the weight of the bat in ounces). The Model 6 is for players who are young and/or on the smaller size. It is the lightest wood bat made due to our special process. It has a 7/8" handle and is made from 24"-26". The Model 8 is for players who want a very thin handle- this bat has a 7/8" handle. The Model 10 has a medium 15/16" handle and the Model 12 has a thicker 1" handle. The Model 98 has a long barrel for more hitting surface area but tends to feel a little heavy on the end because of the longer barrel. The Model 73 is our most balanced and our most popular bat model for youth players. All of these bats have barrels that are 2 1/4" in diameter and are legal for use in Little League.
For those players not quite ready to swing a 32 inch adult bat, we make a Model 98BB (for Big Barrel) and a Model 73BB which are made in 30-31.5 inch lengths and have weight differentials as light as -3. The barrels on these are 2 1/2" and are suited for players 12-14 who haven't graduated to adult bats yet.
For most players who are younger than 11, we suggest a bat that is 1 inch shorter than the aluminum bat they are currently swinging and as light as possible (a -5). For players who have swung wood before, using the same length as their current aluminum bat will work fine. For experienced youth wood bat players, a heavier weight than -5 may be helpful for training to build strength in their hands, wrists and forearms.
Get a bat you can use now and don't worry about growing into it. Although a wood bat may feel heavy to the player switching from aluminum, it will automatically teach the player a shorter and more direct path to the ball. The change in your player's hitting will soon become quite noticeable as he gets accustomed to swinging his wood bat.
We are available to handle any questions you may have on selecting the right youth bat for your player's size, ability and use.
If you have any further questions about which bat you should use, call us at 702-419-0404 and we'll be happy to help you choose.