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Hitting - Bats
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Hitting - Bats

QAdjusting to -3

This season in major bantam [ED: 13-14 y.o.] there have been no limits on the type of bat dimensions that can be used. Next year, however, in minor midget there is the -3 bat rule meaning that the bat may not be more than 3 ounces lighter than its inches in length. I currently use a bat that is -8 32/24. How will I be able to make this adjustment easier come the start of next season?

AStart now. The -5 difference is more than just about the weight you have to swing (a 20% difference) but about strengthening the wrists and forearms and shoulders, etc. It's also about generating momentum, and getting the timing down at contact point, load position, etc. You need lots of swings off tees and against machines over the winter - perhaps graduating though -5 weight to get to -3. There's no easy answer.

QAluminum Bats

I've been reading a lot of horror stories about the new aluminum alloy bats. (For example, reaction of the average pitcher is .4 sec., ball arrives off the new alloy bat at .3 sec., etc.). I coach an 11-12 year old team & wonder how concerned I should be...what are the brand names of the bats concerned? I have discussed this with some of the parents on my team and I would like to give them accurate information.

ACheck out Dick Mills site for more on alloy's dangers. Also there have been some recent debates and decisions (or attempted decisions) on the new alloys at the NCAA level, based on exit speed. Here's a quote from one of their press releases...

"According to the Baseball Rules Committee, the changes are designed to make metal bats perform more like wood bats. Under the new rules, the maximum batted-ball velocity of 93 miles per hour, plus one mile per hour deviation for test variance, would be required for all bats used in NCAA contests. In addition, the maximum allowable diameter was decreased from 2 3/4 inches to 2 5/8 inches and the length-to-weight unit differential was reduced from five to three, without the grip (a 34-inch-long bat can weigh no less than 31 ounces without the grip). Manufacturers will be required to submit their bats for certification to an independent testing group to measure the batted-ball exit velocity of a moving ball that is hit by a moving bat. The independent testing group will conduct compliance tests for the NCAA on each bat model purchased at random."

Still at issue is the final implementation date. The change to a 3-difference and 1/8 diameter reduction both happened in the 99 college season but there are still metal bats with an exit speed of 113 mph - well over the max off a wood bat.

QBat Buying

Can you tell me some things I should look for when purchasing a bat?

AGrip and balance are the key - as much as weight or length. (We do have a bat-weight guide on WebBall)
For balance - you want a bat that seems easy to get moving (with some good hip-trunk rotation) and then feels like the bat takes over - momentum through the hitting zone.

QBat Distance

What kind of bat is better to hit the ball further with, metal or wood?

AMetal goes farther, no question. But if YOU want to go farther - as a baseball player - you will sooner or later need to handle wood! Play your regular metal bat league in the Spring (Summer?) but look for a wood bat league in your area to get into - maybe in the Fall. Also, of course, with the rules changes being imposed on metal bats (exit speed), the performance difference will be less obvious than it has been.

QBat Length

I'm trying to pick the right bat for my son. I found a chart for weight but not length.

ALength is sometimes regulated by leagues. Generally it's less an issue for the batter than weight. A shorter bat will put the ideal weight in a tighter arc for control, a longer bat should (at the same weight) provide more bat-head speed - all other factors being equal. Any length is fine as long as you're positioned properly with the plate. Don't try to tap the far side of the plate with your bat. Just find a comfortable upright stance in which your bathead when dropped down can reach the near edge of the plate. With proper extension you'll have good plate coverage.

QBat Too Big?

Help! First you guys have a great site. Best I've have found. Every parent needs to see this site. I just purchased a new bat for my son. His age 10.5, just moving into Bronco. He's about 75lbs, 4'9", we were sold on a 30", 20oz bat. Reading your bat chart tells me I've made a mistake. He handles the bat well, but is a little late. Should I have purchased a lighter bat or should I just work on his mechanics. The bat isn't too heavy for him, I tried the hold the bat out technique and he's fine with it. Please let me know the truth. Mistake or just more work?

AFirst, thanks, although praise isn't required before WebBall responds well, it never hurts. (Remember that for your players and kids this year, too, okay.)

There's no question that one key to correct a late swing is a lighter bat. His is about an ounce or two on the heavy side - according to the chart developed originally by Worth. Two ounces doesn't seem like much but is 10% extra weight.

How critical is 10% in baseball? Most runners are put out within 10% of the distance to first. 10% is the difference between a good fastball and a great fastball. 10% is much more than the distance by which most home runs clear the fences. So it matters.

He will grow into the bat. In the meantime let him practice with it but use a slightly lighter team bat in the games. That's part of the thinking behind the pyramid training system. So you could turn this to the good.

QBoning a Bat

How do you 'bone' a wooden bat? People tell me to 'bone' my bat so it won't break.

ASome players like to rub a new wood bat with a bone (though I'm not sure what kind to recommend) to harden it. I suppose this smooths the grain and gives it a polished apperance. As to how well it works as a hardening agent - no idea. While some MLB players do it, most do not (but then they can afford to break a few during the season). Hey, if nothing else, sitting on the end of the pine, working on your bat, makes you look like a slugger.

QChanging Bats

I've just returned from buying my son a wood bat for some summer wood bat tournaments he will be in. We got into a discussion about why aluminum bats lose their pop. I stated that wood is good because while they may break, they are consistent during their life span. My son disagreed, stating that the wood in a bat loosens, becomes less dense and hitting distance suffers. I told him I would contact you to determine why exactly a aluminum bat loses its pop and secondly does a wood bat lose its pop and why? PS: I realize this isn't the normal life and death question you normally get, but my son is 14 years old and seems to know everything about everything lately and I would love to prove him wrong.

AOkay, here goes, you can decide the issue of who's right or wrong. (This is not a purely engineering explanation but was helped by discussions with a former structural engineer who is now a wood bat maker.) Metal fatigue is the result of a loss of the tensile strength in the metal, usually due to an undetected flaw or hairline fracture that spreads. This failure is compounded by the fact metal bats are of thin-walled construction. Usually the higher the alloy the better, so in theory 555 bats should be better than 405 - except they started making them too thin (to be lighter), which amplified the effects of small imperfections. The newer alloys (Scandium) are better and the move back to -5 and -3 bats means the walls can be heavier, but manufacturing quality standards are still critical. And any misuse - causing dents or cracks - will sentence a bat to an early demise. The other thing that can happen is the cap can get loose. Wood bats on the other hand are solid, so withstand impacts better and are far more forgiving of small imperfections in the wood - to a point. The mass of wood is a benefit, but it has a grain. Wood withstands head-on impacts on the edge grain better which is why labels are put where they are. If done right the labels are always put on the weakest face - so always have label up or down, never towards the pitch. Also different woods perform differently - maple is denser - and heavier than ash - which is why maple bats are more likely cupped or lathed to a narrower profile. (Bats used to be other woods like hemlock.) When a wood bat does break, it is almost always a shear fracture along the length - perpendicular to the impact. Most common breaks are hits off the end - splitting down the length like an ax splitting a log. Or else contact happens on the much thinner handle area - less wood = less ability to compress = less ability to absorb impact, less impact resistance. (What's called sawing off the bat.)

QGrowing So Quickly

My son just turned nine in July, and is 4'10" tall and weighs 105 lbs and has a bat velocity of 58 mph using a 29" 17.5 oz. bat. He hits well and has pretty good power. My question is how do I keep him equipped with the right bat when kids grow so quickly? I'm never sure when or if to change length or weight or just stay where you're at. The other kids on his team that are his size are older and use much larger bats. That's always tempting but always seems to be a bad approach. Your guidelines on looking at bats (height and weight) I know are just guidelines but what do you look for when trying to get a match on bat to child?

AThis is an interesting question from a couple of points of view.

First, kids today start out with ridiculously light bats. By the time he gets to high school baseball he may have to be handling a bat that's 32" and 29 oz. That's only 3" longer than you mention now, but over 50% more weight. So instinct says he should swing a slightly shorter bat now, but not any lighter certainly.
There is NEVER a reason to go to a longer bat and no reason to go heavier until the leagues rule a -12 illegal (which personally I hope they do soon).

Why do I think the super light bats are wrong? Because any kid can swing them with little regard for proper balance, hip rotation, or reaction speed. Without proper training in these areas, when he does need to swing a real bat, he may not know how to get it around quickly.

Getting back to length - you want the hips and hands to wait and react quickly to the pitch, then get the barrel around to meet the ball, so length doesn't help anything unless you have a player who is too far from the plate - those extra inches may help him reach an outsiode pitch but seldom with any good effect.
I know this isn't a short, simple answer, but I do hope it gives you a good perspective on his needed progress in baseball during the next few years.

QHandle Size

I have been looking for a study on the best way to set the bat handle size for different hands. I need something to demonstrate power vs. control.

AThe grip size is mostly a matter of how well the handle seats itself in the curled fingers and how well the fingers then can lock as the bathead comes through into the zone.

True story - Tom Roberts (Tom Cat Bats, available thru WebBall) received an order from [an MLB player]. Tom showed me the bat that had been sent as a 'template' - many major leaguers have their own bat shapes that are modified from standard products. The handle of [this player's] bat had literally been whittled with a penknife - it was coarse and uneven in order to bring it down to the size and profile [he] wanted. I'm mot sure how much of the desired grip was a function of the (nominal) diameter of the whittle bat, or how much was a function of the imperfections of the whittling effort. (I know that a major leaguer can sense a 1/16 difference in handle diameter.)

On the other hand, because of their weaker grips and previous experience with metal, most youth players are more comfortable with a thicker handle at first. I'm not certain you can say that a certain diameter to finger length ratio generates max power or control for all cases. [If anyone does have scientific evidence, let's hear from them.]

QNo Regulations?

This is not the question as recieved, which was a long list of ways to get around the bat rules. I have chosen not to put ideas in people's heads. but it was basically...

If there were no regulations on bats...

AYou pose interesting questions. But let me put it another way. How willing are you to risk the life of a young pitcher by removing all regulations on bats?

There is a reason, youth baseball is moving away from the -10 bats, the nitogen filled chambers, the super alloys, etc. it's of course exit speed.

A pitcher from a short, say 50', mound who can throw mid-60s should not have to be faced with a ball coming back at him in 1/2 a second at 90 mph. And a pitcher from 60'6" throwing 90 should likewise not be expected to be able to get out of the way of a 120 mph ball which gets back to him in 1/3 of a second.
The new exit speed standard (93 mph for college?) is there for a reason - ask Jamie Moire of the Seattle Mariners (now out for the playoffs with a fractured knee cap from a 'practice' hit). Imagine if your proposed 'practice bats' were allowed by a coach against live pitching.

The beauty of baseball has been and always will be in the balance of offense and defense - the fact that a ball hit and thrown for a combined average of 240 feet (3rd to 1st or short to 1st, say) comes close to the 90 feet a runner can travel in that time.

I'm all for improving the power, speed and agility of the ballplayer - stronger arm versus stronger legs. But if a player wants to swing something lighter, let him choose something shorter. Bat performance should be based on generated bat speed, on the contact with the sweet spot, etc.

As for Tom Cat Bats, we are a conduit to the factory - we don't make them ourselves. And they can adjust the weight somewhat between -1 and -4 to suit a batter's preference for the barrel length, handle diameter, taper angle, amount of cupping, etc - hence the many different models. Plus they are made from hard maple which seems to have durability characteristics superior to northern white ash. There may also be performance improvements based on factors such as the resiliancy (whip action / bounce) of different woods, etc.

But as for bending or circumventing the rules, we are not interested.

QScouting Aluminium

I am a junior (H.S.) playing varsity baseball (centerfield /catcher). I hope to play ball in college. Of course, I want to impress any scout, but I'm afraid that using a wooden bat instead of the usual aluminium will hurt me when the scouts look at my batting average. I don't swing for the fences just base hits. Should I stick with the Wood or go with the aluminium?

AFirst, the big advantage in aluminum (or aluminium) is distance - actually 'pop' off the contact point. But it wouldn't help your batting average - that's up to your eyes and body reactions. If you have a good average it will be noticed. And I'm sure competent scouts tend to discount aluminum in their judgement of the player's ability. On the other hand, if you are using the wood bat as an excuse for a poor batting average, that doesn't wash. You can't blame the bat. You would NOT be hitting MORE balls with aluminum, just making those you do hit go FARTHER.

WebBall, by the way, is hoping to get more into the issues of college scouting - working with those who have done a lot in this area - watch for upcoming news.

QShoulder Pulling Out

Age 13, playing with 14/15 y.o., 2 problems. First, I always pull my shoulder out when I'm hitting, cannot make contact. Second, I can't seem to hit faster pitching (80+). I'm about 5'7" 145 lb and use a 32 in 29 oz bat but for the past few games I've used a 32 in 24 oz bat because our coach doesn't want us using -3.

AFirst, -3 may be a requirement in some leagues, if not, the 32/24 is ideal for your age/size. Now to the mechanics.

First thing I would do - at home - is cut a disk out of paper about the size of a baseball and stick it on a plate mirror about hip high. Then I would but the bat resting inside my elbows behind my back and using the disk as a ball coming into the zone simply work on turning my hips and lower body while keeping my upper body steady and my eyes locked on that disk. You can tell if your head is moving or not by looking past the disk in the mirror - same object should remain behind disk throughout the hip turn (no head movement). Do this 20 reps at a time, every day. After doing the hips only turn in (upper body steady) then do the second part - hip turn then upper body torque - still keeping your head and eyes locked on the target. Again, 20 reps at a time, every day.

After the 20-20 routine - every day for as long as it takes, work off the tee, first with bat in elbows - to repeat the home drill, then swinging the bat and hitting off the tee - again making sure the hips go first, then the upper body, with the head locked on the ball. About a week or two of this minimum should get the "muscle memory" dialed in. The other thing you might try - at the same time - is adjusting your stride, Start with your lead foot out a bit and step in on the stride - this will force the shoulder in.

QWeight & Balance

I have a ninth grader who will have difficulty with properly swinging a -3 bat. Do you know of any bat manufacturer that distributes the weight of their bats so that the bat would be easier to handle for a smaller high school player.

AI assume you are talking about metal bats (these days WebBall is more involved with wood bat makers, but the -3 principle is the same.).

The change to -3 (weight 3 ounces less than bat length) has surprised a lot of players and their coaches who have been used to -8 or -10. The -3 can be compensated for in a number of ways.

First go with a shorter bat - now that weight is standardized, each inch less length is an ounce less weight.
The other possibility is that he may be having trouble with the weight out towards the end of the bat - which is not a problem holding the bat (same weight after all) but has a dramatic change when swinging. If that is the case I would look for a bat - not by brand but by shape - short, standard 2-1/4 barrel diameter, but with a longer barrel (in other words the taper to the handle is closer to the hands. For this bat to still be a -3 then there has to be less weight out at the bat head.

However, understand what you are giving up as well - with less weight at the barrel head, there is more control but less torque through the swing arc - so good contact, and perhaps quicker swing, but also less momentum through the strike zone. (All things considered I would favor batspeed over momentum anyway.)

The other factor is that by grade 9 (age 13-14?) he can probably begin some weight training - as long as it is over the full range of arm motion. For effective hitting I would work on leg speed and agility as much as arms and chest. Whatever he does, do not get into weight lifting for bulging biceps - you want muscles to build over the entire range - and you need to balance both sets of opposing muscles (for instance quads and hamstrings, biceps and triceps).

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