A baseball bat is one of the most important pieces of equipment in baseball – after all, it’s the offensive power tool of the game.
The best sluggers in the game are serious about their bats as it is a crucial factor to their batting success and overall batting average.
Hitters have different preferences, styles, and regulations they need to follow when it comes to choosing a baseball bat.
Fortunately, there are a LOT of different types of baseball bats on the market for players (and coaches) – but, it can get very confusing, very quickly.
Sizes, regulations, types, construction, and everything in between can make a seemingly simple topic, super complex to understand.
That’s why we’ve developed the ‘Bat-Quadrant’ – to help you not only understand all the different types of baseball bats on the market but identify what bats you need – why you need them and when they’re best used.
Identifying The Different Types of Baseball Bats
The Bat-Quadrant is a simple way to identify each type of baseball bat, when it’s needed, why, and who it’s best suited for. There are 4 ‘umbrella’ terms with each one consisting of subcategories for each type of bat.
The four corners of the Bat-Quadrant are:
- Competition Bats
- Training Bats
The first two; competition and training, refer to bats that are either used to ‘play’ with (competition) or train with (training). While competition bats can be used in training, when we refer to training bats, we are more specifically talking about bats designed to help with skill development.
The second two, adult and youth are about going deeper into each category and take things such as size, weight, overall construction, and regulations into consideration.
Finally, it’s well worth noting that a lot of brands and companies combine 2 or more of these baseball types into one bat.
Types of Baseball Bats: Competition
Let’s start with competition bats. In total there are 10 types of baseball bats in this quadrant.
One-Piece vs Two-Piece Baseball Bats
Structure-wise, bats can be constructed using one or two pieces. 1-piece bats have the same material running from the barrel to the handle, which makes for a stronger and more rigid bat.
2-piece bats consist of a separate handle that is fused to the barrel, which provides greater ‘flex’ when the ball hits the barrel, with less vibration in the handle.
Wood Bats: Maple vs Ash vs Birch vs Bamboo
The standard and classic bat used in major and minor baseball leagues around the world is made of wood. While bats made of other materials have been introduced over time, professional leagues continue to stand by using traditional wood bats.
Wood bats can be made out of different types of wood, namely:
Out of these, bats made of bamboo are the strongest, with maple ranking second to it. Birch is also comparable to maple in terms of strength, but it is less dense than maple. Ash is a bit softer and hence more flexible than maple and less dense, being similar to birch with respect to weight.
This is why ash has traditionally been the wood of choice for baseball bats. Historically, bats made of ash wood have been quite popular in professional leagues.
leagues In terms of maple bats, according to Slugger, more than 70% of major league players opt for maple wood bats when they line up to swing.
The company Louisville Slugger used to exclusively make bats from white ash wood for the MLB. However, most professional leagues have now switched over to maple as their wood of choice for bats as they are stiffer, which actually causes them to break more often.
Power hitters especially often prefer maple wood bats as it allows them to apply as much force as they can when hitting the ball due to the rigidity and stiffness of the bat.
Aluminium or Alloy Bats
Aluminum bats are lighter and more durable compared to wood bats of the same size. As such, they are easier to swing, which is suitable for younger players learning to hit.
Given this, aluminum is the most common material used for baseball bats in little league, high school and college baseball leagues.
Some alloy bats are made of a mix of aluminum and other metals to make it stronger. When the ball strikes an aluminum bat, the ball tends to pop off the bat at a higher speed, which is an exchange for the lower strength and accuracy that kids and youth players have.
Composite Baseball Bats
Composite bats are even lighter than aluminium bats as they are composed of a mixture of graphite, plastic and occasionally titanium.
Like aluminum bats, composite bats are therefore ideal for younger players and children. Because of their materials, composite bats tend to be more expensive than aluminum bats.
Despite this, composite bats are typically less durable than aluminum bats, particularly in the thin region between the barrel and the handle.
Hybrid bats are designed using different materials in different parts of the bat.
The handle and spine are typically made of aluminum, while the barrel is composed of composite materials such as graphite, plastic and titanium.
They combine the best aspects of both aluminum and composite bats. As such, hybrid bats are highly durable (like composite bats) but still somewhat expensive due to the composite materials used.
Their use is generally prohibited in most adult and professional leagues.
Adult vs Youth Bats
And while we’re on the topic of adults…
Competition bats can be further categorized into two more subsections; adult and youth. The main differences to note here are:
- And league regulations
Adult Baseball Bats: BBCOR vs BESR vs BESR-ABI
When it comes to baseball bats, adult players are defined as players over the age of 13 years old.
Depending on the league players compete in they’ll have to ensure their baseball bats adhere to the rules and regulations of each different league.
BBCOR Baseball Bats
BBCOR or the ‘Bat-ball coefficient of restitution’ is a performance standard created by the NCAA which gives certification to composite and aluminum bats.
The certification is given to bats to ensure that they meet certain requirements and work in a similar way to wooden bats in order to maintain high levels of safety and a degree of fairness across the board. BBCOR bats tend to be used at high school, college, and adult levels.
BESR Baseball Bats
BESR stands for ‘Ball Exit Speed Ratio’ and is a rule that used to be widely used to standardize adult baseball bats.
Essentially BESR ensures that composite or aluminum bats have the same ball exit speed ratio as a high-performance wood bat with the same dimensions.
BESR-ABI Baseball Bats
Accelerated Break-In or ABI as it is abbreviated, is a means of testing baseball bats. The test is for composite bats once they have been broken in to ensure that they are safe for play.
Bats that pass the ABI test are given a waiver allowing them to be used competitively.
Youth Baseball Bats
In general, youth baseball bats are lighter and smaller in size to accommodate the strength and developmental inefficiencies younger players have.
Big Barrel Bats
Big Barrel bats are aimed at younger players usually ages around 13 – 15 years old.
The bat is pretty self-explanatory – they have big barrels which offers a bigger surface area for kids to make contact with the ball.
The usual diameter of a big barrel bat is 2.75 inches.
Usually, a T-ball bat will be a child’s first serious baseball bat. They’re designed for kids aged six years and below and they’re designed specifically for t-ball practice.
They’re not intended for use against live pitches. T-ball bats have a barrel diameter of two-inches and they’re lightweight.
Fungo bats are awesome training aids as they’re long and lightweight and allow coaches to hit consistent balls that replicate real-game hits to prepare their players for a match or create a great training session.
Fungo bats can be used for a long time and because they’re light, you won’t get as tired as when using a standard bat.
A One-Hand bat is a training bat designed to improve your hitting stroke. One-handed training drills have proven to be very effective in developing a powerful swing.
Using a compact bat encourages a player’s hand to follow a natural swing trajectory and improve output when transferring back to a full size, two-handed bat.
A Short Trainer is a type of baseball bat that has been developed to improve posture and control when swinging.
They are short in length and have a decent weight to them allowing players to get a really positive feel for the physical mechanics of a correct swing.
Weighted Baseball Bats
The idea behind the weighted bat is to increase strength.
Swinging with a weighted bat will encourage muscle development in the forearms, biceps, triceps and shoulders and will actively encourage a stronger grip.
The Soft Toss (or ‘Hand Eye’) bats are baseball bats designed with a more narrow barrel.
Well, the benefits of this are to help with hand-eye coordination and control. Something super-important for younger players.
Flat bats are wooden bats that have been shaped specifically to provide the hitter with instant feedback on their swing.
Flat bats aren’t tapered in the way that normal wooden bats are. In fact, they have been shaped more like a paddle to promote a smooth swing and prevent the bat turning in your hands when being gripped.
Bunt bats have a significantly smaller sweet spot than regular bats. This is because they are used to improve a player’s ability to bunt the ball at the plate.
A smaller sweet spot encourages good accuracy when bunting so when a player transfers to a standard issue bat in a match, their bunting will be on-point.
Swing trainers are specially designed as a dynamic training aid.
They tend to be lightweight and easily set up to develop swing technique, power and accuracy.
They’re great for training at home and warming up before a game.
Anatomy of Baseball Bats
A typical bat has three main components:
- The ‘barrel’, which is the thickest part of the bat that makes contact with the ball,
- A ‘handle’ located at the bottom of the barrel,
- And the ‘knob’ which is a wider piece at the base of the bat that prevents slipping of the bat from a hitter’s hands.
The barrel determines the flexibility or ‘flex’ of the bat. Some players prefer greater flexibility while others prefer a more rigid barrel so they can exert full force when striking the ball.
The barrel has a designated ‘sweet spot’ which is about 5 – 7 inches from the handle that helps determine how fast and far the ball will travel after contact. The sweet spot varies based on the bat’s material and design.
While there are several different types of bats out there, the MLB only allows for the use of wood bats.
Bats made of ash wood have historically and most popularly been used by MLB players, although maple has come to be favored by some players in the recent past because some feel it provides harder and more impactful strikes.
Bats made of birchwood and beechwood are also acceptable, with the latter having been recently approved by the MLB.
In addition, there are specific regulations with respect to the size of the bat. According to the Official Rules of Major League Baseball, section 1, 1.10. (a):
“The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood. – Sep 9, 2019”.
Compared to wood bats however, aluminum bats typically hit the farthest. This is because aluminum bats are easier to swing due to their lightweight aluminum construction, as well as a balance point (i.e. centre of mass) that is closer to the handle which allows for greater flexibility.
In addition, aluminum bats have a larger ‘sweet spot’, making it easier to hit the baseball.
Types of Baseball Bats: Bat Brands on The Market
There are a number of different brands of baseball brands in the market. Some MLB players have some specific preferences while others do not. Some of the most popular brands include Louisville Slugger, Easton, Marucci, Old Hickory, Sam Bat, Rawlings, Tucci, DiMARINI and Mizuno.
Below is a summary of some of these brands
The Marucci Bat Company (of Marucci Sports) has quickly built a strong reputation in the bat industry. Its bats are amongst the most commonly used bats by MLB players, often competing with Louisville Slugger, with reports that it has even surpassed it for top spot, with 28% of all players using Marucci bats now.
Marucci’s bats are made with high grade maple from naturally grown trees in Pennsylvania. The bats are made extra hard through a ‘boning’ technique that involves compressing the wood to close its pores before sealing.
Louisville Slugger is the official bat brand of the MLB, with approximately 20% of all players using Louisville Sluggers currently. It has a long history, dating back over 130 years, and was founded on the discovery of quality wood from Louisville,
Kentucky over 200 years ago. Professional leagues use ‘MLB grade wood’ for their bats, which rates as the top 3% of Louisville Slugger’s woods. The wood provides an extremely hard and rigid hitting surface, producing the hardest hits.
The company uses high grade wood and prides itself on crafting custom bats that are only made once an order is placed. An increasing number of MLB players have adopted Old Hickory bats for their play so you will likely see them out on the field more and more.
A well-constructed bat is critical to the game of baseball. There are several factors to consider when choosing a bat that is right for your style of game and hitting goals.
Hard, dense bats are heavier but provide a rigid hitting surface that allows for powerful strikes. These bats are typically made of wood. On the other hand, bats made of aluminum are lighter (making them ideal for younger players) and offer more flexibility and higher speeds.
The MLB only allows the use of wood bats, with ash and maple wood bats being the most popular. Whatever your bat choice may be, use it to fine-tune your skills to hit that ball out of the park!
Finally it’s also worth mentioning that if you’re buying a bat for your youth player, usually a bat bag is something that is not only recommended but needed to stay organized and ready for the season. You can check out more about batpacks and other bat bags here.
What types of baseball bats have you used?
Let us know!