Over the years, the construction of baseball bats has undergone numerous changes. Back in the day solid wood bats were the preferred choice of material for construction of baseball bats.
They were then replaced by aluminum which has since been replaced by composites. Wood bats are the only types of bats allowed in major leagues but other types of leagues including college baseball and softball leagues use a combination of aluminum and complex-fiber bats.
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Read my article “Are Composite Bats Better Than Aluminum Bats?” below for more information
- Composite Vs Aluminum Bats
- Statistics showing how Composite Bats Perform better than Aluminum Bats
- Further Analysis: Advantages of Composite Bats vs. Aluminum Bats?
- In Summary: Which Is Better?
Composite Vs Aluminum Bats
The history of aluminum bats dates back to the 1970s, when they were first introduced. At their introduction, these bats performed similarly and almost equally to wood bats. As time progressed, manufacturers adopted the concept of using advanced designs on aluminum bats thereby enabling them to outperform wood bats.
Composite bats were introduced around the mid-1980s. However, they disappeared soon after as their performance did not match that of aluminum bats. In addition to this, their lack of producing a “ping” sound also made them disappear from the scene within a short time after their introduction.
Complex-fiber bats re-entered the baseball and softball industry in the early 2000s. The construction of these bats involves the use of graphite-fiber materials and epoxy resin used for coating the bat. After their second re-entry into the industry, the bats have become quite popular and exhibited better performance and durability as compared to aluminum bats.
Aluminum bats are mostly made using pure aluminum or alloys of aluminum. These bats come with either single or double wall barrels. Bats with double wall barrels are known to have a larger sweet spot than those with a single wall barrel.
The materials used in the manufacture of complex-fiber bats are of a wide variety. Some of these bats are made from 100% composite material while others come with composite handles while the barrels are made using steel alloys or carbon as well as other materials.
There are also some bats that are made using both composite materials and wood. It is worth noting that the choice of the ideal material combination used in the manufacture of bats is purely a personal preference.
High-strength materials and bat design make aluminum bats lighter than wood thus enabling players to achieve greater swing speeds. Alternatively, thinner barrel walls enhance a trampoline effect thereby making it easy for batted balls to travel a greater distance. The safety of aluminum bats came under scrutiny after BBS (Batted Ball Speeds) started flying past the roof. In New York City, the use of these bats in all youth leagues has completely been banned.
Composite bats weigh less than aluminum bats and have been credited with enabling hitters to make perfect hits. This is because the bats have flexible handles, larger “sweet spots” and larger barrels. The bats attain top performance once the composite fibers loosen and consequently, they outperform aluminum bats.
Despite aluminum bats being quite durable and resistive to wear and tear, the bats tend to dent with time and therefore become less effective.
When used in weather below 65 degrees, composite bats perform dismally and have a poor breaking in. Additionally, aluminum bats can be used immediately while composite bats require 150-200 hits to reach optimal performance.
When it comes to the cost of baseball bats, it is important to focus more on the bat’s quality and its durability as opposed to other factors. Mostly, cheap price equals poor quality and low value. For instance, you can purchase a bat for $25 but due to your frequency of use, end up buying a new bat after every 2-3 months. This translates to 4-7 bats a year. This in turn costs you $100-$175 every year spent on bats alone. It is better to buy one classic bat for $200 and will last for 4-5 years without a need for replacement.
Composite bats cost a lot more than standard aluminum bats.The approximate cost of composite bats ranges $200-$400 while that of standard quality aluminum bats is about $100. You can also get a low-quality aluminum bat for $25. It is also worth noting that high-end aluminum bats with superior features can cost in excess of $400.
Statistics showing how Composite Bats Perform better than Aluminum Bats
When the performance of composite bats is compared to that of aluminum bats, composite bats outperform those made from aluminum bats. The first types of composite bats exhibit a unique performance that is quite similar to that of single-walled aluminum bats.
What is more unique about these bats (composite) is that they effectively compete with the best and high-end double-walled aluminum bats with speeds of 96-100mph (batted-ball speeds). High-performance complex fiber bats can produce incredible batted ball speeds of over 105mph.
Despite complex-fiber bats being high-end baseball bats with unique properties and features such as excellent performance and great durability, these bats require breaking in after me time. Aluminum bats are ready to use at all times and do not require a break in period.
What is more fascinating about complex-fiber bats is that they come with flexible handles as compared to those of aluminum bats.This allows for easy handling, better control, and accurate as well as powerful swings.
Further Analysis: Advantages of Composite Bats vs. Aluminum Bats?
The barrel size in aluminum bats is smaller compared to the size of the barrel in complex-fiber bats. This presents players using complex-fiber bats with an added advantage over those using aluminum bats. The performance of complex-fiber bats is noted to be hindered by cold weather as the polymers used in the making of these bats crack when subjected to temperatures lower than 65 degrees Celsius. Aluminum bats on the other hand are not affected by weather and temperature changes.
Trampoline effect tuning
A bat’s performance can be improved and adjusted by turning the barrel’s trampoline effect. During bat-ball collision, the barrel replicates itself like a spring and when very stiff, the ball compresses greatly after impact and loses considerable energy during compress and re-expansion. If the barrel is softer, there is less compression of the ball and less energy is lost during the collision.
In aluminum bats, the trampoline aspect is tuned by making the barrel’s walls thinner up to a point no further thinning can be done due to the likelihood of the bat breaking. It is necessary to note that thinning a bat’s walls alters the bat’s mass distribution thereby hindering its efficiency.
Composite bats have an added advantage over aluminum bats as they are anisotropic. This translates to the elastic qualities of composite materials not being similar in all directions.
This presents manufacturers with a possibility of making and designing bats with a projected and estimated performance and feel. The trampoline aspect in composite bats can be tuned by adjusting the barrel’s stiffness without interfering with the bat’s performance.
Swing weight easily controlled
Swing weight adjustment helps in increasing the efficiency and performance of the bat. However, the swing weight control method is more complex and harder to achieve than the trampoline effect tuning method. This is because in the swing weight control method, there are 2 main factors that seem to offset each other.
Firstly, If the player has well-built muscles, then it becomes easy for them to swing a bat at a faster speed. Alternatively, if the player maintains the same swing speed when using both heavy and light bats, then it becomes easier for the player to attain high swing speeds while using heavier bats.
Since composite bats are lighter than aluminum bats, it becomes easy to control swing weight in composite bats. This is because it is easier to control the mass around barrel end-handle in composite bats than in aluminum bats.
Damping of bending vibrations
The damping rates of vibrations in composite bats are noted to be twice as high in comparison to the vibrations produced by aluminum bats. The best thing about high damping rates is that they make vibrations die away quickly and hence the player will not feel the vibrations strongly like in bats with low damping rates.
Composite bats are comfortable to hold as they ensure that vibrations are quickly damped and hence the effect on the player’s hands is minimal. Alternatively, aluminum bats may become uncomfortable to hold in the hands due to low damping rates thereby implying that the effect of the vibrations on the player’s hands is quite intense.
No “ping” sound
Composite bats make a different sound from that of aluminum bats upon impact with the ball. Most players relate the sound made by the bat upon impact to the bat’s performance. Wood bats make a “crack” sound after impact with the ball while aluminum bats make a ping sound. This sound can be quite intense and loud as it is a 1-frequency sound.
Composite bats make a “pop” sound which is also a 1-frequency sound but not as loud as the “ping” sound in aluminum bats. This comes about as the higher damping in composite bats makes the single frequency sound to decay faster.
The perception about the sound produced by a bat and its performance does not hold water. This is because there is no association between these two aspects. In any case, the sooner the ball leaves the bat, the better and more efficient for the player.
Bending Stiffness easy to tune
Manufacturers of composite bats have the allowance and option of reducing the bending stiffness in composite bats without altering the other stiffness properties of the barrel. This ensures that the-the bat’s overall performance, ease of use and functionality remain unaffected.Therefore, it is possible to have a uniquely designed bat with a great feel and one that is easy to handle by altering the bending stiffness.
When playing as a constant hitter, it is important to get a bat that will enable you to gain good bat speed and will make it possible to consistently keep the ball in play. A composite bat is the best bat for constant hitters as it has a perfect weight distribution through the bat thereby allowing you to use the bat continuously without getting tired abnormally. These players require excellent precision during contact for them to be in a position to hit the ball farthest.
The greatest benefit that composite bats in comparison to aluminum bats are their extended barrel length. Since composite is lighter than aluminum, it can be stretched thus making it easy to have a longer barrel without adding onto the swing weight. This yields a larger sweet spot thus making it more accurate to hit the ball.
Which are the key features of Composite bats?
Composite baseball bats are popular for their high-end and characteristic features that set them apart from other types of bats. These features include:
Use of new technology
Composite bats are unique and outstanding in their quality due to the use of modern and technology in their design and consequent manufacture. This makes it possible for the bats to boast of amazing efficiencies and unrivaled performance thereby being a great choice for all baseball players.
The designs and shapes of these bats are unique thereby enabling the bats to possess outstanding traits like excellent durability and functionality with a very low likelihood of developing dents. In addition to this, the unique designs of the bats also make it easy to handle and control the bat while playing. It is also important to note that the classic designs of composite bats help players in achieving high speeds and incredible power when during swings.
Considerations to make when using composite bats
As much as composite bats are finely designed and durable, they need to be used appropriately and rightly for them to remain functional for a long time. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you rotate your bat when hitting a baseball with it. This enhances the bat’s lifespan and allows for an even break in. You should avoid hitting hard surfaces such as the ground with the bat as this is likely to cause weakness and dents in the bat thereby making the bat susceptible to breakages.
In Summary: Which Is Better?
Composite bats are great choices for all types of players: the experienced ones and those at the entry level. Players who are working towards developing and polishing their hand-eye coordination can greatly benefit from the use of these bats as they are lightweight and therefore easy to control. The ability to lower sting coupled with a larger sweet spot makes it possible for a player to boost their confidence at the pitch while using a composite bat to play.
The most fascinating aspect about composite bats is that even when damaged, they develop dents instead of cracks. This makes it easy to use the bat even when damaged as a dented bat can still function while a cracked bat is deemed useless.
When choosing the ultimate composite bat to use, you should put to consider factors like the size of the barrel, length and weight-length distribution. This makes it possible to get a perfect composite bat depending on your age and body size.