How to Choose a Bat

New technology has drastically changed the way baseball and softball bats have been produced over the last decade or so. Bats are no longer made of just aluminum, but can also be made of composite, which is known for being a material that the ball jumps off of. There are also strict regulations on what bats can be used depending on the age level of the player. Buying a new baseball or softball bat can be overwhelming for some, but with the following information, we’ll help make the entire process simpler. With this guide, you’ll:

How to measure yourself for a bat

Although there are many different ways to measure for the best baseball bat length, the best way is to choose what you feel comfortable swinging. A general rule to follow is never go up more than an inch at a time. This makes it easier to adjust to your new bat without drastically changing your swing. If you’re new to the game or want to re-size yourself, follow the steps below to learn how to properly measure yourself:

  1. Measure from the center of your chest to the tips of your index finger, making sure to have your arm straight out to your side:
  2. Arm Measurement for Bats

    This measurement will tell you where you should be looking on the chart below:

    Weight/Height 3'5"- 3'8" 3'9" - 4' 4'1"- 4'4" 4'5"- 4'-8" 4'9"- 5' 5'1"- 5'-4" 5'5"- 5'-8" 5'9"- 6' 6'1"- Over'
    Under 60 lbs 27" 28" 29" 29"
    61 - 70 lbs 27" 28" 29" 30" 30"
    71 - 80 lbs 28" 28" 29" 30" 30" 31"
    81 - 90 lbs 28" 29" 29" 30" 30" 31"
    91 - 100 lbs 29" 29" 30" 30" 31" 31" 31"
    101 - 110 lbs 29" 29" 30" 30" 31" 31" 32"
    111 - 120 lbs 29" 29" 30" 30" 31" 31" 32"
    121 - 130 lbs 30" 30" 30" 31" 32" 32" 33"
    131 - 140 lbs 30" 30" 30" 31" 32" 32" 33" 33"
    141 - 150 lbs 30" 30" 31" 31" 32" 33" 33" 33"
    151 - 160 lbs 30" 31" 31" 31" 32" 33" 33" 34"
    161 - 170 lbs 31" 31" 32" 32" 33" 33" 34"
    171 - 180 lbs 31" 32" 32" 33" 34" 34"
    Over 180 lbs 33" 33" 34" 34"

    After you’ve selected the proper bat size to use by calculating all the numbers and referring to the bat length chart, there are some additional ways to determine whether or not it is the right size:

  3. Put the bat to your side and as long as your palm reaches the handle, you have the right sized bat. 
  4. Put the knob of the bat at the center of your chest with the bat facing outward - if you can reach your arm out and grab the barrel of the bat, it’s the right size.
  5. Softball Bat Arm Measurement

How to measure children for a bat

If you’re shopping for a bat for your kid, the process of measuring will be a little different. If your young player is between 3’ and 3’4”, start with a 26-inch bat and increase the bat size 1 inch for every 4-to-5 inches that they grow. The following steps are the ideal process for determining the correct bat size for children:

  1. Measure his/her height - be sure you measure with his/her baseball cleats on
  2. Compare him/her to the bat - stand a bat up next to your child. The bat should reach, but not exceed, your child’s hip. If it reaches past his/her hip area, it’s going to be too long to swing
  3. Weigh them - weight is a contributing factor to which bat he/she should swing because the little league bat size chart uses a combination of weight and height to determine the best bat choice
    • In general, children under 60 pounds should swing a bat between 26 and 29 inches long
    • If your child weighs more than 70 pounds, his/her bat should range from 28 to 32 inches in length

How to Choose the Correct Baseball or Softball Bat Weight

Before looking at weights, it’s important to first understand a little bit more:

  • Bat weight is measured by the minus or drop weight
  • Drop weight is the difference between the length and weight of the bat, so a bat that is 30 inches long and has a drop weight of -10 will weigh 20 ounces
  • The bigger the drop weight is, the lighter the bat will weigh

Remember that only high school baseball bats and college baseball bats are regulated and must have a drop of no more than -3.

If you are a strong player, you may assume you want a heavier bat. This is not necessarily the case. You’ll want to swing a bat that still allows you to generate the ideal amount of bat speed through the zone. Finding this balance could be difficult at first, but once you do, you’ll be hitting the ball farther and harder than you could have imagined.

After finding a baseline for the length of the bat, it’s important to incorporate the length of the bat into deciding on the weight. For youth baseball and softball, the taller the child, the longer the bat should be. They may not be strong enough to use a heavier bat, so they would have a bat with a larger weight drop.

It’s important to choose the right balance between length and weight because it makes a difference in the physics of the swing. For instance, consider the following:

  • If you have a long, light bat, you can swing it very fast, but it will not have much inertia behind it
  • If you swing a short, heavy bat, you will not have the fastest bat speed, but will have plenty of inertia

Deciding on the length and weight of the bat you swing is a personal choice - you should try combining what is comfortable with what style of player you want to be. If you envision yourself being a contact player like Ichiro Suzuki, you won’t worry as much about losing inertia with your swing, but if you want to be a power hitter like Giancarlo Stanton and swing for the fences, you’ll want the inertia you would get from the shorter, heavier bat. You can refer to the chart below to give you a ballpark idea of what bat drop you should be using. Keep in mind that the chart below can be used to find bat drop for both baseball and softball bats and it can be used by both adult and youth players:

Little League 1 1/4" Baseball Bats

Age Under 7 8-9 10-11 12-13
Length 24"-26" 26"-29" 28"-30" 29"-32"
Drop (-13.5)-(-12) (-13.5)-(-10) (-13)-(-10) (-10)-(-9)

Pony League 2 5/8" Baseball Bats

Age Under 7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14 and Over
Length 24"-26" 26"-29" 28"-30" 29"-32" 31"-34"
Drop (-12)-(-10) (-12)-(-10) (-10)-(-8) (-9)-(-5) (-3)

High School /College 2 5/8" Baseball Bats

Age 14-15 16-18 18 and Over
Length 31"-33" 32"-34" 32"-34"
Drop (-3) (-3) (-3)

Fastpitch 2 1/4" Softball Bats

Age Under 7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14 and Over
Length 24"-26" 26"-29" 28"-31" 29"-33" 31"-34"
Drop (-13.5)-(-10) (-13.5)-(-10) (-13)-(-8) (-12)-(-8) (-10)-(-8)

Recent Changes to Bat Sizes and Regulations

Recent rule changes in most leagues have been adopted in an attempt to make the game safer and more competitive. For this reason, new safety standards have been issued to new bats and they are expected to be used by every player.

 

Little League has a list of approved bats that can be used. This list is created by Little League, however it is only a guide for which bats are legal. There are times when a bat will not appear on the Little League approved-list but still will be considered legal. According to Little League, a bat “shall not be more than thirty-three inches in length nor more than two and one-quarter inches in diameter.”

Big Barrel Bats for Pony Leagues

Pony leagues require players to use a bat with the USSSA stamp. Almost all new bats, whether aluminum or composite, will come with this stamp. Some leagues may not allow bats that do not have the stamp. In recent years, the USSSA stamp has been modified and certain leagues will only allow bats to be used that contain the new stamp.

Be sure to check your Pony League bat rules before purchasing a bat that may not be legal to use. Pony bat barrels can range from two and one-quarter inches in diameter to two and five-eighths. If it is the latter and has a -3 weight drop, it must have a BBCOR certified stamp (below). All non-wood bats that have a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.15 or less are approved for play.

High School and College Bats

High school and college bats now have to be BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) Certified. This new measurement standard replaces the old BESR (Bat Exit Speed Ratio) Certification. Look for the stamp on the right indicating certification.

The new standard is designed to measure the trampoline effect of the bat and ball on impact, rather than just the exit speed of the ball. This allows the bats to be more comparable to wood bats.

We should point out that you may not want to use a BBCOR bat unless you are required to, as it will put you at a disadvantage of not hitting the ball as far as you could with a bat that does not carry the BBCOR restriction. High school and college bats should have a league-required -3 weight drop.

Fastpitch and Slowpitch Softball Bats

The league you play in will determine which bat regulations you should adhere to when purchasing a softball bat. It is best to check your league before purchasing a bat since ASA bats are not allowed in USSSA play, and vice-versa, unless it contains a dual stamp.

How to Choose Between Alloy and Composite Bats

When it comes to choosing the material of your bat, it’s pretty easy to choose between wood and non-wood. With the exception of those states that mandate its use, wood is typically reserved for the professionals, practice bats and tournaments. But once you settle on a non-wood bat, choosing a bat material may feel overwhelming. You can use the chart below as a quick cheat sheet to remember the differences:

Composite vs Alloy Bats

Composite Bats  vs. Alloy Bats

Composite Bats

Composite bats are made out of a layered material similar to carbon fiber, which makes it easy to control the weight distribution of the bat. Manufacturers can make bats balanced (weight is evenly distributed) or end-loaded (the bat has more weight at the end of the barrel, giving it a heavier swing weight), depending on the style.

Pros of Composite Bats

  • Reduced vibration to the hands, minimizing sting from a miss-hit ball.
  • Tend to have a larger sweet spot and more ”pop”

Cons of Composite Bats

  • Often more expensive than alloy bats, since the manufacturing process is more complex.
  • Require a break-in time.

Remember that the pop won’t come until a composite bat is broken in. To break it in, follow these tips:

  • It’s recommended that you hit between 150-200 hits with a regular baseball or softball, not a rubber batting cage ball.
  • It’s also important to slightly rotate the bat each time you hit the ball, so you evenly break it in - this ensures your bat lasts a long time.

The above is the only recommended way to break in your composite bat. Methods such as hitting your bat against a tree or rolling it are not recommended and will damage the bat and void the manufacturer warranty. If you want step-by-step directions on how to break a composite bat, check out this useful guide.

Alloy bats

Alloy bats, also called metal and aluminum bats, have been around longer than composite.

Pros of Alloy Bats

  • Tend to be less expensive than composite bats.
  • Do not require a break-in time, meaning they’re at their prime right out the wrapper.
  • Often last longer and even when they get damaged, they typically dent, rather than crack. This means they can still be used once damaged, where as once it is cracked, a composite bat can’t be. As long as the bat is not damaged to the extent where a barrel ring can no longer fit around the barrel, the bat will still be considered legal.

Cons of Alloy Bats

  • Tend to have a smaller sweet spot and less ”pop.”

A good rule of thumb is the more expensive the alloy, the longer the sweet spot is and the better balanced the bat will be.

If you like both alloy and composite, it’s possible to get a hybrid, or comp/alloy bat. Hybrid bats have a composite handle and an alloy barrel. The benefits of getting a hybrid bat are that you can get the composite handle, which reduces vibration, and the alloy barrel for the performance and cost savings.

The Difference Between One Piece and Two Piece Bats

  • One Piece Bats: Typically stiffer and more balanced. The one piece design does not allow for more vibration control, so they will often have a lot of vibration on miss-hit balls.
  • Two Piece Bats: Tend to have more flex and have less vibration.

Generally speaking, contact hitters benefit from one piece bats for the better balance, and power hitters benefit more from the two piece bats for the added flex. The choice between the two is based on your personal preference and hitting style.

 

 

Know exactly the type of baseball or softball bat you need to get swinging? Come check out our selection of baseball and softball bats to get yourself or the young player in your life a brand new bat. Or, if you still want to learn more about the different type of bats check our other guide on Bat Preference: Wood, Alloy, or Composite to figure out which type of bat is best for you. Don't forget to share this guide with your friends!

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