Bat Preference: Wood, Alloy, or Composite
There are so many bat choices for baseball and softball players in today’s game, it can often seem overwhelming. Understanding the differences between composite vs. aluminum bats is sometimes difficult for players - this wasn’t an issue decades ago when wood was the only option. End loaded or balanced bats? The best bat for power hitters? The list of questions goes on. Here we’ll look at how you can determine which type of bat is best for your style of play. In this guide, we’ll look at the following topics:
Contact Hitters vs. Power Hitters
Everyone loves being able to knock the ball outta the park for a home run. Unfortunately for some, power just isn’t in their repertoire, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative. Home runs or not, you can still be a major player for your team by understanding your role as a contact hitter. Contact hitters will:
- Consistently get the ball in play
- Have great bat control
- Gain bat speed
The best type of bat for a contact hitter will be one that is balanced with weight distribution throughout, allowing for all of these goals to be attained.
When you’re batting in the middle of the order, there is a high likelihood that you are a power hitter who can be a game changer with a single swing of the bat. If this is you, you likely:
- Maintain good bat speed
- Have strength
- Often hit the ball far
The best bat for power hitters is an end loaded bat that allows you to hit the ball farther. The difference between end loaded and balanced softball bats is the weight distribution. Essentially, “end loaded” means that a 28 ounce bat feels like it’s 30 ounces. This is because there is more weight at the end of the bat, allowing the batter the chance to hit for more power, while sacrificing in bat speed. A balanced bat swings exactly how it weighs and allows for ideal bat speed and control.
The Big Debate: Wood vs. Aluminum vs. Composite Bats
Many leagues have switched to wood bats for reasons including safety and cost.
Key points about wood bats:
- Less forgiving than aluminum or composite
- Require more precision during contact to hit the ball farther
- Make it easier to determine the best weight, length, and style of bat you should use
- Potentially more durable, unless broken due to a miss-hit
- Don’t need to break in
When you’re training and trying to improve your contact, a wood bat is best. In most levels of play, it’s usually easier to transition from wood to metal, as opposed to the opposite, since a wood bat is less forgiving and has a smaller sweet spot. The best wood bat for contact hitter practice is one that allows you to get greater speed through the zone. Generally speaking, contact hitters typically swing ash bats and power hitters most often use maple bats as the material is the strongest and doesn’t have much give. It isn’t uncommon for players looking to advance to the next level to use wood bats in their training regimen, as they’re known to help improve bat speed and strength.
The use of aluminum bats began in the 1970s as an alternative to wood bats - they were touted as cheaper and more durable. While aluminum bats were originally considered just a metal copy of the wood bat, time and play has shown differences between the two, including a greater ball speed coming off the bat and a faster swing as they’re much lighter in weight.
Key points about aluminum bats:
- Greater ball speed off the bat
- Increased bat speed because they are lighter
- Trampoline effect off the barrel when contact is made
- Occurs because the thin walls actually flex or deform with contact; some of the energy from the contact is transferred to the ball, propelling it farther, while wood bats retain more of the energy with contact
- Have a larger sweet spot
- Ideal for beginners looking to get comfortable with the game
One downside to an aluminum bat is the more you use it, the more damage you are doing to it, and for the purists out there, it isn’t traditional. The debate doesn’t end at just wood and aluminum, though. The aluminum vs. composite debate is just as fierce.
See our recommendation for aluminum bats:
Composite bats are lighter than aluminum and wood bats, allowing power hitters to reach their potential with each swing.
Key points about composite bats:
- Considered more durable than aluminum
- Don’t give off the popular “ping” sound
- One of the most popular options for softball players
- Costs more than aluminum bats
- Increased production at bat as ball speed on contact is greater
- Must be broken in - process takes a few hours
- Have increased trampoline effect due to “double wall” construction
It’s important to also point out that composite bats are finicky about temperature - when the weather turns and the days and nights are a little cooler, composite bats are known to see decreased performance and have an increased chance of breaking.
Do you now know what kind of bats right for you? If so, head over to our online store and browse our selection of baseball and softball bats. For more useful pro tips, check out our other guides. Be sure to share this with your friends!
This article was originally published on September 5, 2016, and has been updated with new information.