We’ve heard it all before – the debate over whether to choose a wood or metal bat seems like it’ll never come to an end. But for any baseball or softball slugger truly serious about improving their game, there’s really only one choice.
The differences between metal and wood bats can be broken down into three categories:
Wood bats offer superior quality, not only in performance but also when it comes to safety and affordability. But don’t just take our word for it – here are a few facts to back that up.
Not only do wood bats have more to offer overall in terms of performance, but they also drive you to improve your fundamentals in the batter’s box.
Why Choose Wood Bats
• More Responsive: Wooden bats force a hitter to develop better mechanics and approach to the ball by getting more feedback with contact.
• Improved Strength and Form: A properly weighted wood bat, in overall weight and in the distribution of the weight throughout the entire bat, yields better balance to drive the ball, compared to artificial, light metal bats that produce a golf-like swing due to the weight being all in the oversized or extra-long barrel.
• Better Pitch Discipline: Swinging at a bad pitch can leave you with stinging hands or a broken bat. By learning your bat's barrel, you'll grasp the strike zone better.
• Increased Barrel Awareness: Learning the sweet spot (the optimal area to hit on a bat) is key to making good contact and maximizing the result of your at-bat. Even metal bats have an optimal area to hit, but they don’t give you optimal feedback to learn such. Wood teaches you the optimal area, which carries over to when you swing a metal bat. It’s not a two-way street!
Why Choose Metal Bats
• Larger Sweet Spot for More Hitting Area: The area on the bat to achieve optimal power, normally about two to six inches from the end of the bat, is larger on a metal bat.
• Can Turn Bat-Breaking Pitches into Singles: Metal withstands miss-hits farther down the barrel, toward the middle of the bat, much better than a wood bat can.
Yes, we wood bat manufacturers get it; you want: as big a barrel as possible, as light a barrel as possible, as long a barrel as possible, and more hits further down the barrel. There is no denying that metal and composite bats give you the “bigger” bat. And, you get more “excuse me” singles off the handle that might otherwise break a wood bat. Metal and composite bats are hollow, allowing them to be made as lightly as legally possible, regardless of the type of hitter: contact, extra bases or power hitter.
A properly weighted, single-piece wood bat, being completely solid, has a smaller optimal hitting area (typically 2”-6” in from the barrel end). And, wood bats can only achieve a certain barrel diameter and length before being too top heavy...and too heavy overall.
But does that mean you should go with a metal bat? Not so fast. First, examine the swing of the metal batter compared to a hitter with a wood bat.
|TYPE OF BAT:||SWING PATH: TYPICAL BALL||TRAJECTORY:||TYPICAL RESULT:|
|Metal / composite||From low to high||high arc limits distance||pop fly|
|Wood bat||Level swing*||gradually rise for extra distance||line drive and beyond|
When a player learns how to hit with a wood bat, nothing will beat it for distance and trajectory. This applies to baseball, softball, and youth leagues. More balls finding the gaps equals a higher batting average, and more RBIs. The benefits of learning where to hit on a bat to maximize power (regardless of material type), of strength building, and of hand-eye coordination are yielding improved batting averages in metal bat games the following season.
Safety of fielders has taken a jump to the forefront in recent years. Anyone who pitches or plays first or third base can tell you a story of a ball from a metal or composite bat that nearly took their head off. In youth baseball, there have been even more extreme cases.
Fortunately, standards for metal and composite baseball bats (BBCOR), and for softball bats (BST) have been implemented. The goal: make metal and composite bats perform more like wood bats, in regard to the speed of the ball coming off the bat (known as exit velocity). Lowering exit velocity means greater reaction time for fielders.
Metal Bat Modification Safety Issues
So, issue solved in making metal bats as safe as wood bats, right? Not exactly. One of the remaining dangers of these non-wood bats is the ability to modify their performance post-purchase.
Shaving the inside of a metal or composite bat, to create more trampoline effect for greater energy transfer to the ball, is hard to detect. And, while softball umps get updated rating sheets every two weeks for bats, it still requires the ump having the knowledge and eye to spot and catch illegal bats. Additionally, some well-known amateur governing bodies for baseball and softball, which require their stamp for the bat to be game legal, do zero testing of the bats. Draw your own conclusions as to where these certification fees, paid by bat manufacturers, go.
Wood bat safety
Wood bats are not without their own concerns. Some of the miss-hit singles on metal and composite bats become bat-breaking outs with a wood bat. A few years back, at the pro level, wood bats (especially maple bats) took a rap for “excessive” breakage. It doesn’t help when you would see a barrel head go flying into the stands or at a fielder. News flash: simple physics explains why a big barrel plus a thin handle is a bad durability equation! In reaction, the Commissioner’s Office in pro baseball did implement some solid changes. This included clamping down on billet weights that can be used for certain players, based upon years of play in pro ball. With these changes, bat breakage is way down at the pro level, proving there is nothing inherently dangerous about wood bats.
A quality wood bat manufacturer should be carrying these standards down to the amateur level, all the way down to youth bats. If you are seeing drop weight lighter than the following, then you should be aware of that durability issue. “Too light” can also create safety concerns, of part of the bat becoming a projectile, if used against age-appropriate or faster pitch speeds.
◾ -3 for high school age
◾ -5 for 12 to 13-year-olds
◾-8 for 11-year-olds and under
The price of the in-demand metal and composite bats runs about three to four times that of a quality wood bat. For many players, replacing their metal and composite bat every year at a cost of $300-400 (due to dead spots developing, falling out of compliance, or out of popularity), a wood bat is actually more cost-effective.
When you add in the pop you get from a wood bat over a metal or composite bat for in-game use, the affordability extends beyond price and onto power. Once you learn how to properly hit with a wood bat (hitting on the sweet spot and laying off bad pitches), a wood bat will last you awhile. If you are breaking three or four bats a year (equal to what you would have spent on a metal or composite bat), you have either purchased a low-quality bat...or it’s time to take up another sport!
THE VERDICT – WOOD IS THE WAY TO GO
Ultimately, wood bats should be the way of the future. While the “sweet spot” may be more difficult to find, when a player does find it, nothing can beat their distance and trajectory. If a wood bat is properly weighted, it can help a player turn pop-up outs into base hits.
And perhaps the most important consideration of wood bats—they’re safer. It’s not uncommon for in-field players to narrowly avoid a ball flying at their head from a composite bat, especially if it’s been illegally modified.
Finally, you could argue that wood bats break easier, but they’re much less expensive to replace than metal or composite ones.
Follow our hitting and care tips (included with every order), practice with wood….and watch the results!
Browse our wood bats here.
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