A lot goes into picking the right bat for you, and we at Phoenix Bats want to make sure you’re making the most informed decision every time you buy. Today we’re going to focus on softball bats; this handy guide explains the difference between wood bats (our specialty) and aluminum bats and the difference between wood baseball bats and wood softball bats.
Wood versus aluminum bats
Wood bats have been around since the game’s inception, and we’ve continued to perfect the craft for decades. Aluminum bats are much newer, and they’re constantly making things easier with the latest technologies. Whereas anyone can pick up an aluminum bat and get results, wood bats are an art that make you work for those results. Wood bats differ from aluminum bats in two main ways:
Wood is fairly dense and heavy, which limits the size of the bat; wood bats become too heavy and unwieldly above a certain barrel diameter (usually between 2.5–2.53”). On the other hand, aluminum is much lighter than wood and allows for longer barrels with larger diameters while still feeling light.
With wood bats, the drop weight is rarely more than 2.5–3 ounces lighter than the barrel is long. For example, a 31” wood bat typically weighs no more than 28–29 ounces, and a 34-ounce wood bat should measure 36–37” long. In a perfect world, a bat would be long and light, but wood doesn’t allow for that, and it’s to your benefit in the end (as you’ll read shortly).
Wood is straightforward—wood is wood. There’s nothing fancy going on inside of a wood bat besides the qualities that wood naturally offers (which differs between wood types). These natural qualities range from hard and dense wood (like maple) to flexible and porous wood (like ash) to wood that’s a little bit of everything (like birch).
Aluminum is kind of crazy. It can do all sorts of cool stuff. With baseball and softball bats, lighter and thinner aluminum walls offer a more pronounced “trampoline effect” than wood bats like ash and birch would. On contact with the ball, the aluminum bat compresses around the ball before flexing quickly back out and sending the ball with it—just like trampoline. Aluminum barrels can also be stuffed with different materials that enhance this effect and offer others. Similarly, aluminum bats have a larger sweet spot than wood bats, so it’s easier to hit clean, long bombs.
Wood baseball bats versus wood softball bats
Now that we’ve nailed down the difference between wood and aluminum, let’s focus on the wood. No matter their composition, baseball bats and softball bats are as different as baseballs and softballs themselves—very similar but noticeably different in important ways:
Size and shape
Because softballs are considerably larger (and harder) than baseballs, the bats are considerably different sizes and weights: softball bats are typically longer with a thicker handle, and baseball bats are typically larger in barrel diameter with a heavier drop weight. Wood baseball bats range from 2.5–2.53” in barrel diameter, whereas all softball bats are 2.25” in diameter—nothing less and nothing more. Similarly, baseball bats typically have a drop weight of -2 to -3 ounces, and softball bats typically have a drop weight of -3 to -5.
Unlike baseball bats, which can be made from a (small) variety of wood types, softball bats require higher-density hard wood like maple to transfer enough power on contact to the larger and harder softball. As such, wood softball bats don’t have the same flex or trampoline effect that can be found with some baseball bats, and they’re less forgiving of mishits as well.
How a wooden softball bat can improve your game
As you may have gathered from everything above, aluminum bats make it easier to hit the ball farther and cleaner whether you’re playing baseball or softball. The technology inside the bat can compensate for flawed technique and low power, which means you’re likely not reaching your full potential if you’re just using an aluminum bat. Training with a wooden bat can help improve these aspects of your game:
Technique and plate discipline
If you take away the technology, all you have left to work with is your technique and plate discipline. Wood bats have a more even weight distribution and encourage better swing mechanics, and the smaller sweet spot requires better hand-eye coordination. Wood also offers better tactile feedback on clean shots and mishits. If you hit off the barrel end or near the handle with a wood bat, you’re definitely going to feel it (and not want to do it again). And since wood bats don’t turn wild pitches into base hits as easily as aluminum bats, you’ll swing at them less and pick better pitches to slam.
Swing speed and strength
Like we mentioned earlier, wood bats are heavier than aluminum bats, and weight builds strength. As with resistance training, if you practice with a wood bat, you’ll notice a significant difference when you break out the aluminum bat. You’ll be able to swing harder, faster and with more control than you had before.
Check out Phoenix softball bats
Whether it’s for men’s or women’s, slow- or fast-pitch, beer league or big league, Phoenix has the best wood softball bats you can find—and they’re customization to boot. Check out our bat selector tool, or chat with one of our bat experts to get started on finding your next favorite bat!