What Causes A Wooden Baseball Bat to Break

You take a mighty cut, and you end up with only a handle in your batting gloves. It’s hard to hit with authority when your bat breaks. So, how can you avoid splintering your wood bat? Here’s a brief rundown of what causes bats to break and how to give your bat the best chance of staying intact.

Common Reasons A Pro Player’s Bat Breaks

Watch a Big League game long enough and you’re bound to see a bat shatter into pieces. There are three main contributing factors to broken wood bats:

Big Barrel/Thin Handle and the Wood Needed to Make Such Bats

Many pro players grew up swinging aluminum bats with large barrels and thin handles. When they go pro and start swinging wood, they continue to prefer a thin handle. Only now, the thin handle is more likely to shatter when it meets a big league fastball. Why? Two reasons explain it, both based upon physics. First, if you have a big barrel and less weight at the other end, something has to give when the ball is not hit in the thickest area. Second, to make a big-barreled and thin-handled bat that gives the hitter the bat speed needed to catch up to a 90+ mph ball, the wood bat must be made from a low density piece of wood. The less dense (strong) the wood is, the easier it will be to break.

Thicker handled bats help with durability as do better ratios of diameter of barrel to handle. One of the good things the Commissioner’s Office of Baseball did was put restrictions on the weight (density) of the tube of wood that is used to craft a bat. It is simple physics: the more dense the wood, the more likely you are to have a stronger bat. The newer the player is to playing in the Minors or Bigs, the greater the restrictions on the billet weight we can use to craft their bat. By cracking down on billet weights and by forcing approved wood bat manufacturers to use straighter grained wood, the number of broken bats has dropped significantly.

Unfortunately, the testing done by the Commissioner’s Office is still not as wide spread as we would hope, as we still see a number of manufacturers ignoring these standards. And some of the players don’t care, as the penalty for them is minimal at best, especially if they are not paying for their bat (the team buys the player his bat at the big league level and provides certain models of bats in the Minors). They just want the big barrel for more hitting surface. In reality, any player should be most concerned about wood density as the denser the wood, the more energy gets transferred to the ball (Einstein’s principle hasn’t change; e=mc2).

Inexperienced Hitters and More Informed Pitchers

With the amount of scouting reports in today’s game, younger hitters’ weaknesses are being attacked more and more. A strong hitter will punish anything over the middle, which is why pitchers love to work both sides of the plate, up and down. Let’s face the facts: hitting a ball that gets from the pitcher’s hand to home plate in less than a second is hard! And when you only see a pitcher a few times a year, picking up his tendencies and ball movement fast enough is a monumental task. That’s why even if you fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate, you are an All-Star.

Does The Type Of Wood Matter?

The short answer is, yes.

While there’s no superior species for making bats, different species do help achieve different hitting results. At Phoenix Bats, almost all of our bats are made from three different types of wood, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Rock Maple: One of the hardest woods on the market, having a dense and tight grain pattern, these types of bat also offer superior inside pitch protection. Where they come up short is from the end of barrel miss-hits as rock maple lacks flex to be able to absorb that shock. When you see the barrel head fly off the bat, it is usually maple as the shock travels down the barrel and breaks out at the weakest point in the handle. Regardless, the majority of pro players swing maple for the extra power it provides.
  • Yellow Birch: Closer to the pop of a maple bat but with a bit of “give” or flex found in an ash bat. Pros tell us they like it for the durability. We have seen a slight up-tick in birch use by pros, more so in the Minors. Birch is a good choice if you’re adjusting to where to hit the ball on a wood bat.
  • Northern White Ash: While ash may not provide as much light-tower power of a maple model, it makes for a more forgiving bat when you catch a ball off the barrel end. These bats have a larger sweet spot, but are less forgiving on inside fastballs. When you see a bat splinter apart in a pro game, it is typically an ash bat. Most of the pros we work with who swing ash say it gives them the best ability to control where they hit the ball, “spraying” it around the field.

For some of our youth bats and all of our fungos, we use a different species of U.S. grown hardwood. The reason is that we feel strongly about balancing durability with swingability. Too light a wood bat leads to premature failure. Too heavy a bat destroys all the good that comes from practicing and playing with a wood bat.

How We Make Stronger And More Durable Wood Bats for Pros And For You

Broken wood bats will never disappear entirely, but there are steps we take to help your bat and our pro players’ bats hold up better. Any good bat starts with a good piece of wood that has a minimum of 24” of straight grain. To get such, our wood comes from logs that are split versus sawed. When you split a log from top to bottom, every piece of wood we use, whether for pro or amateur, will pass the testing standards put in place by the Commissioner’s Office. Upon arrival to our shop, each piece is then hand graded for quality and weight and stored in a manner to insure proper moisture content is maintained.

When we craft your bat, we use the most advanced bat-making machine (lathe) available. It’s the same one we craft our pro bats on. And, it is only one of two in the world that achieves this level of craftsmanship. This lathe provides automatic sanding and unbeatable precision, ensuring that each bat meets the exact specifications of previous orders.

Coupling these factors with designs that properly balance swingability versus durability…and are legal for use by our pros…we are able to enhance durability without impacting swing mechanics.

What type of bat are you looking for? Browse our site or contact us for help to find the perfect wood for you.

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