With wooden bats, what you see is what you get and its performance is solely down to the natural characteristics of the wood, and can’t be artificially altered to improve performance. The same can’t be said for other bats however, and the performance off the bat is something that has to be regulated. In order to do this a test had to be created to measure the improvement that was given to the velocity of the ball from other types of bat and this became known as the ‘Bat Performance Factor’, or BPF for short.
What is Bat Performance Factor?
What the bat performance measures is the added input onto a ball compared to its impact off a solid wall. As all types of bat appear fairly solid, it may seem odd that all types of bats wouldn’t have the same effect as a solid wall once a ball was thrown at it. An exaggerated example of this can be seen in another sport, Tennis. For anyone that has ever hit a tennis ball with a racquet, you know that the strings can propel the ball forward at a much greater pace than if you were hitting a tennis ball with a solid piece of wood. This exact same effect happens when a ball hits a bat in softball, albeit to a much lesser extent than in Tennis. This is known as the ‘trampoline effect’ as the ball bounces off the bat in order to get a larger distance on your hits.
“The number beyond 1 indicates the added percentage of distance compared to the ball hitting a solid wall.”
How is it worked out?
The Bat Performance Factor (BPF) that you’ll see marked on your bat is usually shown in a figure of ‘1.15’ or ‘1.20’ for example. The number beyond 1 indicates the added percentage of distance compared to the ball hitting a solid wall, so if you have a bat with a BPF of 1.2, that means that you are getting 20% extra performance from your bat. As you can see here, the higher the BPF, the better, as your hits will go further the higher the bats BPF.
So just get the highest BPF?
That seems simple enough, but before you rush out and look for the highest BPF you can find, make sure you do your research first. There are many different softball organisations and they all have their different rules for all equipment, especially bats. As a higher BPF gives you an advantage, most organisations restrict the maximum level that your bat can be in order to make it a fair game for everyone. The key here is to check your local association before bat shopping as you could find yourself with a bat that doesn’t comply with the rules set out by your league.
“The simple message here is to find out the rules of your league, and get the highest BPF allowed.”
Why would I get a wooden bat?
Whilst it may seem unfair that other type of bats can be allowed to artificially altered to increase the trampoline effect, wooden bats have their own natural bat performance factor meaning that a wooden bat doesn’t put you at a great disadvantage. It used to be the case that this wasn’t regulated and non-wooden bats could be made with a huge trampoline effect, so therefore other bat types took advantage to give a much better performance. This didn’t last long however and bat performance factor was brought in to regulate this and make it fair for all. The maximum effect that can be put on the bat now is usually around the same level as the natural trampoline effect from a wooden bat.
When out bat shopping, it’s important to know your facts to ensure that you’re getting the best performance possible out of your bat. If your league allows a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.2 then it wouldn’t be the best idea to get a bat with a 1.15 rating as you’d be missing out on 5% of performance for no reason. Whilst everyone wants a fair game, you don’t want to be giving yourself a disadvantage if your rival team using the rules to their maximum advantage. The simple message here is to find out the rules of your league, and get the highest BPF allowed.