What type of bat to use is one of the fundamental questions for any softball or baseball player, and the choices aren’t clear. With so many different varieties out there, it’s hard to figure out which is the best option for you. There are four different materials that can be chosen from:
- aluminium alloy
A wooden bat is generally made from maple, birch or ash. An aluminium alloy bat is one primarily made of aluminium with an alloy used to add to the characteristics of the bat. A composite bat is essentially a plastic one, made of refined carbon. A hybrid bat is basically a mixture of any of the previous three, but is usually comprised of a composite handle and an aluminium barrel.
Which one is the least expensive?
Which one to choose really comes down to your budget and what you’re looking for from your bat. In terms of budget the most expensive bats on the market are composite with aluminium being generally cheaper depending on the alloy that goes with it and wooden being the cheapest option out of the three. A hybrid bat being generally half composite, half aluminium generally falls between those two price brackets.
Which one hits the furthest?
One of the key factors people use in choosing a bat is that they want one that has the most speed off the bat, known as the trampoline effect, meaning the spring that is added to the ball by your bat on contact.
A broken in composite bat would most likely offer the best return in terms of this effect but the negative here is that the bat would need breaking in. This would involve having hundreds of hits from the bat before it’s true potential is realised, but you can be happy in the knowledge that the bat would be getting better and better over time.
The same can’t be said for aluminium bats which are completely the opposite. Aluminium bats are at their best from their first hit and generally get worse over time, the trampoline effect can be as good as a composite but paranoia could creep in thinking that your hit didn’t go far enough because your bat has lost its edge.
Wooden bats can be as good as a composite or aluminium bat but their sweet spot is generally smaller so it’s harder to get that big hit. With hybrid bats it’s all about which one you choose, and whether you want the ready to go aluminium or be patient with a composite.
Which one is the most durable?
When you look at the upfront costs of a bat it can be easy to forget one big factor, and that is when will you have to buy one again?
The durability of wooden bats can be their biggest downfall. They may look great but they can break pretty easily, which is why they are the cheapest.
Composite bats can break in the same way as wooden bats in respect that they crack but due to how they are made, this is a lot rarer. One downfall here is that the cracking of composite bats happens a lot more in cold weather as the plastic becomes more brittle in the lower temperature. You’d be right in thinking that with being a solid piece of metal, aluminium is the most durable of the bats available.
This gives aluminium bats a big advantage on value for money but just like with the speed off the bat, they get worse over time. These bats don’t crack like wooden or composite ones but get dented and worn over time, so would then need to be replaced.
Which one has the lightest swing weight?
Like with all bats, and most sporting equipment, it has to feel right. There is a romance to a wooden bat and a tradition that people love, but they are the heaviest bats on the market. Composite are the lightest and aluminium falls in between the two.
It’s obvious that a lighter bat would be able to be swung faster and be handled better, but this doesn’t necessarily mean bigger hits.
A heavier bat swung at the same speed as lighter bats would mean more power, so if you have the strength you should try out different bat weights to make sure you know which is best for you. The advantage here is that composite bats can be larger than another bat with the same weight, so maybe you won’t hit further, but you may hit more.
Which one should I choose?
It’s hard to make a case for wooden bats beyond them being a romantic choice. They break more, have a smaller sweet spot and are generally not able to hit the ball as far. The one big advantage is the cost, so this may this may be a good option if you’re just starting out in the sport.
Cost is also a big factor in the choice between aluminium or composite as to get the best performance possible, it makes sense to go down the composite route if you’re willing to spend the money. Aluminium clearly has its benefits though, its instant performance out of the wrapper is a huge positive as well as its durability.
If you want a high quality bat but doesn’t want to pay the very top prices, a good aluminium bat would be a great choice. Hybrid bats are a successful attempt at getting the best out of both worlds.
A composite handle with an aluminium barrel will give you a lower weight with the durability and instant trampoline effect. Other hybrid variations exist with their own little selling points, but hopefully you can now work out the advantages and disadvantages for each handle and barrel to work out the best solution to find your bat of choice.