Term Paper: Baseball Bats Today

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[. . .] This is again due to the inflexibility of the wooden bat. A wooden bat actually bends and bows during a swing, then snaps back into place. Pitchers used to dealing with wooden bats may also purposely throw pitches inside to make the batter hit the ball on the thin handle and break the bat. A bat is also more likely to break in cold weather, when the wood is dryer and more brittle (Sillery, 2003). In fact, professional players go through an average of several dozen bats each during a single baseball season (Patton, 1990). Conversely, college teams using mostly aluminum bats, use an average of 12 bats per season (Russel, 2003).

While the argument over which type of bat is better continues, the most heated discussion in the debate is that of safety. With the added ball speed of the aluminum bat comes a greater danger to the defensive players on the field. Defenders of the wooden bat point to the statistics. Studies indicate that balls travel at a maximum speed of 93 mph off a wooden bat swung by an adult, whereas a ball travels at speeds of 100-123 mph off an aluminum bat. The pitcher, on the other hand, has only four tenths of a second to raise his glove for protection from an oncoming ball. A ball traveling more than 94 mph reaches the mound in three tenths of a second. The result, obviously, is that balls hit with an aluminum bat are more likely to strike the pitcher (The Inside Curve, 2003). Between 1991 and 2001, 17 players were killed by batted balls in amateur and pro-play. Of those 17, two were killed by a ball hit from a wooden bat, 15 were killed by a ball off an aluminum bat (CBS, 2003).

The NCAA has consistently refused to switch permanently to wooden bats. According to them, "there are risks in all sports and that pitchers and infielders are aware of those risks" (Bloomberg, 1998). However, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee did decide, in 1998, to "prohibit the development and use of an aluminum bat that produces a batted ball speed of over 93 miles per hour (Kelly, 2000). The National Federation of State High School Associations followed in 2003, creating the same mandate for high school leagues, adding that an aluminum bat must now have a minus-3 weight-to-length ratio. For example, if a bat is 33 inches long, it must weight at least 30 ounces (Garcia, 2003).

Manufacturers have found a way around the rules, however. A study by the University of Massachusetts found that it is possible to actually change the center of swing gravity with an aluminum bat. This center of gravity change allows the bat to meet bat standards in testing but exceed the ball exit speed regulation in the field (Kelly, 2000).

Major league baseball, however, stands firm on its use of wooden bats. "Our coaches like to use wood because wood really teaches you how to hit," said William Cebron, a member of a professional team. According to Cebron, if you hit the ball on the end of the bat with wood, the bat's going to break, so you have to hit solid and get the head of the bat on the ball, whereas with aluminum you can get hit on the end and still get a hit (Kelly, 2000).

One major problem with college and professional baseball player's use of different bats is that the use of the aluminum bats in college is felt by professional baseball to hamper the advance of hitters and pitchers abilities. For pitchers, pitching to a wooden bat leads to learning to pitch inside, because they can break the bat. When pitching to aluminum, they have to throw more breaking pitches to counteract the aluminum, which stresses their arms more, and discourages development of a fastball pitch, crucial to professional baseball (Prospect Watch, 2003).

From a batters standpoint, the aluminum bats are lighter, which make it easier to hit a pitch well using aluminum. Over the last five years, batting averages and home runs have all increased in the NCAA. Batting averages increased to.301 (from an average of.296 over the previous 15 years). Home Runs went from.80 to.91 per game (Kelly, 2000). When these same players are drafted into professional baseball, their batting average may be far less, due to the change to a wooden bat (Prospect Watch, 2003).

One example of this is Marshal McDougall, who was a second baseman at Florida State University. In 1999, McDougall hit six home runs and collected 25 total bases in a game against the University of Maryland, all with an aluminum bat. These were NCAA records at the time (Kelly, 2000). McDougall had a.419 batting average and record 28 homeruns that same year. Yet in McDougall's first summer of minor-league baseball, he struggled to maintain that average. Using a wooden bat, he was able to produce.248 batting average and one home run, far less than his average with an aluminum bat (Kelly, 2000).

For smaller leagues, such as high school and little league, there are mixed reactions to the aluminum vs. wood debate. Massachusetts became the first state in the country to ban aluminum baseball bats at the high school level, beginning with the 2003 state tournament (Racicot, 2003). Following suit, National Federation of State High School Associations will closely monitor the topic in Massachusetts, to see if the results are safer games. Most opponents again cite the issue of cost. While using a wooden bat may have a slight safety benefit, many say, the cost to replace the wooden bats would outweigh the benefits, meaning that leagues would have to sacrifice other equipment in order to purchase replacement bats.

One alternative to the debate is that of the "BaumBat." While the bat does not meet the major league standard, it is one alternative being used by the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. The ACCAC has dropped aluminum bats from its programs for the first time in 25 years, and is experimenting with the new bat. The "BaumBat" looks like a regular bat, but is filled with plastic. The outer frame of the bat is coated with a resin epoxy for durability. Manufactured in Traverse City, Mich., the "BaumBat" does not break easily, avoiding the problems associated with wooden bats. Yet it is also not as sleek and fast as aluminum, therefore cutting down on the injuries and longer games (Garcia, 2003). While reactions have been mixed, the newer bat is a possible alternative to lower budget smaller leagues.

While there are many differences between aluminum and wooden baseball bats, there are also many similarities. Wooden bats are less expensive, less durable, and not as fast as aluminum. Yet studies have shown they can be a safer alternative to aluminum. Conversely, aluminum bats are less expensive, less likely to break, and faster, with better end result ball speed than wood. However, with that kind of speed comes a greater risk of injury. Batters using aluminum have a better batting average, but are less likely to succeed in professional baseball due to the change over to wooden bats.

Both types of bats, however, are based on the principle of mass and energy. When used correctly, both types of bats can be worked with to gain a better average, and each has its own advantages in the batting cage. Whether batting with aluminum or wood, each batter learns to develop his or her own style, and his or her own talents. In the end, the goal is simple: hit the ball with the bat. As Ted Williams once said "The hardest thing to do in baseball is to hit a round baseball with a round bat, squarely" (Ted Williams, from Famous Quotes and Jokes).Whether the bat is aluminum or wood, that fundamental truth will never change.


Baseball-Bats.net. (2003). The History of Baseball Bats. Retrieved July 29, 2003 from Baseball-Bats.net. Web Site: http://www.baseball-bats.net/baseball-bats/baseball-bat-history/index.html.

Baseball-Bats.net. (2002). Choosing a Baseball Bat. Retrieved July 29, 2003 from Baseball-Bats.net. Web Site: http://www.baseball-bats.net/baseball-bats/choosing-a-baseball-bat/index.html.

Bloomberg, S. (1998). NCAA approves new rules for bats. The Legal Intelligencer, 13, 4.

Calder, V. (2000). Aluminum vs. Wood Bats. Retrieved July 27, 2003 from the Newton BBS, the Division of Education.

Web Site: http://newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/phy00/phy00259.htm

CBS. (2003, April 28). Batting Around a Baseball Change. The Massachusetts North Reading. P. B7.

Conley, K, Choi, C., & Giuliani, J. (1997). Baseball: The Game and Beyond. Retrieved July 28, 2003 from Thinkquest. Web Site: http://library.thinkquest.org/11902/?tqskip1=1&tqtime=0803

Crisco, J, Greenwald, R., Blume, J., & Penna, L. (2002, October). Batting Performance of Wood and Metal Baseball Bats. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (34) (10). P. 1675 -1684.

Crisco, J, and Greenwald, R. (2000, July 19-22). Metal baseball bats can outperform wood bats with a similar 'sweet spot. Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting, American Society of Biomechanics. Chicago, IL.

Garcia, J. (2003, April 10). Good Wood vs. Heavy Metal. The Arizona Republic.

Kelly, M. (2000). Hardball-hard bat:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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