Wood bats give you options that metal bats do not. And the most obvious option, is that you can get a wood bat in a number of wood species…..Maple, Birch, and Ash are the 3 most common.
Recent numbers show that MLB players prefer Maple Bats over the rest, but you might be surprised to find out that Birch Bats have taken over the 2nd spot over Ash Bats in what pro players use in games.
So what’s the difference between the 3 species? First, let’s go over Maple Bats vs. Ash Bats. Maple bats are very rigid, and this gives them tremendous pop. Ash has more flex, and some players like this because the ash wood bat can feel like it gives them a little more whip. The downfall with ash is that it can break down with repeated use, and that’s simply because of the nature of the wood grains.
Now, explaining the differences between Maple Bats and Birch Bats is a little more difficult to do because the two species are so similar. Both species are GREAT for making wood bats. One species is NOT going to be lighter than the other, as a lot of people think…..but what is lighter? A pound of bricks, or a pound of feathers? They both weigh a pound folks. Same with Maple and Birch.
The biggest difference between a Maple Bat and a Birch Bat is the flex. Many players say that a Birch Bat is the perfect mix of a Maple Bat and an Ash Bat, because it has the hardness of Maple, but the flex of Ash. However, it’s really not that simple. Birch definitely has more flex than Maple, but it doesn’t compare to the flex of Ash.
So, what’s the best wood bat for you? That’s going to be your own personal preference. But now you know a little bit more about the wood species options when choosing a wood bat.
Do a search for wood bats on any major search engine, and you’ll be amazed at the number of options that might appear. The average consumer might think that a wood bat is a wood bat, and there is not much difference between wood bat companies.
However, there are HUGE differences in the raw materials that are used between wood bat companies, and manufacturing methods need to be taken into consideration when choosing a wood bat.
First of all, all wood billets are not created equal. In order to produce a wood bat with the straightest grain, a wood bat manufacturer needs to start with a premium wood billet. MaxBat only uses hand-split billets, because of their straightness of grain, yield, and overall performance. These billets cost more than those produced from sawn logs, but the old saying is “you get what you pay for”, correct? We’ve found that by using these billets to make our wood bats, MaxBats can be produced with better results than most other wood bat companies in the market.
The size of the company should also be taken into consideration. Yes, it’s neat that pretty much anyone with a lathe and a billet can produce a wood bat, but if you’re a serious ballplayer, and want a consistent and high-performance wood bat, you really ought to avoid the hobbyist bat manufacturer who spins a bat now and then in their garage. Hats off to these guys who are passionate about the game of baseball, but the precision needed to make high end wood bats can’t be replicated on hand lathes.
Also be aware that there’s a difference between Wood Bat Companies, and Wood Bat Brands. Private Labeling is offered by some wood bat companies to baseball enthusiasts who want to simply put their own label on a wood bat. The bottom line is that private labeled wood bats are typically made from lower quality wood or wood billets, and it’s a great way for wood bat companies to get rid of their waste. MaxBat is approached by individuals all the time that want us to private label for them, however we want to avoid that and focus all of our energy and efforts into making our own bats, and not someone else’s. And since we use the cream of the crop in wood billets, we virtually have zero duds, therefore there isn’t much of a need to find a brand to private label.
So, just some tips for the wood bat consumers out there who are shopping for their first wood bat. All wood bats are not created equally.
The common perception is that if you swing a lighter wood bat, that you will automatically increase your bat speed, thus increasing your chances to hit the ball harder.
However, the weight of a wood bat has very little to do with one’s ability to generate bat speed, and here’s why…..
A short compact swing with a downward angle (aka good swing mechanics / hands inside the ball), is the foundation to generate increased swing speed (bat speed).
A long looping swing (casting out / swinging around the ball) will translate to a slower swing.
Bad mechanics will equal a bad swing, and a slow bat.
A swing with proper mechanics will impact “bat speed” more so than a bat’s weight.
Therefore someone with proper swing mechanics should be able to generate the same swing speed with a 33″/32oz. wood bat, as a 33″/31oz. wood bat. And think of the weight we are talking about…..1 measly ounce. A stack of 10 pennies equals 1 ounce. Now think about how that ounce is distributed in the bat. Picture a stack of 10 pennies affixed to the barrel end of your wood bat. I can guarantee you that you would notice the slight increase in weight. However, you need to realize that that is not how that extra ounce will be distributed within the mass of the bat. Instead of visualizing a stack of 10 pennies on the very end of the bat, picture those 10 pennies lined up throughout the length of the wood bat. The extra ounce is evenly distributed throughout, thus making that extra ounce virtually undetectable.
Batters do not swing up, therefore they’re not fighting gravity. Hence, wood bats of the same length, with one an ounce heavier than the other, should not effect swing speed if batter executes proper swing mechanics.
Players, coaches, and parents are often misinformed about this. Just as many players think that by listening to the cup when banging their hand on a wood bat barrel will indicate if it’s a good piece of wood or not. The reality is that smaller knobbed wood bats will produce a sound with a higher pitch than wood bats with larger knobs. So yet another myth debunked.
Often times we get asked about cupped vs. not-cupped, and many of those questions come from Major Leaguers. So, we’re here to give you some information as to the reasons why a wood bat is cupped and what are the benefits.
Back in the day, wood bats did not have cupped ends. It wasn’t an option, and nobody had given any thought to the practice. So when did it start?
Well during Spring Training of 2005, HOF catcher Johnny Bench came over to our display at Reds camp in Sarasota, FL. He asked lots of questions about MaxBat, and picked up practically every model that we had with us to show to players. It was then that he said, “You know, I was the first player to swing a cupped bat in the Majors back in the ‘70s”. It was a very interesting comment, as you can imagine. Here stands a Hall Of Famer, and we’re going to hear how cupping wood bats started.
Johnny described how he wanted his wood bat to feel a little more balanced, and after some thinking, he came up with the idea to hollow out the very end of the barrel to remove a little bit of the bat’s end weight.
So there you have it……Johnny Bench. The cupped wood bat innovator.
Nowadays, players can get a cupped wood bat no matter who they are. However, many of them still do not know the advantages a cupped bat gives them as a hitter.
The first advantage is that (like Johnny Bench said) a cupped bat will make the bat a tad more balanced. This can be a great benefit if you’re facing a pitcher who is throwing gas, and you’re in the dog-days of Summer and you just don’t feel you’ve got the swing speed to catch up to the pitch. Most players understand this, and it’s for that reason that most players will request a cupped end.
However the most beneficial reason to order your wood bat cupped, is that as a wood bat company and wood bat manufacturer, we can use a higher density piece of wood to make your bat if we know ahead of time that we are going to cup the end during one of the final stages of production.
Follow me here…..the #1 thing a ballplayer wants from a wood bat is to get the hardest piece of wood they can. Harder wood equals stronger wood. Stronger wood equals more pop and more durability. When we cup a bat, we know that we can remove up to 7/10ths of an ounce off the overall weight of a bat. So if we know that we are going to remove that weight at the end of the process, one of our production members can first select a wood bat billet that is on the heavy side (heavier wood equals higher density wood). If we’re attempting to make the same exact wood bat model, but without a cup, our production team has to use a wood bat billet that is a shade lighter in weight (light wood equals lower density wood) due to the fact that we are not removing any weight by cupping. Make sense?
Some players think that the act of cupping a wood bat somehow makes it weaker….or that the bat will break easier if it’s cupped. Well, a cupped wood bat is made from higher density wood, so it should be stronger and more durable, thus making it last longer.
One concern that players do have in regards to cupped ends is the chance of hitting a baseball off the very end of the bat and the wood chipping away. MaxBat solved this problem years ago when we were first getting the business off the ground. If you’ll notice, our cup design features a thicker “wall” on the end, which gives it more strength to withstand those dreaded end-shots you might encounter when chasing an off-speed pitch.
So in summary, a cupped end adds balance to your wood bat AND allows us to use a higher density (stronger/harder) wood bat billet to create your custom baseball bat.
If you are training with a wood bat, the batting tee is perhaps the single best training aid a baseball player can use, and here are few reasons why:
1. Repetition is a key to greatness in baseball The best hitters repeat a good baseball swing thousands of times until the correct fundamentals happen without thinking about them. Using a batting tee is one of the best ways to achieve this career-long process. This is why so many Major League baseball players still use the batting tee before games and during off-season – it’s not just for young players. The batting tee is a tool players should use from the youth leagues to the Major Leagues.
2. It cuts down on obstacles and distractions This is the most important reason to use a tee. Using a batting tee allows you to isolate the aspect of your swing that you want to work on. A tee allows you to swing at 20% or 100%. You are in total control of your swing, which is important for working on weaknesses that make hitting off a live pitcher difficult. You can work on hitting a pitch in a specific location. You can also take a large number of swings in a relatively short amount of time.
It’s also going to help you find the sweet spot of your wood bat, especially if it’s a brand new custom model that you’ve just received. Swinging a brand new wood bat is going to feel different with each previous wood bat that you’ve used. They’re all going to be balanced slightly different, and the weight will vary. Tee work is essential to get used to that brand new wood bat, before taking soft toss or facing pitches from a coach or machine.
3. It allows you to practice on your own time, without a partner or coach Being a team game, baseball can be difficult to practice without other people around. Of course, it’s great for a coach to watch and critique as you hit off the tee, or to have someone reload the tee for you as you swing, but then you can also go to a cage and practice on your own. It’s a beautiful thing. Since baseball is a game of repetition, using a batting tee will help you achieve your perfect swing through hard work and quality repetition. It also enables you to groove your swing without needing someone throwing you batting practice.
4. A batting tee is portable Most batting tees will fit in your equipment bag or the trunk of your car. Since it’s easy to bring with you to the baseball field, batting cage, or backyard net, you will have more opportunities to practice and perfect your game.