The Big Showdown; Aluminum vs. Wooden Baseball Bats

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Published: 31st August 2012
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In baseball, a batter has a few different tools at their disposal, namely wooden vs. aluminum bats. Before working with the wrong bat at a batting cage, it helps to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of each material are. The following discusses which bat is more effective and how the materials should be used for individual playing purposes.

The evolution of the bat has shaped how baseball is played at various levels, with the two most popular materials being wooden bats and aluminum bats. While a seasoned batter can feel the differences in swing, motion, and contact (aside from simply weight and material of course), many amateurs are hard-pressed to feel the nuanced differences between an aluminum and wooden bat. The following is a brief outline of the differences between the bats, and understanding which (if any) material is more effective.

Besides the obvious difference in material, an aluminum bat has a few characteristics which distance it from wooden bats. Aluminum bats are hollow; which aside from contributing to an overall lighter weight, allows the bat maker to manipulate its width and length while keeping the same weight. This allows for much more customization to the strengths or weakness of a batter.

Also, an aluminum bat tends to be more durable. While breaks have occurred, they tend to be something of a rarity in the highest levels of the game. For contrast, individual MLB batters typically use a few dozen wooden bats per season.

What really stands as an advantage for aluminum bats is their balance, and what’s called the “trampoline” effect. Due to being hollow, and the nature of the material, the “sweet spot” of an aluminum bat is much wider than a wooden bat. Next time you step up to a batting cage, try a swing with each make of bat. An aluminum bat is balanced more to the middle, focusing the full weight of the bat closer to the grip and enabling a faster swing that is only amplified by the bat’s decreased weight. Also the metal of an aluminum bat has a slight “give” when something strikes it. That give will result in a higher pushback on contact, like jumping on a trampoline.

If functionality and durability of aluminum bats surpasses a wooden bat, why does MLB only allow wooden bats (made of one solid piece of wood; so nothing hollow or “corked”)? There are a few reasons actually. First of all, wooden bats have a much slower ball speed after contact. This may seem like a drawback, and you probably won’t experience this distinction in the controlled batting cages at a local family fun center, but this is mostly a safety concern.

Some ball speeds after bat contact, especially in the major leagues, are simply too fast for a normal human to react and take protective measures to avoid. Meaning a well struck ball could prove damaging, if not fatal, to a vulnerable pitcher. The functionality simply doesn’t outweigh the safety concerns. MLB is modeled to host the most elite baseball players in the world; do these elite players really need enhanced functionality to outweigh safety?

Finally, aesthetics and tradition play a powerful role in the MLB’s rejection of aluminum bats. The weight and crack of the bat is part of a long list of baseball standards that are universal aspect of America’s Pastime. Purists shudder at the idea of aluminum bats giving an unfair advantage to modern players who would undoubtedly ravage all-time batting statistics. Also, wooden bats are weaker for inside pitches, whereas aluminum bats can rattle an inside pitch without any adjustment in the batter’s swing. Because of this, many college players must relearn hitting inside pitches correctly once they ascend to the major leagues.

Next time you visit a batting cage, try to take a few swings with a wooden bat and then with an aluminum bat. You may not feel the difference immediately, but eventually the nuances will become apparent. As far as which is more effective, that is really a subjective question. If you’re just hanging around batting cages or playing with friends, an aluminum bat should be fine. Unless you’re an avid seeker of nostalgia or training for the major leagues, the ease of use will make an aluminum bat your best friend. Just be aware of the safety issues from the faster ball speed, and remember that Ty Cobb didn’t need an aluminum bat to record 4,191 career hits.

If you live in the Bakersfield area of California & you are looking for a batting cage to practice your swing, go to Camelot Park Family Fun Center or visit their website at http://camelotparkbakersfield.com

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