The best baseball bat
Just about anyone can play baseball -- the rules are simple, and it's not generally a contact sport, which means the chance of serious injury is much lower than other sports. All that's required is a ball, a bat, a glove, and room to play, making recreational baseball a popular spring and summertime activity.
However, a bat is a critical piece of equipment. Modern baseball bats can be constructed from hardwood (such as pine or ash), aluminum, metal alloys, or even carbon fiber. The difference in performance among these models has prompted many baseball leagues to prohibit certain bats from competitive play. When shopping for a new baseball bat, it's important to consider its legality in your league.
If you're looking for a quality baseball bat to exceed your expectations, read our helpful buying guide. At the top of our list is Marucci's MCBC7 Cat7 BBCOR Baseball Bat, an aluminum baseball bat that provides more power than a traditional wood bat and can be used in a number of leagues.
Considerations when choosing baseball bats
The idea that one model of baseball bat provides more hitting power than another model is no myth. A player using a bat with more flexibility or a larger "sweet spot" does indeed have a competitive advantage over other players. In order to level the playing field, many leagues use a standard measurement of hitting power known as the BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) to determine if a particular bat is legal to use. When shopping for a baseball bat, it's important to determine this BBCOR rating and compare it to the league's established regulations.
There are two important factors when it comes to baseball bats: one is the overall length, and the other is weight. The difference between the length of the bat (in inches) and the weight of the bat (in ounces) helps determine the BBCOR rating. A "drop weight" is expressed as a negative number comparing the length and weight ratio. A 32-inch bat that weighs 29 ounces, for example, would have a -3 drop weight. Any other drop weight could affect the bat's legality and performance.
The first baseball bats were traditionally carved from a hardwood with a solid grain, such as ash or pine. Hardwood bats are still popular today, but manufacturers have also introduced bats made from aluminum, metal alloys, and even carbon fiber. The ideal material may be a matter of personal preference for players, since each type has advantages and disadvantages. Wood bats absorb a lot of shock, for instance, but do not always provide hitting power. Aluminum bats have more flexibility and higher BBCOR ratings, but also create noticeable vibration. Alloys and carbon fibers improve the weight and balance of a bat, but also require a longer break-in period.
One-piece vs. two-piece
A traditional wooden bat is often carved from a single piece of ash or pine, which reduces the amount of flexibility on contact. Some aluminum bats are also forged or molded from a single piece of material. A one-piece bat can provide more hitting power or "pop," but it can also be harder to control during the swing. A two-piece bat consists of a separate handle and barrel secured by industrial adhesive or welds. A two-piece bat absorbs more shock, especially if the handle is padded or taped, but it can also snap unexpectedly during use.
It's not unusual for a player to use less expensive wooden or aluminum bats (under $50) for practice and invest in mid-range to expensive bats for actual gameplay. A mid-range aluminum or composite bat can cost between $50 and $150, while the most expensive models for collegiate or professional use can cost up to $500.
Q. I see the initials BBCOR on many of the bats my team uses. What does that mean?
A. BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution, which is a standardized measurement of a particular bat's flexibility during use. Some aluminum and composite bats have more "spring" in them than wooden bats, and different leagues use this number to keep the performance level of all approved bats relatively equal.
Q. I like the feel of my new composite bat, but I'm not getting the same hitting power as my old wooden bat. Why is that?
A. Composite bats often require a break-in period before they perform at their best. You may need to take as many as 150 to 200 hits before the composite material provides as much flex as an aluminum or wooden bat.
Baseball bats we recommend
Best of the best: Marucci's MCBC7 Cat7 BBCOR Baseball Bat
Our take: Aluminum bats like the Marucci may not be approved by some leagues, but we believe it provides more power and control than a standard wooden bat.
What we like: Minimal vibration for an aluminum model. Exceptionally large sweet spot. Good balance in the hand and a solid grip.
What we dislike: The BBCOR rating may not be accurate. Some complaints about a lack of "pop."
Best bang for your buck: Louisville Slugger's 2019 Solo 619 Baseball Bat
Our take: While Louisville Slugger may be better known for its wooden baseball bats, this affordable alloy model is a good transition from wood to metal in league play.
What we like: Meets the standards for numerous leagues, from pony to collegiate. Comfort grip for additional stability. Special end cap increases bat speed. Alloy construction provides a stiffer response than wood or aluminum.
What we dislike: One-piece design can cause significant vibration in hands. Some dents reported after minimal use.
Our take: For those who want to change up from wood or aluminum, this alloy bat from Rawlings is an affordable alternative, as long as it's approved for league play.
What we like: Noticeable level of pop with solid hits. Alloy construction is lighter in weight, but still provides power. Exceptional balance.
What we dislike: Can develop a distinct bend or curve after long-term use. Very loud ping on contact.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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