Before we delve into the subject of whether or not a wood bat can lose its pop, let’s first figure out what pop is. To put it simply, it’s how fast the ball is traveling as a result of being hit by the bat, while all other variables remain the same. This can include the speed of the hitter’s swing, the swing weight, pitch speed, and where the baseball collided with the bat, just to name a few.
So, can a wood bat lose pop? No. Bats will eventually break, but the amount of “pop” should remain the same until the bat is cracked, broken or damaged.
This has been an ongoing argument for quite some time. People make claims that wooden baseball bats do lose their pop over time. Others disagree, saying there is no way to measure this. As stated before, all other variables have to remain constant in order to measure pop, but there is no way you can ever have a human swing a bat the exact same way more than once. A swing is like a snowflake – each one is unique.
The reason why people claim certain bats have a better pop is because of who used them. When a world record is broken, there are those who will claim the bat’s pop aided the player, while others believe it was hard work and determination on the player’s behalf that resulted in him or her setting a new record. Both arguments are logical, and it’s kind of hard to pick a side.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association created the BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution) as a baseball bat performance standard. It is used to certify the performance of composite bats used in competition. There is also the BPF (Bat Performance Factor) that measures the difference in velocity of the ball as a result of being hit by a bat, compared to being thrown against a wall. The BPF has been in use by many baseball and softball organizations to determine if a bat is allowed to be used during competition.
By adopting these standards, there are those that state all bats are now equal, and the only difference from one to another is the player’s preference. Still, there are those who disagree and claim that different bats have different pops, giving some people an advantage over others.
One argument is that, over time, a wood bat can lose some of its pop. This is apparently the result of the ball repeatedly hitting the barrel of the bat, causing the wood to soften. Regardless if a bat ever loses its pop or not is not necessarily relevant, because all bats have a limited shelf life. Wooden and composite bats will eventually crack no matter what, and aluminum bats suffer the fate of dings and dents. Some types of bats will outlast others, but they all need to be replaced eventually.
At one point in time, the most popular wooden bat was made of maple. Because bats made of this type of wood crack the most often, there was an average of one bat being broken per game. On a side note, the average life span of a baseball during a regular major league baseball game is only five to seven pitches. This results in roughly 70 baseballs being used per game.
Since all baseball bats seem to die equally, let’s find out if they were created equally.
Picking a Type of Bat
There are five types of baseball bats that are generally used – wood, aluminum, BBCOR, composite and hybrid. Here are some highlights about each material for you to take into consideration when purchasing a new bat:
- Only made of Birch, Ash or Maple for safety.
- Less expensive per bat, but break more often.
- Because of their weight, they are harder to swing than aluminum or composite bats.
Known as the classic baseball bat, a wooden bat has been the standard used in professional baseball’s earliest days. Bats made from hickory or bamboo are becoming increasingly popular, but have not yet been permitted for use by most professional leagues.
- Less expensive than other materials.
- Do not require a break-in period.
- Suggested for use in cold weather.
More popular with younger players, the aluminum bat is lighter than other materials. This makes them a perfect choice because it allows for the younger players to learn how to do a proper swing much easier. When aluminum bats hit baseballs, the balls generally tend to travel faster. This can make up for less strength in young players.
- Better durability than wood bats.
- Requires a break-in period.
- More expensive than other materials.
Made from a combination of graphite, plastic, and even sometimes titanium, these bats are even lighter than aluminum, making them a better choice of equipment for the younger players. Some leagues still have yet to allow this bat to be used during competition.
BBCOR bats are the new standard of aluminum bats for youth, high school, and college leagues. These bats do not have the same amount of pop as standard composite bats.
These bats were introduced to promote the safety of the players on the field.
- Made of both composite and aluminum.
- No break-in period.
- Combines the light swinging of a composite bat with the durability of an aluminum bat.
- Tend to be the most popular.
Although this type of bat tends to have many pros, a huge drawback is that there are still a lot of leagues that do not allow it to be used during games.
Types of Wood
It is said that bats made of maple are harder and offer more pop. However, they are also more likely to split in half. This is the result of maple’s inability to flex as much as other woods. This causes the shock to travel down the barrel and break at the handle. Ash wood bats do not pop as much as maple, but they are more forgiving and less likely to break. And when they do break, it basically just splinters and flakes apart into many pieces. Birch is a good alternative to maple and ash because it has the pop of maple and the forgiveness of ash. There are also wooden composite bats that will outlast any other type of material. Usually, these bats consist of a wooden core with a composite material creating the outer core.
Quality of Wood
Wooden bats must be cut in a certain way when it comes to the grain. The straighter the slope of grain, the better the quality is. Baseball bats with a zero-degree grain are more likely to last and improves the strength of the bat. Another way to ensure the quality of wood used to create your bat is if the end is cupped or rounded. Having a cupped end allows more dense wood to be used in the creation of the bat, which leads to less breaking or splintering. There are also bats that are bone rubbed, which is a technique where an animal bone or a porcelain surface is rubbed against a wooden bat with as much pressure as possible to harden the barrel.
Now that you have been empowered with the knowledge of bats and their pops, here are some other helpful tips for improving your game when it comes to baseball bats:
- Be sure to break-in your new baseball bat depending on the material. To do so, simply use the bat for a little while in the batting cages or using a tee. Some bats need between 150 and 200 hits before they are considered broken in and are performing at their best.
- When picking out a bat, the two main factors are weight and velocity. Your best combination is to select the longest, heaviest bat that you can use without a decrease in the speed of your swing. During a swing, baseball bats can move as fast as 80 mph.
Here are some things to remember when taking care of your baseball bat:
- Store your bat indoors, upright, at room temperature. Do not leave it in places like your car.
- Only use a baseball bat for baseball. (Although this seems like commonsense, there are times when people may use a bat to hit other things, causing damage to the bat.)
- Use the DeMarini Rotation Index – rotating your bat about a quart-inch after every swing to even out the pounding the bat takes during use.
Other tips to becoming a great hitter:
- Work on your stance. This is very important because it reflects on your hitting technique.
- Keep your eye on the ball. You will need to have quick thinking and reactions when attempting to hit a ball.
- Gripping the bat. Your right and left hands should touch while holding the bat. Maintain a relaxed grip until swinging, which will cause your grip to tighten.
- Keep in mind, there is no better tip than telling you to go out there and have fun. If possible, join a local team to help improve your skills. Having a coach nearby is the best way for improving your game. He or she can observe things like your stance, techniques, grip, etc., and physically show you how to improve.