Choosing the right wood bat can be trickier than most people think. Wood bats come in a wide variety of shapes called a “turn”. The most common turn is a model 271. Some companies choose to give each turn it’s own name, just to make things more confusing. After reading all of this, my advise (if still confused) is to start with a model 271 and go from there.
Bats vary in 4 places, the barrel, the taper, the handle and the knob. Like many things, when the original bat shape was determined, someone decide they could make it “better” or more to their liking. At some point, someone thought the barrel of the 271 is too short. They lengthened the barrel, reduced the angle of the taper and a whole new bat turn was born. A side effect would be an end loaded bat, that was not great for everyone.
You can see how changing the turn (or shape) of the bat generates positives and negatives. Below I list the reasons for the 4 components of a wood bat, and what to expect. The truth is, it comes down to feel. This guide may just help you find the right turn a bit quicker.
The species of wood is also a factor in durability, cost or how a bat feels. Ash, Birch and Maple are the three most common. The differences in the three is the woods density. Ash is far less dense than maple. This is evident by the thick grain lines visible on an ash bat. Birch and maple have a finer grain that’s more compact. Ash bats provide more whip as they are more flexible than maple. That whip effect provide much of the bat’s pop. (ball jumping off the bat)
Bamboo is actually grass, not wood and falls under the “composite” bat category. Many wood bat leagues WILL NOT ALLOW BAMBOO for that reason. However, some leagues will allow a bamboo bat as long as it has the BBCOR stamp on it. You will want to check on that. Bamboo does make a great practice bat because it is extremely durable.
Maple is more rigid, it will not flex as much and utilizes the density of the wood to provide pop. Maple bats are used by a great deal of major league players, as is ash. I’ll usually steer young players or “new to wood” players to ash or birch.
Birch falls right between the two. Good flexibility, yet almost as dense as maple. It would seem birch would be very popular, but most choose either the flexibility of ash or the hardness of maple.
You may notice most bats are “cupped” on the barrel end. One inch of wood is about 1 oz. of weight, so cupping the bat reduces weight and helps to balance the bat. Of course, it also makes the bat weaker on the end and more susceptible to breakage.
The last thing I’ll mention is the “extras” that you may consider. Things like hand split wood, bone rubbed or flame treated. Hand split wood allows the wood the split more naturally along the grain. The result is a stronger bat, because you are getting the strongest part of the wood. Bone rubbing a bat helps to compact the grain, producing a “harder” hitting area. Flame treating looks good, and is also supposed to harden the wood a bit, but not sure that’s the case. If you like to tinker, buy a “natural” wood bat and do all this work yourself.
If you have the ability to swing a few different models, do so. If not, at least try to hold as many as you can. Get a feel for the knob style, the balance, and the feel of the handle (too thin or thick) Figure out what type of hitter you are, power or contact. Research the different turns or models offered based on the balance you are looking for. With all that information, you should be able to figure out the best bat for you.
Thank You for reading.
This picture shows the basic components of a wood bat. As each component changes, so does the feel of the bat. Larger knobs offer a counter balance, thinner handle, more whip, long or short taper effects barrel length, and barrel diameter all make each bat feel different.
Here are a few examples of knobs. It’s really more of a feel thing, but the shape and size of the knob can effect the balance of the bat. A large knob Bell Knob, Not Pictured) acts as a counter weight and can protect the fingers a bit more. Some prefer to hold the knob in their hand, and prefer the smaller or flared style.