There’s a trend with Big Leagues players for bats with larger barrels. I suppose this is a natural trend, as players are getting bigger and stronger. Big Leagues pitchers are throwing harder and harder, with more pitches clocking in at above 100 mph than ever before.
Hitters, on the other hand, have tried to combat the increased velocity by gravitating towards smaller handle and large barrel bats. This is done in order to create more bat speed or ‘whip’ in their swing.
Obviously, there’s a bit more to a professional baseball player’s ability to generate bat speed than using a big barrel. These players have been honing their skills for a very long time. Their physical conditioning, mental preparation, as well as a highly advanced hitting technique have enabled them to perform at the highest level of their profession.
From the smallest players, like Houston’s second baseman Jose Altuve, to physical specimen like New York’s outfielder Aaron Judge, these guys have been working to perfect their craft for many years, starting from their youth.
They also know that they have limitations, and working inside those limitations in order to reduce them is a big part of the process of becoming their best. It’s a process, and the process takes time and patience. But it also involves understanding your body.
As a youth growing up in Texas, my favourite hitter was first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. I was infatuated with the effortless and efficiency of his swing. So I watched him and tried to mimic his approach, from the time he stepped into the batters’ box to his follow-through after each swing. But I never knew the model, length, and weight of the bat he swung.
Nowadays, it’s easy to find your favourite player’s game bat. But as a youth, do you actually need to use the exact model of the bat? Remember, these guys have been training for a long time, and they know how to use a wooden bat.
It’s a bit different from metal, as the wooden bat is, shall we say, less forgiving! I would argue that developing and perfecting your technique with a wooden bat is a lot more important than hitting your favourite major leaguer’s bat model.
Smaller barrel bats are better for youth in that they offer a more balanced feel and therefore similar to metal, and they use higher density wood, which helps to offset the lack of bat speed for the physically less-developed youth.
Switching from metal to wooden bat can be a very daunting task. It’s altogether not the same feeling. Not to mention the hitting area of the wood bat is much smaller than that of the metal, and the consequences of not finding the sweet spot with the wooden bat is more “pricey”!
So it’s important to have something that feels comfortable in your hand. Something you feel you can swing with confidence and not worry about finding the sweet spot.
Bigger barrel bats, like the B243c or CarGo5, even with the same length to weight ratio of smaller barrel bats, feel a lot different because the weigh distribution is different.
With most of these bats, the weight is more felt in the barrel, which can make the bat feel heavier. When the bat feels heavy, there’s a tendency to over swing or abandon your hitting technique because you feel less confident about your ability to find the sweet spot.
The player’s physical development is another factor in choosing what type of bat to use. The higher density wood used to make smaller barrel bats offer two advantages:
- More pop (compared to less dense wood at exact same bat speed)
- Stronger bat (less chance of breakage if ball is not hit on the sweet spot).
A less physically developed youth would find it more difficult to develop the kind of bat speed required to effectively use a bat with a bigger barrel due to the low density of the wood used to make the bat.
As a young player, it is more important to use a bat that fits comfortably in your hands, with the durability to withstand more of the mistakes that will no doubt happen when making the leap from metal to wood bats. The key to being a great hitter is the ability to generate bat speed.
But until your body is mature enough physically to combine bat speed with a bigger barrel, the higher density wood used to make the smaller barrel bats is the perfect tool.