Baseball bats are all the same right?
Wrong. So very, very wrong.
So if you find yourself wondering what are the different types of baseball bats then this article and guide could be just what you are looking for. Research, after all, is important, and if you are looking to buy a baseball bat for yourself or for your kid, then knowing the in and outs of aspects such as materials, league rules, and even what makes a baseball bat a baseball bat is important.
This is especially true because baseball bats – especially at the top end of the buying spectrum – can get pricey. The key is to find that sweet spot (intentional baseball reference) between quality and value for whatever level of play you or your child is able to take on.
Here is a look at all you need to know when working out what are the different types of baseball bats and which type of bat you are going to buy.
The Anatomy of a Baseball Bat
If you are looking to buy a baseball bat then some background on the bat itself is a good place to start. This is no longer just a chunk of wood swung around at a ball. Instead, the modern baseball bat is a precision-engineered word of art and, potentially, the most iconic piece of American sporting equipment on the entire planet.
Baseball bats used to be whittled out of a single piece of wood into a finished form that produced the most power when swung to hit an incoming baseball. While the manufacturing process has moved on – albeit collectors and enthusiasts still love to buy bats made the old-fashioned way – the basic anatomy of a baseball bat has remained the same for generations.
Here are the five sections of a bat to know in order to sound like you know what you are talking about in a specialist store:
- Knob – The top of the bat. Without this, it would be much easier for your hands to slip off and for the bat to go flying out into the field. This would not be good.
- Grip – Found on non-wood bats. This piece of rubber is designed to stop a batter’s hands from slipping on slick metal and composite handles.
- Handle – Where you hold the bat. Just like any other handle.
- Barrel – The location of the sweet spot and the thickest section of the bat. This is the part that you are going to want to hit the ball with for maximum crushing ability.
- End Cap – Not universal but a handy piece of tech that makes for easier control by balancing the bat.
Different Types of Baseball Bat Materials
There are several types of materials used for making modern baseball bats. Here are some of the more common examples.
Wooden Baseball Bats
The gold standard of bats for baseball players and the original material that baseball bats were made out of. Wooden bats are simple – most are made from just one type of wood depending on the preference of the player – but they are expensive and durability is a huge concern. This happens more often when kids age up with pitchers throwing harder and the chances of a wood bat splintering and ruining your investment growing with every line drive. Taking a deeper dive on wood.
- Ash Bats – This is the most common wood bat around. This makes it the cheapest wood bat and the small amount of flex in the wood allows a batter some extra whip when swinging at a hanging change-up. This, however, is the least durable wood bat and the barrel will eventually fail.
- Maple Bats – All power, all day. The maple bat is the preferred choice of sluggers as the wood is as hard as it gets and, as a result, the ball travels further off of the barrel. The biggest issue here is that these bats tend to shatter into pieces when they fail. That, plus added expenses because of the premium power, makes maple bats a specialist piece of equipment.
- Birch Bats – Think of this as the hybrid wood bat. Small flex plus extra hardness is a combination that players love. This bat is also the most durable of the wood grains, but there is a break-in period before the bat reaches its maximum effectiveness that you will have to power through.
The first “modern” bat was the aluminum bat that was developed in the 1970s. In many ways, this bat was able to increase the enjoyment of the game for many as they are more durable than their wood counterparts. You see these bats a lot at the college and elite high school level.
Ideal for those players wanting a lighter bat with a larger sweet spot for ease when hitting the ball and keeping it in play. The bat’s construction can be made up of reinforced carbon fiber polymer or composite. The technology and composite materials in these bats are very impressive and the fact that they are easy to swing and can be designed to be ideally balanced makes them perfect for kids and youth players.
The best of the aluminum/alloy/composite model is the hybrid bat. This baseball bat is usually found with an aluminum barrel – all the advantageous pop of the metal – with a composite handle. This combination adds durability while cutting down on some of the weight that a pure aluminum bat is lumbered with. The hybrid bat is often seen in high school and youth leagues, the stages before players are able to fully develop their swings with heavier bats.
One other type of bat that you will sometimes come across is the Fungo bat. This bat is a weird-looking thing and is used for practice only as is it not legal to be used for play in any league. The advantage of this bat is that has a longer barrel and is of a lighter weight. This means that coaches can use the Fungo bat to manipulate the ball into spots they want it to go in order to give fielders more intense practice sessions.
A good coach can use a Fungo bat to drill fly balls, create infield pop-ups at will, and drive ground balls into the dirt. This means practice sessions are fast, more intense, and generally more worthwhile in helping players improve.
Things to Consider When Buying a Bat
- Size, length, & weight – These factors are incredibly important when buying a baseball bat. Get one of them wrong and you will not be playing at your optimal level. A bat that is too long or too heavy will result in a sluggish swing and way fewer connections with the sweet spot. A bat that is too small and light will not cover the plate properly and even the best contact won’t drive the ball as it should. Consider these factors both from your standpoint as a player, but also within the context of league rules.
- League rules – Know the rules of a league or governing body before splashing out on a new bat. Almost every league will cap the barrel size, while others may have policies on wood versus metal bats or even have a weight cap on your new toy.
- Price – The baseball bat will (in most cases) be the most expensive piece of baseball equipment that a player owns. Bargain bats can be as little as $30 for youth players and range all the way up to $400 or $500 for top-of-the-line adult models. Don’t feel like you need to spend that much initially and shop around for a bat with good reviews at a price point that you are comfortable with. The bat doesn’t make the player, the player makes the bat.
- Brand reputation & history – This isn’t to say that new to the market brands can’t be good, but just that when buying a new bat – especially if this is your first or second ever bat – the most popular brands are as popular as they are for a reason. Marucci is the most popular brand with MLB players per a 2021 study, while brands such as Barnett, Rawlings, and Easton are all solid manufacturers with a great history of quality and service.
Difference Between Bats
It is also good to know the differences between the three major types of bats that you will find online when looking for your new piece of timber (or metal). Here they are:
- Adult – Adult bats most commonly sit in the 29-35 inch range. The barrel is usually two inches as this is the best thickness for a combination of power and control. Both wood and metal bats are common in adult play (depending on league rules).
- Youth – Youth bats are like adult bats but shrunk down in size. Expect to find a bat in the range of 23-32 inches long with a barrel diameter of around 2 and a quarter inches. Sizing a bat correctly for a youth player is important. More than size, make sure the weight is correct by watching the youth player’s swing. If he is struggling, then a lighter bat is needed. If it is too easy but the ball has no pop off of the bat, then go heavier. Metal bats are far more common than wood bats at the youth level.
- Training – Training bats are not used during games and instead are tools to improve a certain aspect of a player’s swing or game. The Fungo bat mentioned above is one example, with others such as the short-barrelled bat, the weighted bat, and the soft toss training bat all being worth a look if you or your child is looking to rapidly improve as a player in the training arena.
And there you have it! A list of the different types of baseball bats and their purposes. Be sure to check the rules of the league you are wanting to play in to see which types of baseball bats are allowed. And if you want to know more about all the gear that is needed for baseball check out our article on “What Equipment Do You Need For Baseball?”
Baseball Bat FAQs
What are the different types of baseball balls?
There are four different types of baseball bats (in terms of materials) that can be used for games. They are wood, aluminum, composite, and hybrid. Be sure to check the rules of the league you want to play in to see which types of baseball bats are allowed.
What type of bat do they use in MLB?
They use wood bats in MLB for a number of reasons. One is the traditional history of the league (something MLB takes seriously), but probably the main reason is safety. Aluminum bats hit the ball with more speed and power than wood bats. Given how hard MLB players can hit the ball already it would be even more dangerous if they were given the advantage of hitting with anything other than wood bats. A slugger like Aaron Judge uses a rock maple wood bat from the Chandler bat company
Do metal or wood baseball bats hit further?
This is an interesting question. Metal bats were hitting the ball so hard that new rules were bought into place to deaden the power output on safety grounds. As a result, there isn’t currently much difference in the distance a ball would travel when hit on the sweet spot of either a metal or wood bat.
What’s the difference between youth and adult baseball bats?
The main difference between youth and adult baseball bats is their size. Youth bats are smaller and lighter, so they are also usually cheaper than adult bats.