Composite vs Aluminum Alloy Bats, Which is Better?

There is a lot of debate as to which is better, composite or aluminum alloy bats. Here I throw in my 2 cents worth.

A note on composite bats vs. aluminum bats: As far as performance is concerned, my opinion is that nowadays there really isn’t much of a difference. It’s now becoming very common for the leagues to limit the performance of the bats allowed to be used. This is because composite bats can be made with such high performance that they can be dangerous to use, so their performance is purposely being limited by the leagues.

The result of this is that all of the bat manufacturers make bats that meet the maximum performance as set forth by each league, and the aluminum alloys used these days are strong enough that the bats can be made with a thin enough wall to easily meet these performances. For example, Little League rules prohibit the use of any bat that has a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.15 or less. For USSSA and NSA league play the bat must bear a permanent marking indicating that the bat does not exceed a 1.20 BPF rating.

The main advantage of composite bats over aluminum bats is that composite bats can be made with a larger “sweet spot” than aluminum bats, allowing more forgiveness for an imperfect swing. Also composite bats can be made to feel much better than aluminum bats and to have a better sound when hitting the ball. This has a fairly large psychological advantage over the aluminum bats. In my opinion, these advantages account for the high popularity of composite bats.

There is still some perceived improvement in performance of the composite bats as the ratings have been determined with bats that weren’t broken in yet, so that their performance would improve once they were broken in. However, even that is changing now. For a more in depth (and technical) discussion on composite and aluminum bats, see Dr. Daniel Russell’s website Physics and Acoustics of Baseball and Softball Bats.

Concerning breaking in the bat, composite bat require a longer break-in period than aluminum bats to get the best performance out of them. Just remember, do NOT break it in by hitting balls at a commercial batting cage. These balls are too dense for composite bats and will result in a cracked bat! Use regulation leather-covered baseballs to break-in your bat.

Image courtesy of http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/bats/compalum.html

So, my opinion on the composite vs. aluminum debate is that composite bats are still better than aluminum bats. Whether or not it’s enough better to justify the high cost is up to you!

Where are the best places to get bats? I’ve found the following online sellers to be excellent: Amazon.com, JustBats.com Baseball Rampage, Baseball Express, and Sports Diamond. To make it easier to find the right bat, we’ve set up some bat product pages from my best sources that let you view bats by length-to-weight ratio. Just follow the link and click the length-to-weight ratio you want! Also, since bats are usually categorized by length-to-weight ratio, it can be difficult to find bats that are shorter than 28″. For this reason, we’ve put together product pages for 27″ bats, and for 24-26″ bats which are considered Tee Ball bats.

Bat Care Tips

As bats are expensive, caring for your bat is important. Here are some suggestions to make your bats last, based on information from the Louisville Slugger website (www.slugger.com):

  1. Don’t use an aluminum bat in cold weather (below 60° F or 16° C), or a composite bat below 70° F (21° C). The reason for this is that balls become more dense in low temperatures, making it easier to dent the bat.
  2. Don’t store your bat in an area that sees extreme temperatures (hot or cold), such as a garage or car trunk. This can cause bats to crack. For those bats with an end cap, the end cap is usually made of a different material and can expand or contract at a different rate than the rest of the bat, causing end cap failure. Store your bats in your house.
  3. Don’t use your good bat at commercial batting cages. These places usually use a denser ball than regular balls. Use an older bat for practice in cages, save the good bat for games and practices that use regular balls.
  4. On each hit of the ball, rotate the bat 1/4 turn. This prevents denting that results from hitting the ball repeatedly in the same spot.
  5. Do not hit waterlogged balls. These balls are denser than normal.
  6. Limit the bat to individual use only. You might hit the ball 6 times in a game, however, if the whole team uses the bat, that could be 60 times a game!
  7. Routinely check your bat for any damage.

Feedback on anything inaccurate is welcome (please include link to your information source)

Kevin Eaton
 

Hello! I’m Kevin – an openly biased Baltimore Orioles fan; a youth baseball parent; an obsessive-compulsive scorekeeper; a travelling ballpark tourist and a taste tester of defiantly unhealthy ballpark culinary offerings. In this space I share my love for the game of baseball and in doing so, connect with other really great people who love the game as much as I do.

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