Finding the Perfect Baseball Bat: Old School vs New School Methodology
The right baseball or softball bat is an extension of a player’s body and key component of their game. In the past, it would typically take a few years of playing ball for a player to settle into his or her batting style and pinpoint the unique qualities that make up his or her perfect bat.
Any professional or veteran player will tell you that it isn’t just about eyeballing a chart to figure out the right height or weight for your bat. See, two players of the same height and weight won’t necessarily use the same bat to achieve success at the plate. There are several other factors and a little bit of science that comes into play to determine a player’s ideal bat.
While many of the basic rules to measuring a player for a bat have remained the same through the years, some aspects have evolved with the sport. The old school methodology of fitting yourself for a bat has been outsmarted by the rise of technology.
Technology has allowed manufacturers to rethink the materials that they use to build a more ideal structure and create a better batting experience overall. As new devices and tools are developed that incorporate the true science behind hitting a ball out of the park, the bat fitting process has become more convenient, efficient and accurate than ever.
Another perk of the tech-advanced world we live in these days is that you can even get fitted for a baseball or softball bat online! Check out the True Bat Online Fitting here.
In this ultimate guide to finding the right baseball bat, we’re going to walk you through how the baseball bat fitting process has evolved from the outdated old school methodology to the new and improved methodology of today. We’ll also discuss the current rules and regulations for the various baseball and softball leagues as well as the different types of bats to choose from.
Let’s get started!
Old School vs New School Bat Fitting Methodology
If you ask someone from an older generation to help you find the right sized baseball or softball bat, they’ll likely walk you through a basic process that follows old school methodology. You’ll want to first calculate the right bat length based on your height and weight. Then calculate the right drop weight.
While this methodology may have worked for many years, there are a couple issues with it. For one thing, it doesn’t account for a player’s strength, skill set, launch angles, exit velocity and other factors that can now be measured with new technology. Without considering these aspects, you could be swinging the wrong bat and hindering your performance.
You can’t really outsmart technology. And why would you want to? The new tools and devices for measuring all of the essential elements will give you better results so you can achieve more wins out on the field.
Old School Bat Measurement
Let’s explore the basic or “old school” measurement protocol.
When it comes to the best baseball bat length, you’ll want to refer to the standard sizing chart below and measure yourself.
One general rule to remember when testing bats is to never increase more than an inch at a time. For first timers and those of you who need to re-fit yourself, you’ll want to stand with your arms straight out to the side of you and measure from the center of your chest to the end of your index finger.
Using the following sizing chart, determine the length that matches your measurements.
Once you have calculated the approximate bat length for your measurements, you’ll want to check for the following factors to make sure that it is the appropriate size.
1. With the bat to your side, your palm should reach the handle.
2. With the knob of the bat placed in the center of your chest and the bat out forward, parallel to the ground, you should be able to reach your arm towards the end of the bat and grasp the barrel.
A traditional fitting for a younger player is done a little bit differently. Generally speaking, children that are between 3ft to 3ft 4inches tall should start with bats that are 26 inches in length. Then, for every 4 to 5 inches that they grow, go up just 1 inch in bat size.
Here are a few other old school tips for measuring your child for a baseball or softball bat.
1. Remember to always measure your child with his or her cleats on.
2. To determine the right length, have your child stand next to an upright bat to compare his or her height to that of the bat. It should reach just up to your kid’s hip without exceeding it. If the length of the bat goes past his or her hips, it will be way too long for them to swing.
3. To determine the right size based on your child’s weight, remember the following guidelines:
- For children under 60 pounds, stick to bats that are between 26 and 29 inches long.
- For children 70 pounds or more, stick to bats that are between 28 to 32 inches long.
Bat Drop Weight
The other important factor to consider is the weight of your bat. This is measured by the drop weight.
To calculate the drop weight, you want to find the difference between the length and weight. For example, a bat that is 26 inches long and has a drop weight of -10 weighs 16 ounces. Remember - the heavier the drop weight is, the lighter the weight of the bat.
When fitting yourself or your child for a bat, the drop weight will come into play. It’s easy to assume that the stronger the player or hitter, the heavier the bat should be, but that’s not always the case. Again, this is the point at which the need for an updated measuring process became apparent.
The key is to find that perfect balance between a bat weight that suits your body type but still allows you to generate the right amount of speed through the zone. It’s tricky to find this balance when you’re first starting out. However, once you master it, you’ll be able to hit the ball farther and harder than you ever have before.
You also want to consider the physics of a swing. A longer, lighter bat you may be able to swing really fast but it will have little inertia. On the other hand, a shorter, heavier bat you may not swing as fast, but it will have a good deal of gusto.
For young baseball or softball players, the drop weight is an important factor to think about. You want to remember that taller children will require a longer bat based on the proper sizing calculations. But they may not have the strength to use a heavier bat, so it should have a larger drop weight.
Or… you could turn to modern technology and methodology to gain data-driven insight that will allow you to choose the perfect sized bat for your body type, strength, and skill level!
New School Bat Measurement
Players that are struggling on the field often blame it on their technique or timing, when the truth is they probably just chose the wrong sized bat. Once they’re swinging a bat that fits their individual strength and competencies, their performance skyrockets.
As more and more baseball companies began to recognize the problems with the traditional measuring approach, they realized the need for a new methodology that allows a player to test their success with each bat to truly know what will give them the most success on the plate. They started accounting for the science behind the bat, such as hand speed, spin rates, launch angles and exit velocity.
Launch monitor technology today allows players to take a closer look at their swing paths and the trajectory at which the ball comes off the bat. As players test different sized bats, they’re able to see how their point of impact, exit velo and launch angles are affected by the differences in the length, weight, grip size, contour, etc. of each bat.
With such valuable analytics, players start to think differently about their swinging habits. Younger players can catch and correct bad habits early on to help them develop into stronger hitters.
And it’s about time technology created an even playing field for pitchers and hitters. Data-driven technology has favored pitchers for the majority of the past decade. Now, hitters are able to take advantage of the advanced tools available to gain a deeper understanding of their performance.
Rules and Regulations
It’s also critical that you know the rules and regulations in place. These guidelines change every so often as new bats hit the market, so it’s important to keep up. They are put into place to ensure the game is safe and competitive.
The following are the bat regulations for baseball and softball leagues.
USA Baseball Bats
In order to make the game more uniform and maintain the long-term integrity of the sport, a new standard for USA Baseball Bats was introduced in January 2018. It has since been adopted by many youth baseball organizations, including Little League, PONY, American Amateur Baseball Congress, Babe Ruth and more. This allows for USA baseball bats to range in drop weight from -13.5 to -5 and the accepted barrel size is from 2 ¼” to 2 ⅝”.
USSSA Baseball Bats
Among the organizations that did not accept the new standard mentioned above is USSSA. They have maintained their same rules allowing pony leagues to play legally with barrel sizes from 2 ⅝” to 2 ¾” and drop weights ranging from -12 to -5. Any bat with the “USSSA 1.15 BPF” label is welcome for USSSA games. However, they are not legal for leagues that adopted the USA baseball bat rule change.
High School and College Baseball Bats - BBCOR
When it comes to playing high school or college baseball, leagues have replaced their measurement standard, which required a BESR (Bat Exit Speed Ratio) Certification. Today, all bats must be BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) Certified instead. You’ll find a stamp along the right side of your bat to indicate if it meets these requirements.
The idea behind this measurement standard is to calculate the trampoline effect of the bat and ball on impact, as opposed to only measuring the exit speed of the ball. This means that the performance of BBCOR bats is more like that of a wooden bat. In addition to the BBCOR requirement, high school and college baseball bats must have a drop weight of -3 and barrel size of 31” to 34”.
USA/ASA Softball Bats - Fastpitch & Softpitch
Your softball bat must be made of wood or another material that is accepted under USA/ASA rules. It must also not be any longer than 33”, or 34” for Junior and Senior League, and its diameter must be no more than 2 ¼ inches. For wooden bats, the smallest part cannot be any less than 15/16 inches in diameter (or ⅞ for bats that are less than 30 inches in length.
Non-wood bats are only deemed acceptable if they have a label for BPF of 1.20. They are also required to have a grip of cork, wood or composite material and to extend a minimum of 10 inches from the small side.
Remember - ASA bats are not allowed in USSSA softball games, so it is best to check with your league before purchasing a softball bat.
Types of Bat Materials
It's important to understand the materials used in the construction of bats. This will help you know what will be most durable for long-time use and ensure that you’re choosing a bat that suits your needs and meets regulations!
At the amateur level, you typically can choose from the following three materials:
Composite bats can offer less “sting” when you hit a miss-hit ball and typically have a bigger sweet spot that gives you more pop. However, there are some downsides to these types of bats. For one thing, they’re often more expensive than alloy or hybrid bats and they require at least 150 to 200 hits before they’re really broken in.
Additionally, they are not recommended to be used in temperatures below 60 degrees. This can cause poor performance and even cracks in your bat.
Another option for a bat is one that is made with alloy. They’re also referred to as metal or aluminum bats. They’ve been around for a while.
Alloy bats are a less expensive option and they also don’t require any break-in time. You can use them with prime performance right out of the packaging. Another perk of using an alloy bat is that they are more durable and last longer.
The only downside to going with an alloy bat is that they tend to have less of that sweet spot. However, if you invest in a more expensive alloy bat, it is likely to have a larger sweet spot and more balance to ensure excellent performance.
If you can’t decide between composite or alloy, you are in luck! Hybrid bats are another option that give you a little best of both worlds situation.
Hybrid bats are designed to incorporate both the lighter feel of a composite bat handle and the durability of an alloy barrel. Other benefits include the price, which is typically pretty reasonable and like alloy bats, they don’t need any breaking in.
However, the issue with hybrid bats is that they are not allowed in all leagues. They’re also still prone to getting cracked and similar temperature demands to those of composite bats.
The days of buying a bat right off the rack are long gone. In this tech savvy day and age, younger players are fortunate to have access to a more in depth fitting process that gives them a 360 degree look into what will help them be the best hitter they can be!