How much more effective are aluminum baseball bats compared to wooden ones

Growing up playing youth baseball I, and everyone I competed against used aluminum bats. In fact every baseball player from every level up until college is permitted to use an aluminum bat. However, when you get to professional baseball at both the MLB and minor leagues, aluminum bats are not permitted anymore; only wooden bats are allowed for professional players. Why is that many may ask? The answer to that is the widespread baseball thought that aluminum bats (or metal) are more effective for hitters, and would make the game extremely hard for the pitchers and fielders at the games highest level. I decided to look further into this interesting sports topic to see if this thought is true, and if it is true how much more effective are aluminum bats.

picture from upcindex.com

The null hypothesis for this question would be that aluminum bats are in fact more effective for hitters. The alternative hypothesis would be that wooden bats are actually more effective for hitters in baseball. A confounding variable could be the overall ability of the player using the bat.

A comprehensive study I came across conducted by Crisco and Greenwald dove deeply into this question and came up with a clear answer. The study involved nineteen active baseball players, nine players playing in the minor leagues, six playing in college, and four players still in high school. The study took place in a batting cage where the subjects took six swings with a wooden bat model, and five separate metal bat models. A 3-D map was used to track the trajectory of the ball prior to, during, and after making contact with each bat. They then used the video data to obtain and analyze the speed of the ball throughout the three main phases of the swinging process. The results of the test clearly show that metal bats outperformed wooden bats when it came to the speed of the ball after the swing. The ball speed coming off of the metal bats was up to eight miles per hour (MPH) faster than the ball speed when coming off of a wooden bat from the same player. The data also found that not all metal bats performed the same. This graphic below shows the findings of the study.

photo from acs.psu.edu

The findings of this study may cause one to ask why this is the case. An article I found on www.exploratorium.edu clearly spells out some key reasons for why this is the case. According to the article aluminum bats are lighter than wooden bats, therefore the player is able to swing the bat at a faster speed which will in turn give the ball coming off the bat a higher velocity. Also the article talks about how aluminum bats are more flexible at the point of contact which allows for further distance traveled at a higher velocity.

Overall, after the findings of the study it is clear that aluminum bats perform better than wooden ones for a baseball batter. There are many factors that factor into why this is the case. Therefore, the null hypothesis would be accepted in this case. It is doubtful that this subject suffers from either a file drawer problem or the Texas sharpshooter problem due to the amount of studies that have been done on it, and the lack of proof of any other answers.

 

4 thoughts on “How much more effective are aluminum baseball bats compared to wooden ones

  1. Melissa Fraistat

    This post was interesting for me to read because I’m an avid baseball fan. I always knew that aluminum bats allowed players to hit the ball further, but I always wondered why, but it makes sense that since the bat is lighter, the player can swing faster, and therefore hit at a higher velocity. Although I understand why aluminum bats aren’t allowed in MLB games, I think it would be cool to see a game where they were allowed, and see how much further the hits go.

  2. Dylan Huberman

    It isn’t at all surprising that metal bats outperformed the wood bats. However, just like there are different types of metal bats with different compositions of different metals, there are wood bats that are made of various kinds of wood. For example, the company Marucci, who I’m sure you know as a former player and a current fan, dominates the market on bats in recent years over previous industry titan, Louisville Slugger. Marucci promoted the use of wooden bats made of maple rather than ash, which was used by professionals for a long time. It would be interesting to see how Marucci maple bats measure up against some aluminum bats. Take a look at the link to see a bunch of MLB players from past and present who switched from ash to maple and see how well its worked for them!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marucci_Sports

  3. Zachary Morris

    As someone who played baseball up until the end of high school, I’m familiar with this debate. I agreed with your hypothesis off the bat (Ha) and wasn’t too surprised by your results. I thought this article was well written and well planned out. The game’s best players cant use aluminum bats- the balls simply travel too fast off of them. Baseball is a game of reflexes and inches, and you can’t change the standard that everyone is used to- especially when it makes it less safe! Here’s a link to a video of David Ortiz crushing balls with a metal bat- the sound is scary!

  4. Connor Edward Opalisky

    This post interested me as a high school baseball player and an MLB fan. One thing to note is that there are actually two different types of aluminum bats. While playing high school baseball, they enforced regulations known as BBCOR certification on our aluminum bats. The difference in the BBCOR bats were that they performed more similar to wooden bats in terms of the speed at which the ball left them. This meant that the game was ultimately safer because balls were slowed down to speeds that were manageable for fielders. For more information on this difference here is a link https://mattinglysports.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/mattinglys-ask-the-expert-bbcor-vs-besr/

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