I have always been interested in the concept of baseball bat fitting, especially coming from the golf world where club fittings are a large part of the new golf club buying experience. Not only do you have to deal with different manufactures, but each manufacturer has different club heads that can be set up in hundreds of different combinations with weights. Then the most important part is the shaft and there are hundreds of shafts to choose from. Each shaft has different weights, weight distribution, kick points, and flex. But then the even more serious golfers get into shaft length and tipping shafts which is making a shaft stiffer than it should be on spec because of where you trim it.
Here is a chart on what can change a swingweight. Remember that a small change in swingweight feels very different.
I remember reading about Jack Nicklaus counter balancing his golf clubs in the 1970s by using pennies in his grips. This changed the balance point of the club or the swingweight. Think of swingweight as the balance of the club. Swingweight is the relationship between the amount of weight at the bottom two-thirds of the club vs the top one third. This translates to how a club feels vs how heavy a club is. Now how does this apply to baseball bats?
The quick answer is I don’t know yet but here is why I am interested, and these are my findings so far…
We all hear of bats being end loaded or balanced. A 243 or i13 with a large barrel will be end loaded and feel heavier than an M110 or 318. This is usually because the barrels are smaller and/or because the handles are thicker (counterbalance). But when you choose your bat, do you even pay attention to this or do you just pick what looks appealing to you and what feels best? I think 2019 is the year where baseball bat fitting becomes a thing. A player should also consider length and cupping options. As a general rule, bat manufactures are confined to density requirements set by the MLB and length to weight ratios of -3. But nobody ever discusses making bats heavier by counterbalancing them or lowering swingweights like golf clubs.
I personally use wood bats and on a test, I found that every wood bat had the same general balance point whether it was an end loaded or balanced bat. But metal bbcor bats have a different balance point that is closer to the knob. This makes even heavier bats feel lighter. And to push it further, balanced metal bat models have the balance point shifted a lot closer to the knob. In the picture below the yellow tape represents the balance point of each bat. Each bat is 33.5” except for the last balanced one-piece voodoo bat which is 34” (I don’t have many metal bats to compare).
Why am I researching this?
One day I tested swing speeds and exit velocities with metal vs wood bats and the findings confused me. I even reached out to Driveline Baseball to see if they have experienced the same thing or had any answers. They agree with my thoughts but didn’t know why. I found that even though the metal bats felt and were heavier and even more end loaded, I swung them faster and I felt quicker to the ball than with the wood bats. Keep in mind that the metal bats should be -3 but the are actually 33.5/32.8 and 34/32.5 so -0.7 and -1.5 respectively. A person would assume that a heavier bat would be swung slower, not faster. So, what is going on here?
|Bat Speed Avg||Bat Speed Max||Hand Speed Avg||Hand Speed Max||Attack Avg||Attack Max||Power Avg||Power Max|
I think it has to do with balance points and swingweight. So how can we change the swingweight on a bat?
- Cup the end
- Cupping removes 0.3 to 0.8 oz at the end of the bat. This moves the balance point closer to the knob vs the barrel. We will learn that 0.3-0.8 oz isn’t that much in terms of feel for swingweight but for overall weight this decrease helps meet density.
- Thicker handle
- Thicker handles work by balancing the bat. This is a good way to have a bat feel lighter even if its the same weight. You would have to compare an exact model and weight bat to its match with only a thicker handle. This will also increase the overall weight of the bat.
- Smaller or larger barrel
- Smaller barrels will move the balance point to the knob and larger to the end.
- Length of barrel
- A barrel can be long or short. This depends on the taper of the bat from the knob to the barrel. Short tapers will have longer barrels and more end loaded bats.
- Size of knob
- I haven’t heard much about this but the size of the knob can counterbalance a heavier barrel. The issue is that you cant make a knob heavy enough to really impact the swingweight (or can you).
- Use lead tape to test
- Golfers and tennis players use lead tape to change swingweight and overall weights of their equipment. Baseball players cant do this but with some testing, maybe we can develop new bat models to better fit certain players.
This leads me to a test I did with adding weight to bats to change the balance point. I wanted to see how much weight and where the weight needed to be applied to make a difference.
The Victus bat below is a BO23 model. This is a large and long barrel with a thicker handle and large standard knob. This creates the largest barreled bat with the most balance that I have used. The yellow tape and line – marks indicate the balance points of the bat.
From Right to Left
Far Right – This is the standard normal balance point
Middle – This is the new balance point when 1.4 oz is used and placed half way between the knob and the standard balance point. This was 11″ from the knob.
Left – This is the new balance point when 1.4 oz was added to the knob.
Next we have 1.9 oz with the same locations.
From Right to Left (middle group of tape)
Far Right – This is the standard normal balance point
Middle – This is the new balance point when 1.9 oz is used and placed half way between the knob and the standard balance point. This is very slightly more towards the knob vs the 1.4 oz weight.
Left – This is the new balance point when 1.9 oz was added to the knob. This is also very slightly changed towards the knob vs the 1.4 oz weight.
This shows that the difference of 1.4 or 1.9 oz is not that big of a change.
Next we should look at the bottom row of tape in the picture (above, same picture). This row represents 3.3 oz which is using both weights at the same time.
From Right to Left (we know the standard balance point)
Right – This is the new balance point when 3.3 oz is used. You can see that it shifts the balance point a lot more and is in between the middle and knob locations on the 1.9 oz weight.
Left – This is the new balance point when 3.3 oz was added to the knob. This is a large shift and dramatically changes the swingweight and feel of the bat.
I haven’t set up a demo to be able to swing and test bat speeds with the weights installed. I need to figure out how to do this, especially because I will need to add up to 2-3 oz. What I can say is that the changes in the balance points all made a difference but the last one where 3.3 oz was added to the knob made a 31 oz bat feel like a kids 25 oz bat. This is happening while you are still increasing the overall weight of the bat from 31 to 34.3 oz. This makes me very interested to see how this will effect bat speed and exit velo.