Aluminum V. Wooden Baseball Bats

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Crack! That was the sound of our nation’s pastime in the early days of baseball. For nearly 125, years the wooden bat was used in every level of baseball. In Tom’s River, New Jersey, the little league World Series is held every summer. Ping! This is the only sound that a spectator will hear during one of those baseball games. What happened to the old-fashioned crack of the bat? The wooden bat has been used in professional baseball since the game’s establishment in 1864. An aluminum bat is more dangerous than a wooden bat due to the advanced technology of the aluminum bat, but offers a greater impact to a ball than a wooden bat could.

For college ball players hoping to make it to the majors, they should be using the equipment required by the MLB in order to be the most prepared. Also, it makes it harder for scouts to determine how a player will perform under different conditions. This is why I believe the NCAA should play with the same standards as the MLB. The baseball bat controversy has been lingering over amateur baseball since the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) allowed the use of aluminum bats for the first time in 1974 (Adelson). Every year there is another injury to a pitcher as a result of the aluminum bat due to its exit velocity.

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The exit velocity of a ball plays a key role in determining the level of risk of injury. It is defined as the speed of the ball off the bat. The standard exit velocity of an aluminum bat at the sweet spot is nearly 105 mph. That is nearly fifteen mph faster than any wooden bat. “Andrew Sanchez, a Cal State Northridge pitcher had his skull fractured by a ball hit by an aluminum bat” (Adelson 5). Sanchez later sued the NCAA and Louisville Slugger, one of the two makers of the high-powered aluminum bat. Louisville Slugger remarked, “Sanchez should have known that the high-powered bats increased the risk of injuries to pitchers” (Adelson 5).

Although the aluminum bat increases the risk of injury, all sports have some level of risk. In an observation by Baum Bat research, within the lapsed time of . 1332 seconds, a pitcher could not move fast enough to duck one inch, raise his glove four inches, or even move his shoulder four inches. This pitcher only suffered a broken jaw and a concussion (Research 16). Baum research also shows that sixty percent of balls hit by aluminum bats arrive in less than . 375 seconds, while only five percent of balls hit by wooden bats get to the pitcher’s mound in the same amount of time.

There are two key factors that contribute to a more powerful bat; balance point and weight. Obviously, the lighter the bat, the faster it can be swung. “Since a bat acts as a lever when swung in a game, a balance point closer to the knob allows hitters to move the barrel of the bat faster through the swing” (Adelson). The balance point of a wooden bat cannot be adjusted because it is not hollow. On the contrary, an aluminum bat is hollow and the balance point can be manipulated by the manufacturer resulting in a more powerful bat. The aluminum bat has also played a role in injury to the pitcher’s arm.

Young pitchers are starting to develop curve balls and other breaking pitches for the reason that the aluminum bat makes it easier for the batter to hit a fastball. Their bodies are not developed enough to begin throwing pitches that involve a snap in a wrist or elbow. These young players think that the regular straight fastball is not enough, because the hitters are capable of hitting the fastball with the high-powered aluminum bat. This fact is the direct result of many injuries in young pitchers arms that could be career ending. Aluminum bats eliminate talented yet underdeveloped pitchers from the system” (Research 9). Researchers in Japan have observed an additional problem with the aluminum bat. The resounding ping of the aluminum bat in Japan is actually causing hearing loss. The Japanese-made bats are typically ten to twenty decibels higher than that of an American-made bat. The Japanese correlate performance with sound. The aluminum bats are hollow and the typical American-made model has a plastic plug at the end of its barrel or sound-damping foam inside.

The Japanese models generally have aluminum ends and no sound-damping foam. These bats can produce sounds as loud as ninety-six decibels. To protect players, umpires, and fans, the Japanese High School Baseball Federation has just approved rules barring the use of any bat that produces a noise louder than ninety-two decibels (“Ping! “). “The aluminum bat is ruining the game, not the ball! ” (Research). In a current study with an official high school baseball, an official NCAA baseball and a Major League baseball, the exit velocities were comparable.

The only difference found was in the core of some professional baseballs. Major League baseball uses balls that have a cork and rubber composite center. Therefore, they have a higher elasticity and achieve a higher exit velocity. The balls are better than they used to be, but the hitters are not any better than those in the past (Robinson). The high school and NCAA baseballs both have solid cork centers, which are slightly denser than rubber centers. This “juiced” ball does not have a big enough impact to be any more dangerous than a regulation ball.

Therefore, a change in the baseball will not lessen the risk of injury. In the 155 years of baseball, the development of the aluminum bat has been the only major change that has altered the way the game is played. In the 1970’s, bats made from tubes of aluminum began to appear. “These tubes are machine-made to vary the wall thickness and the diameter, and produce bats that are light, strong, and hollow, as opposed to the solid wooden bats” (Tools 1). When aluminum bats initially appeared in amateur baseball the bat was just an aluminum replica of a wooden bat.

The only difference was that they were more durable and therefore cheaper to use. It would not be long before manufacturers and players discovered that there were other differences as well (Tools 1). Aluminum bats can be made much lighter to be swung faster. The barrels of the bats can be made bigger for a much larger “sweet spot. ” The “sweet spot” can be up to 470 percent larger on an aluminum bat than that of a wooden bat. “The oversize aluminum bat diminishes talent; the visual body adjustment ability is not developed. It is much like aiming an arrow at a three-foot bull’s eye instead of the correct one-inch.

Soon one cannot find the correct one-inch sweet spot” (Research 12). This can result in an achievable hit distance by an estimated one hundred to one hundred and sixty feet further than a wooden bat. The exact center of the bull’s eye is compared to the exact sweet spot on the bat. It is the point where one can reach maximum efficiency in a bat (Robinson). One effect that an aluminum bat has is called the trampoline effect. As a result of the aluminum bat being hollow, the bat also has an elastic property. So, at contact with the ball, the bat absorbs the energy of the ball.

In addition to the bat springing back, the bat also transfers the energy of the ball and combines the energy of the bat to create the trampoline effect. A wooden bat is totally inelastic and will not spring back (Research 4). The aluminum bat provides a handicap for the hitter. There is vast difference in the statistics of a player who uses an aluminum bat and one who uses a wooden bat. A player who uses a wooden bat characteristically has a batting average between one and two hundred points less than a player who uses an aluminum bat.

The aluminum bat also hits between sixty to seventy percent more home runs than a wooden bat. There are many types of wooden bats that are used. The ash bat has been the most widely used wooden bat in the history of baseball. For many reasons, ash wood is very abundant and therefore it is cheap. The downside to ash is that it is not very durable. An ash bat may last between twenty to seventy hits of a ball. A baseball superstar, Barry Bonds, made maple wood very popular by smashing seventy-two home runs to break the single season home run record.

Many people switched to maple wood after seeing Bonds achieve this record. The maple bat is much denser than an ash bat. Maple wooden is thirty-five to forty-five percent more durable than the ash bat (Robinson). However, the density of the wood does not make a difference in the exit velocity (Robinson). Consequently, the type of wood used to make a bat does not affect the strength of the bat. One innovation that Baum Bat Company has been developing is a composite bat. The composite bat has a foamed plastic core with a fiber-resin material covering the core and an ash wooden cover. The composite bat does not have a higher exit velocity than that of a regular ash wooden bat” (Robinson). The only advantage of a composite bat is to increase the durability of a wooden bat. Therefore, the purpose of the composite bat is to save money. While a composite bat costs two to three times more than a regular ash bat, the composite bat will last three to four times longer. “The Baum Bat is the ultimate wooden bat. It maintains the feel and consistency of the traditional wooden bat while outlasting it hundreds of times over” (Robinson). However, the composite bat does not have an effect on the power of the bat.

Two questions that continue to surface in the controversy are: Has the game changed? Has the aluminum bat changed the game of baseball? The first argument deals with the physical properties of the aluminum bat. The aluminum bat does not allow a player to show his maximum skill, since the aluminum acts as a handicap for the player. “The integrity of the game has been smashed…it is much like undoing all of the natural, required discipline and training necessary to become a master at one’s craft” (Research). In the most recent years in the NCAA the hitting statistics are at an all time high.

The batting average, the number of runs scored per game, and number of home runs per game all surpass every season in the history of the NCAA (Research). Is this due to the talent that is coming to the NCAA? Are the college athletes of this era better than those of past eras? No, the players of this era have better equipment. The records do not hold true to the records set in the early days of the NCAA. This argument brings up another popular question: Should aluminum bats be used? At one point in the 1999 NCAA season, it was decided that aluminum bats would be banned for the following year.

This decision got Jim Easton in an uproar. Jim Easton is the president of Easton sporting goods, one of the top two aluminum bat makers. There has been so much money put into developing aluminum bats that the new rule would ruin Easton and other aluminum bat makers. After a few battles in court, NCAA and Easton came to a compromise. The new rule states that the bat weight must be no more than three ounces less than the bat length. This first rule is only a small step in a big process (Reagan). Hopefully, there will be more limitations placed on aluminum bats in the approaching years.

Bottom line, aluminum bats perform better than wooden bats. Although the aluminum bat is more durable and more powerful, it is also proven to be more dangerous. While the aluminum bat is more dangerous than a wooden bat, there is still a danger in using a wooden bat. Baseball began with a bat because it was cheaper and the technology of aluminum did not exist. With technology, aluminum bats were created and therefore, made the game of baseball more exciting, yet unfair in comparing players who use different forms of bats because the performance level varies so much. To me, I think it is a disadvantage for the NCAA to continue to play and grow as a player with a bat that is not used in the MLB.

Works Cited

Adelson, Eric “Bat Controversy Lingers over NCAA,” ESPN the Magazine 31 March 2001 Ashley, Stevens “High Tech Up at Bat” Popular Science May 1992 Page 108-111, 1221 124 “The Baseball Bat” College Physics: Chapter 10 February 8, 2000 “Ping! ” Sports Illustrated 6 August 1990 version73 n6 page 14 Reagan, Bob “Aluminum Bats Avoid Strikeout. ” American Metal Market 19 April 1999 version107

Research Newsletter, www. baumbat. com Baum: Research and Development March 1998 Volume 1 Issue 1 Robinson, Joey “Re: Interview with Baum. ” E-mail to Research and Development Team at Baum Bat Company. 8 Nov. 2001 Skrzycki, Cindy “The Regulators: A Swing and a Miss? Metal-Bat Innovator Cries Foul on Safety. ” The Washington Post 4 July 2000 Page E01 Todd, Richard “Pop in the Swing” WebBall http://webball. com/skill/batpop. html “Tools of the Trade” Exploratorium’s Science of Baseball http://Saturn. exploratorium. edu/baseball/tools. html

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