Hitting

Why Aluminum bats have ruined baseball swings

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Different generations of baseball players have been exposed to different qualities of equipment. In the good ole days of Ruth and Gehrig, gloves were small and round, bats were heavy lumber, and….well that’s about it. They didn’t have batting gloves or evoshields or arm sleeves. So its safe to say that most people would agree equipment has improved since the good ole days. All except for bats…

The History of the Baseball bat

In 1920, Babe Ruth used a Louisville Slugger Model R-43 with a medium barrel, 36 inches in length and weighing 42 ounces. That year he hit 54 home runs. Its safe to say the game has changed a little bit.

The bats that were used by Ruth, Gehrig, Greenberg, and Cobb were designed much differently than the bats on the market today. The main difference is the size. You can’t find 36 inch 42 ounce bats anywhere on the market today. If you want a bat that size, you would have to get it custom made. However, back in the day, this was the normal size bat that was on the market. Big, long, heavy pieces of lumber were the cornerstone of bat manufacturing.

Another major difference in the design of these bats was the size of the handle. Handles were about twice as thick as the thin grip handles you find on bats today. If you were to pick up one of Babe Ruth’s game used bats, you would be hard pressed to get your hand all the way around the handle.

As time went on, bats started to get lighter, and handles started to get thinner. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that bat design would change forever.

The Aluminum Bat

The aluminum bat was introduced to the market in 1970 by Easton. This monumental change in baseballs most important piece of equipment changed the game forever. The alloy bats were introduced to distribute the weight of the bat in a way that produced high-performance lightweight bats.

The following is an excerpt from Bernie Mussils, “The evolution of the Baseball Bat”.

“By comparison, the main differences between aluminum and wood bats are breakage and weight. Defective aluminum bats are minimal. Greater bat speed and distance on batted balls is the result of weight distribution and the ability to make the aluminum bats stiffer and lighter with a balance spot closer to the handle. The aluminum bats can be purchased with a 2 3/4 inch diameter barrel and up to 5 ounces less than the length. The most popular models have large barrels and small handles along with weight at least 3 ounces less than the length.”

The key points in this excerpt are that the bats got significantly lighter, and the distribution of weight was more in the handle. The idea behind it was that the hitter would be able to swing the bat faster which will enable him to hit the ball harder and farther.

Bat Speed and Bat Mass

Bats are smaller and lighter than ever with the “era of bat speed” at an all time premium. The faster the bat speed the harder the ball is hit. Although part of this is correct, it is missing half the equation.

For all of you physic majors out there, the other half of the equation is obvious. Force = Mass x Acceleration.

Oh so bat speed isn’t the sole component of hitting a baseball hard? Not exactly.

If the bat and swing don’t produce enough mass, the bat speed becomes irrelevant to creating force.

The key would be to find the perfect amount of mass and bat speed that produce the ultimate amount of force.

Why Aluminum bats ruined baseball swings

So now that you’ve had a history lesson, as well as a basic physics lesson, we can dive into the real reason for this article. The fact that aluminum bats have hindered the development of elite swings.

Let me start by saying swings are getting worse. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of major league baseball players with beautiful swings. But from a general point of view, in the overall masses of players, swings are worse than ever before.

One of the major reasons for this is the type of bat players are using from a young age. These light aluminum bats are allowing kids to “swing” a bat without really “swinging” the bat. They’re training their bodies to push the bat with their arms and hands, because the light bats allow you to do so.

Heavier bats force players to use their big muscles when swinging a bat. You physically can’t swing the bat with any speed or barrel control without creating good momentum and engaging your legs, glutes, core and back muscles. These are the muscles we want to use to swing a bat. They are big, powerful, and strong in comparison to our weak wrist, hand, and forearm muscles.

But with aluminum bats, its easy to let these small muscles take over the swing without engaging the big ones. And with the aluminum bat industry producing lighter and lighter bats, millions of kids are developing worse and worse swings.

If you ever watch clips of Babe Ruth’s swing, you will come to appreciate how truly dynamic it was. And it had to be. You don’t swing a 36 inch 42 ounce bat with that much success without having a dynamic swing. But the same dynamic swing that allowed him to swing this log of bat was also created BECAUSE of the bat.

Growing up swinging bats that were heavy and oversized by todays standards forced him to build a dynamic swing from the start. In order to move the bat at a high enough speed to be on time and hit the ball, he had to use his big muscles to create an efficient and explosive swing. And boy did he ever…

Same goes for all of the old time players that were great. Most of them didn’t swing a bat lighter than 37 ounces. By comparison, the heaviest bat that I’ve heard being used in the last 10 years was a 36 ounce bat swung by Alfonso Soriano. So the heaviest bat in today’s era of the game would have been the lightest back in the day.

But if you have a true understanding of hitting mechanics and movement patterns, you’ll understand that swings back then were better. They were more efficient, more explosive, and more consistent.

I’m not giving all the credit and blame to bats, but there is definitely a correlation. I’m also not taking credit for creating this theory. There are many hitting instructors and gurus out there who believe the same thing. There are even products out there that replicate the old time bats design in order to train swing mechanics.

Jaime Cevallos MP30 model being one of them, is sold at this link below:

http://www.theswingmechanic.com/

Phoenix Bats also makes exact replications of old time bats available on their website:

https://www.phoenixbats.com/vintage-wood-baseball-bats.html

As a player looking to develop your swing, you need to understand that light aluminum bats are not helping your cause. So train with bigger bats, even if you can’t use them in games. Training and developing your swing with a bigger bat could be the advantage you need to take your game to the next level. And with everyone else developing their swings with light bats, you could have an advantage that no one else has!

I talk more about the benefits of heavy bats and how you can implement them into your daily routine in my ebook, The No Nonsense Baseball Player’s Guide To Peak Performance. You can access it for FREE by entering your email below:

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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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