Baseball bats are quite personal to ballplayers, and you’ll notice across the major leagues that ballplayers love their own personal bats. Some will carry a large supply with them on trips, just in case one breaks. They also believe that no two bats are created equal, even if by the same bat-maker. Although they may be a superstitious bunch, they do have a point when it comes to bats. A well-weighted and comfortable bat can make a huge difference and can make the difference between a hitting streak and a prolonged slump.
We’ll look to examine a bit more closely what one should look for in a wood baseball bat, and some other things to watch out for. So if you are in the market for a new wood baseball bat, keep reading for our consumer report on the top wood baseball bats for the 2017 season.
What’s The Difference Between A Wood Bat And A Composite Or Aluminum Bat?
If you’re new to the baseball scene, you may struggle in deciding what type of bat to get, whether it is wood, composite or aluminum. Generally speaking, the league that you play in will likely have rules on what type of bats are (and are not) allowed. Make sure to find out what your league sanctions as acceptable and what bats are banned. If you play in a recreational baseball league, you will likely find aluminum and composite bats are most common. Wood bats might be allowable in leagues that are a bit more lenient, or leagues that only allow wood bats (haven’t come across too many of those).
Wood bats are not as forgiving as either composite or aluminum bats, as they have a much smaller sweet spot and can cause more vibrations up and down your arms on mishits. They are generally more end-loaded, though you can find a balanced bat, and generally can feel heavier with comparably weighted aluminum / composite sticks.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Wood Bat?
One big benefit of wood baseball bats is they are quite durable, though not as much as their composite or aluminum counterparts. Still, you would have to be very strong, and also quite unlucky, to split a wooden bat in two. A few chips or scratches have no ill effects on the performance of the bat, unlike a composite bat where a chip could lead to hairline cracks or webbing, flat spots, etc. If you do break a wooden bat, they tend to cost less than a composite or aluminum bat to replace.
Another advantage is that if you learn to hit with a wooden bat, you will likely be very successful hitting with a composite bat. With a smaller, and more difficult to find, sweet spot as well as greater chance for sting and vibrations, you will learn to make good, solid contact by paying the price if you don’t. This type of plate discipline and good hand-eye co-ordination will serve you well and build good habits. If you eventually switch over to a composite bat, you’ll find it much, much easier to square up balls.
How Do I Find The Right Wood Baseball Bat?
- Wood type: ash wood is the lightest and definitely most common, while bamboo is more durable, and maple is the most dense.
- Length and weight: find something that you can swing comfortably; general rule of thumb is to swing the highest weight you can without losing bat speed.
- Durability and construction: although most bats will last if taken care of, try to find something that is built well and sturdy.
- Feel and weight distribution: consider both a balanced bat as well as those with an endload feel.
- Price: you may pay more for a nicer bat, but do a cost / benefit analysis based on how much you’re looking to spend.
Product Reviews - Which Is Right For You?
Here are 5 wood baseball bats that are worth considering:
Louisville Slugger: “180 NA” Series
Louisville Slugger has done it again with this wood baseball bat and has reminded us all of why they are one of the top bat makers and sellers in the batting market. Constructed of natural ash (NA) wood for ultimate flexibility that doesn’t sacrifice on power, the sweet spot in this bat is maximized and is, indeed, sweet. The beauty of the wood shines through thanks to its natural finish, and the feel of the bat is both sturdy and comfortable to swing.
- Made of beautiful performance-grade ash wood for ultimate flexibility and strength
- Natural finish keeps integrity of wood natural beauty intact
- Available in multiple lengths: 32” 33” 34” and weights
- May be heavy for younger users
- Some durability issues noted by users (ash not as durable as some other woods)
An overall solid wood bat from ever-dependable Louisville Slugger. The various lengths available make it an appropriate choice for players of all ages, and the quality and comfort of this wood baseball bat makes it a great option for both amateur and more serious players alike.
Marucci: “Chase Utley Pro” Series
Marucci delivers another outstanding wood baseball bat in their Chase Utley Pro series. This bat provides durability and strength like no other thanks to its top-quality maple construction. Its larger barrel adds power to your swing and will have you feeling like a pro...and hitting like one too.
- Large barrel for increased surface hitting area, maximizing the sweet spot
- Made from top-quality maple for maximum durability, ultimate surface hardness, and added strength at impact
- Great sound on contact, a nice crisp crack
- Bone rubbed wood to ensure the densest wood possible
- Price point may deter some shoppers
- Better suited for players already familiar hitting with wood bats, as maple is stiffer than most other lighter woods
A fantastic choice from Marucci. It feels sturdy, is nice to look at, and is great to play with. There is no doubt this wood baseball bat will be a sleek addition to your baseball arsenal.
Pinnacle Sports: “Pro 838” Series
This wooden bat from Pinnacle Sports is a strong contender in our wooden bat line-up. Hand-constructed from quality grade ash hardwood known for its greater flexibility and increased durability, this streamlined bat is sure to feel as good in your hands as it looks.
- Beautiful ash hardwood constructed by hand, dedication to quality craftsmanship shines through
- Cupped end reducing the risk of cracks on mishits off end-cap
- High-gloss lacquer finish gives the bat a gorgeous sheen
- Feels great and balanced in your hands
- Mid-range price point, reasonable for entry to intermediate type players
- Available in various color combinations
- Durability can be questionable for some users
Pinnacle Sports has put forth another terrific option for someone in the market for a wood baseball bat. This bat is suitable for both the weekend warrior to the more competitive player, and will be sure to take your game to the next level.
Easton: “S2 Power Brigade” Series
Easton serves up another great bat with their S2 Birch wood baseball bat. Made of quality professional-grade birch, this wood features a combination between surface hardness and flexibility that makes the tactility of this bat second to none and gives you an edge in increasing your batting average.
- Made of quality hand-split professional grade birch for increased durability, lighter weight, and better performance
- Pro ink dot tested to ensure straightness of wood grain during construction process
- Laser engraved barrel to guarantee a straight grain, leading to increased durability
- Cupped barrel end produces a wonderfully light, balanced feel
- USA made
- Barrel may be too long and thin for some users
- Sweet spot is long, but may not be as fat as one might want
A nice choice from Easton and a great option in birch wood, especially if you’re not a fan of ash but still like the light feel. Enlarged barrel helps give a bit more reach on swings outside of the strike zone.
Rawlings: “Sporting Goods Velo - Matt Kemp” Series
Rounding out our list for wood baseball bats worth considering is a bat from Rawlings and their Sporting Goods Velo series featuring the Matt Kemp signature birch wood bat. This bat is constructed of solid birch wood which has some of the hardness of maple with the flexibility of ash giving the player the best of both worlds. The tackified bat grip ensures that you are comfortable and in control while you hit ball after ball out of the park.
- Hand-crafted from solid birch wood for increased strength
- Still maintains good flexibility through the strike zone, not overly stiff
- Tackified bat grip for added comfort and enhanced control
- Balanced design with a great weighting and feel
- Light-weight, not too heavy
- Some users will miss an endload feel
Rawlings delivers again with their Matt Kemp signature bat (part of their Velo series). This bat is a beauty to look at and a pleasure to play with; it feels like a natural extension of your arms. A solid contender and definitely one worth considering.
Which Wood Baseball Bat Is Best?
All of the choices above are worthy contenders, but overall I like the S2 Power Brigade series from Easton, as the extra barrel length is a great addition to increase reach through the zone. Birch gives a good flexibility and is not as pricey as maple, but offers a bit more durability than ash.