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2016 College Bat Performance | How the Best Swing the Best

In 2014 we began tracking the performance of baseball bats by brand in post season Division I play. In 2015 our results were as well read as any entry on this site. Our collection of data points dissecting 2016 college bat performance lies below. It serves as one of a few significant articles we write each year to determine the best 2016 BBCOR bat.

2016 College Bat Frequency Award

2016 College Bat Performance

Easton sponsored more teams who made the tournament than any other bat brand. As evidenced in the number of games played (89), plate appearances (3,430) and at bats (3,010). DeMarini, Rawlings & Slugger were relatively even as the next most common sponsors, leaving Adidas, a new comer to the BBCOR market, a respectable 5th.

Worth highlighting, Easton not only appeared more often in 2016 post-season play, but Easton teams also advanced more often than other brands’ teams (4.9 games played per team). Put differently, they won more often. The bats that accomplished this can be found on our 2017 Easton lineup review.

Additionally, some might make the argument that better collegiate teams choose Easton. Fair enough for 2016. But, since we’ve been tracking this for a few years now, we would argue these bat performance presence metrics change dramatically each year. (DeMarini won this category last year). If Easton dominates post season play for the next couple years in a row, then that reasoning could have more merit.

*Easton Marketing Hype Note

We follow bat marketing hype as much as anyone. Easton claims their 2017 BBCOR line up has hit more home runs in post season play than any other bat brand (see here or here). This is factually true enough. But, the fact Easton had 60% more chances to hit these home runs rings our hype meter up a notch or two.

Instead, the claim could be made that players who swing Easton simply win more games when it matters. The data, in that regard, isn’t debatable. Easton teams won more games in the tourney, on average, than any other bat brand.

2016 College Bat Performance Award: View 1

2016 College Bat Performance

Another way to slice the data is by traditional major offensive metrics understood by baseball and softball players everywhere. Enough data points and at bats were acquired to give some robust insights.

No particular bat brand ran away with the category wins with the possible exception of DeMarini. They led in terms of AVG (.276), SLG (.411) and OPS (.788). Although a very small pool of data, DeMarini’s .276 batting average was found to be statistically significant to the 95% confidence interval. (If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry about it).

Other random statistics we noticed:

  • Adidas teams walked (BB) more often than any other.
  • “Slugger’s Slugging” is fun to say. It also led the pack in statistically significant ways (more on this below).
  • Adidas metrics are right in there with the ‘big boys’. This says a lot for a company that didn’t even have a BBCOR bat in the space 3 years ago.

2016 College Bat Performance Award: View 2

2016 College Bat Performance

Slicing the data by “at bats” is also instructive. What may be the most talked about from the above chart is Adidas’ home run frequency. Every 2.8 at bats out of 100, Adidas jacked one. Compare that to Easton who only hit a bomb every 2 at bats out of 100. As we mentioned above, Easton did indeed hit more overall home runs in the tournament than any other team, but per frequency they didn’t.

There are likely lots of reasons for this. To name just two:

  • Easton teams advanced further in the tournament and, we can assume, therefore played better teams. Better teams have better pitching. It is harder to hit home runs on better pitching. As such, a 2 per 100 plate appearance home run rate, although lower than the other bat brands, says next to nothing about bat performance since Easton bats saw better pitching on average.
  • Another thought, since more Easton teams advanced deeper into the tournament, they played more games at Ameritrade Park in Omaha. This park is notorious for the lack of home runs due to its deep fences and wind in the face of the batter. As such, more plate appearances in this park due to advancing has no bearing on bat performance.

2016 College Bat Performance Award: View 3

2016 College Bat Performance

We parsed our data a number of ways, not all of which is included in this article. However, our most statistically significant find was Louisville Slugger’s ability to hit for extra bases. They did not win in terms of home runs per at bat nor average. But in terms of triples per at bat and doubles per at bat they utterly dominated. In fact, a player is nearly twice as likely to double or triple with a Louisville Slugger bat than any other brand. (2017 Louisville Slugger lineup reviews).

Alert: Serious Problems With This Data

The deficiencies in claiming one particular bat brand is better than another is terribly inconsistent with reality. In a literal sense, the phrase ‘different strokes for different folks’ is universally applicable in terms of bat performance. Swing types, budget requirements and player skill levels are three categories, among a list of others, that help whittle down the extensive list of performance bats into appropriate options. Yet, even then, the ‘best performance list’ is often still too long to make sense of it all.

With that in mind, the premise that aggregated statistics from post-season collegiate play somehow determines the best performing bat is doubly fallacious. Not only does it disregard the reality of different strokes for different folks, its errors are amplified by inconsistencies in the aggregated data. For example, just because a team that is under contract from Louisville Slugger doesn’t also mean they always use a Louisville Slugger bat. Nor, for example, does a team for Easton in 2016 post season play always use the Easton bats for 2016.

For these reasons, we emphasize the overuse of the data presented here isn’t the wisest approach. This data is, if nothing else, interesting to observe. But the use of these metrics to assume one particular bat within the brand is therefore better than another isn’t definitive.