Having purchased more than a hundred baseball and softball bats in our time, we share a few of the tricks and tips for buying bats to consider as you peruse the full lineup of 2017 baseball, fastpitch and softball bats. If you are new to the task of performance bat buying, or are looking to pick up fresh tricks on picking up fresh sticks, the following bat buying guide is at your service.
Table of Contents
For your convenience, the following articles are referenced in this bat buying guide.
Bat Buying Guide #1: How Much To Spend?
As we cover in a similar post, our general rule suggests you spend no more than 7 times the number of games you will be playing. We call this the “Rule of 7.” The idea is to multiply the number of games you will play by the number 7, and do not spend any more than that on a baseball or softball bat. A 12 game youth bat season, for example, should have a max bat budget of $84. A 50 game BBCOR or fastpitch season warrants a budget of up to $350.
Of course, this doesn’t imply you shouldn’t spend less if you find a deal or don’t want to commit that amount of funds. But the Rule of 7 provides a helpful high water mark for what you might need to spend.
Bat Buying Guide #2: Swing Weight NOT Bat Weight
It is a mistake to assume all bats with the same stated weight swing the same. Rather, how the weight is distributed along the length of the barrel determines the ease at which a bat is swung. A greater distribution of weight toward the hands makes it easier to swing than a bat weighted toward the end cap. This is why total bat weight is different than swing weight. As such, stated bat weights are not interchangeable between models, nor are they transferable between companies.
Few companies make any real effort to inform consumers as to the actual swing weight of their bats. This was, some years ago, the original impetus for this blog. One of our very firsts posts was this very popular swing weight calculator. If you don’t have the bats to measure swing weight, read our bat reviews. We usually point out how each model swings compared to others in the market.
Easton, we should note, did release some swing weight markings on the top of some of their BBCOR barrels this year. We write about it in our best bat weight article. But in the youth, fastpitch and slowpitch bat space, there just isn’t much to go on from the manufacturers.
Bat Buying Guide #3: Bat Charts Aren’t Right
Using a bat size chart is not the “be all, end all” of accurate bat sizing. This is because the stated weight on a bat is not entirely indicative of how hard it is to swing. There are two reasons for this (which we cover in detail on our bat size chart page). First, bats often don’t weigh what they say they do. Second, the distribution of the total weight along the length of the barrel determines how difficult it is to swing.
To remedy, the best way to find the right fit of a bat is to hit with it. Using things like a Zepp Labs sensor to see max swing speed would contribute to a good bat fitting session. However, with performance bat purchasing happening almost exclusively online, hitting a bat before buying it is difficult. The above chart is the next best thing. You can read more about why it works better than others on our best bat size chart page.
Bat Buying Guide Tip #4: Verified Vendors
Most people don’t think much about their warranty until they need it. Be aware, when claiming a warranty you will need a receipt from a certified vendor. There are several online sellers that are verified, but there are also many that are not. eBay is notorious for many listings being sold as new-in-wrapper, but without a real receipt. eBay receipts do NOT work on their own for warranty purposes.
We caution, especially when purchasing new-in-wrapper composite-barreled bats (which are most likely to break), that you get them from a verified vendor and keep the receipt. Major manufacturers’ warranty processes are simple enough, but without a verified vendor receipt, you won’t have any luck.
Bat Buying Guide #5: This Year Or Last?
The age old conundrum of a bat buying guide is the preference for last year’s or this year’s model. The answer, of course, is not always one or the other. Sometimes there are significant enough of upgrades from one year to the next that make it an apples to oranges comparison. Other times, the bat was just repainted.
Youth bats for 2016 and 2017 take on their own problems with the changes in bat standards coming in January of 2018. You can read more about the USAbat standard here.
We know of no other way to determine the real differences in bats than by reading the specific bat reviews we write on this site. We make a concerted effort to discuss the differences from one year to the next. Occasionally we state our opinion on whether the new version is worth it. Most times, however, we simply let the reader know of the differences and leave it to therm to decide if the price difference is worth it.