Some years ago, the idea of a single piece aluminum bat with a light swing and a big barrel did not exist. More specifically, it wasn’t possible. If a player wanted a light swing then a composite was always the answer. If a player wanted a hot out of the wrapper bomb maker with an unwieldy swing then aluminum was the answer. Although many players wanted a hot out of the wrapper bat that brought with it a controllable swing the market, and physics, made it impossible.
Things changed when the NCAA and NFHS reset the playing field for bat performance by implementing the BBCOR standard. Although composite barrels were still capable of producing a lighter swing weight, the post break performance of those bats was tempered in serious ways. In 1998, before BBCOR standards took effect, an average college game would see 1.06 home runs. Five years later, when BBCOR was in full effect, the average game saw only .46 dingers (reference). Runs per game dropped over 25%. Batting average at the collegiate level dropped 20 points.
Although no secret that BBCOR standards changed the games offensive production, it is not widely known that BBCOR standards changed the bat company market share dramatically too. BBCOR was not as much a restriction on bats as it was a lasso on composite material. Composite could still be used, but it must be refined to only reach a certain level of pop after it was worked in. As such, when BBCOR reset the standard on composite barrels, a number of aluminum based baseball bat companies woke up to a brand new playing field. One where aluminum could match performance even after break in.
Rawlings First To Market
Rawlings, as one example, was a far cry from even a serious player in the pre-BBCOR realm. BBCOR standards came out in 2011 and, with it, Rawlings full line of new BBCOR bats. South Carolina, using Rawlings BBCOR bats, then wins the collegiate national championship in 2011 and, boom, Rawlings is a dead serious player in the BBCOR bat space ever since.
Shockingly, Rawlings did not make a composite barrel bat in 2011. In fact, they didn’t make one until just this year (2017). Instead, in 2011, Rawlings made a single piece aluminum bat that utilized an extended composite end cap. That end cap extended two to three inches into the barrel and dramatically lowered the swing weight of the bat. The process even lowered the swing weight enough that more material could be added to increase the size of the physical barrel while keeping the swing weight down.
This technique, now known as the single piece hybrid bat, has attracted both player and manufacturer. It gives the player a lighter swinging bat but doesn’t completely sacrifice the barrel size. As well, the aluminum bats barrel are more durable and do not require a break in period. To boot, these single piece hybrid bats are not as expensive to produce, or buy, as a two piece composite.
Manufacturers now compete in this previously unknown niche of bat construction that BBCOR standards produced. No less than four major manufacturers make a single piece hybrid bat today. We’d guess more are to follow. We discuss the currently available ones below.
The catalyst of all single piece hybrid bats on the market, the Rawlings VELO started a new standard of light swinging aluminum barreled bats. Still going strong after 6+ iterations, the VELO has added variable wall thickness to drive down the swing weight even further and expand the sweet spot. The VELO gets high marks for production in other sizes intead of BBCOR, but loses a few points for only not coming in shorter (30, 29-inch) BBCOR sizes.
On their 3rd iteration of the single piece hybrid bat, Boombah’s Cannon looks like some earlier versions of the VELO. It also comes in Big Barrel sizes as well as a BBCOR version. Still no 31 inch version which is a real head scratcher for us. But, as a direct to consumer company expect a great price on a bat that few people have even heard of.
Always pushing the limits of what people think bats are supposed to look like, Axe got in the single piece hybrid game this year too. They use the traditional aluminum bat with an extended composite end cap for a lower swing weight on a bat called the Axe Hyperwhip Fusion. The “Fusion” refers to the composite end cap. The “Hyperwhip” name comes from the fact they have shaved mass off the back of the composite end cap to lower swing weight even more. Unlike other bats they can do this due to their predictive hitting on the front side of the barrel made possible by the axe handle on the bat. Only offered in BBCOR, the bat shortest length is 31 inches.
Louisville Slugger 617 SOLO
Another new iteration to the single piece hybrid array is Louisville Slugger’s 617 Solo. This, like the others, is an aluminum bat with an extended composite end cap. We are big fans of this bat due to our love of single piece hybrids but, most importantly, because it actually comes in short sizes for BBCOR. Not only did Slugger come out with a bat that players want, but they were also thoughtful enough to make it in sizing that kids needed. The 617 SOLO comes in a 29 inch BBCOR bat and that version is the lightest swinging BBCOR bat on the market. As leagues push younger and younger kids into BBCOR bats the 617 SOLO is on the top of our list.