We have yet to hear anyone claim they purchased such and such a bat because they just love the end cap. It’s the least sexy part of any bat, and as the end hole, even a novice could guess that were the case. While the end hole gets put in the crapper, things like barrel size, brand name and grip feel are about the only features that get noticed. Some real bat connoisseur might notice the knob taper and have some commentary on the handle to barrel transition. But, end cap importance? Not a soul seems to care.
In truth, however, the end cap plays a vital role in productive hitting. In fact, we often see the redesign of an end cap on a bat a key piece of a bat’s year over year upgrade. On the whole, the end cap plays a serious role in three areas of bat performance. We discuss them at some length below.
Reason 1: Barrel Flex
It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see why the strength of the end cap is directly correlated to how much the end of the barrel compresses. A stiffer end cap allows less compression, and in theory at least, less trampoline effect.
A performance bat will have a finely tuned end cap that allows for optimum performance at the end of the bat. It is, in large measure, how performance bats differ from run of the mill big box store bats that are a fraction of the cost. When you get some sticker shock from the price of a performance bat, look no further than the design of the end cap, which, it is possible, went through a dozen or so iterations to tune the end barrel’s performance just to the edge of allowable standards.
Reason 2: Bat Sound
Reasonable people can tell themselves that the sound of the bat isn’t important—only the distance the ball carries matters. However, and this is no joke, bats that sound better, sell better. The reason is simple enough: hitters and parents of those hitters don’t measure every ball hit from the bat.
Rarely do parents and players have even the capability to measure batted ball speed. As such, the only real measure they take from a batted ball is from their eyes and, yes, their ears. It tends to follow that hits that sound more solid are believed to have flown farther. Yet, a time-out in the game and a tape measure might prove otherwise.
Industry Experts Chime In
Our position here at DeMarini has always been that the end cap is an integral part of our performance bat designs. We engineer our end caps with a specific handle/barrel design in mind as well as a player or performance range that we are designing a bat model for. The sound, feel and swing weight of a bat are all important aspects to a player and we are able to achieve a desired effect in part by way of our end cap design methodology.
We (Marucci) have moved to a “rolled-end” barrel design to help eliminate as much stiffness towards the end of the barrel as possible. This “rolled-end” design allows us to make adjustments to the interior barrel walls and lengthen the performance zone closer to the barrel end creating a wider sweet spot and more forgiveness on impacts closer to the endcap. In the older style “flat barrel end” with a pressed in endcap the endcap could actually extend into the barrel by as much as .5”, which basically acted as a ring within the barrel walls creating lots of stiffness therefore decreasing the trampoline effect and performance. Marucci has implemented the “rolled-end” design on all new senior league and adult models in both aluminum and composite barrels.
Interesting that you posed that question today as we have been recently testing this and have determined that the end cap definitely changes the flex response and trampoline effect of the area of the barrel that is impacted. The cap thickness, hardness and weight all change the way the barrel responds to the impact of the ball.
Permission Not Given To Attribute
[An end cap] material that is too soft or hard will…make the bat sound dead or have too much of a ping that players think sounds cheap—like a rec league bat….We were able to tune the sound with the material and structure to get a sound similar to previous BESR bats. It sounds much more lively and even though it still meets the 0.5 BBCOR limits, the feedback has been that [it] is has way more pop.
Does Better Bat Sound Mean Better Distance?
We were once told by a manufacturer that a quieter sound means a better hit. The idea is, sound waves are ultimately energy, and if the energy translated to a louder sound, then it wasn’t translating into a longer hit. As such, they tried to make their bat as quite as possible at contact. We thought the idea was interesting, but find it unlikely—-although we’ve never seen anyone try and prove otherwise.
What we do know is the sound a bat makes is greatly determined by the material from which the end cap is made. Different materials make different sounds on contact. It follows, cheaper mass production type bats tend to sound the same. Performance bat makers tend to focus on an end cap composition that doesn’t give the ‘cheap bat’ sound.
Reason 3: End Cap and Swing Weight
As the end cap is the farthest from the pivot point of the bat during the swing, the end cap determines swing weight more than any other feature on the bat. Many bat manufacturers attempting to lower the swing of the bat immediately redesign the end cap with a lighter material. We’d argue the adjustment of the end cap is likely the most important function the end cap plays. Performance bat companies design advanced end caps that contribute to localized balanced points and pin point accuracy on their swing weight.
Next time you peruse the aisles of your local sporting good store, we suggest you pay serious attention to the end cap. Not only will it determine the bat’s general sound and the trampoline effect of the barrel end, but also establishes the swing weight. That boring old end cap may just be the most important piece of any bat.