Baseball: Guide to BBCOR Bats
Eastbay Cleated Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg | Date Updated on: 10-16-13
There are an endless number of baseball bats on the market, but alloy and composite bats each have their own set of distinct qualities. Let us tell you what's in them, and how to pick the one that's right for you.
When buying a baseball bat, the most important thing is how it feels in your hands. What is most comfortable to swing? And what is allowed for play in your specific league? Remember that if you're playing in high school and college, you've got to find a bat that's legal by BBCOR rules as well. There's a list of acceptable bats at the bottom of this article, or you can read up on our guide to the BBCOR restrictions.
About Alloy Grades
An alloy's grade matters because a manufacturer's ability to thin the bat barrel walls depends on the alloy. This is the main reason for the wide variety of price in the baseball bats on the market. A basic alloy is on the softer side, as far as these metals go. This means thicker barrel walls are required to keep your bat durable and dent-resistant.
A higher-grade, performance alloy is stronger, so the walls can be made thinner. These thin walls mean a lot less weight, more trampoline effect and therefore more power from the rebound off the bat. A barrel with double walls will add extra durability and power to a performance alloy bat. But either way, these types of alloys will give your bat a larger sweet spot and you should feel more "pop" on hits.
Alloy vs. Composite
Alloy bats are made of a combination of different types of aluminums, depending on manufacturers specifications. Composite bats are a mix of materials, again varying between the producers of bats. Most composite bats include elements like carbon, fiberglass and graphite. Composite bats are fine-tuned for performance so they tend to cost around 25% more than alloy bats.
Composite bats are known for their performance but they have also been known to lack long-term durability, especially if you're playing in colder weather. If you chose a high-quality Scandium alloy, you're almost guaranteed that it will resist breakage better than composite materials do. If a bat alloy is labeled Scandium, you can be assured it is of high quality.
Composite bats also tend to require more break-in time than aluminum bats. It will require 100-200 hits at 40 mph or more to effectively break in your composite bat. Aluminum bats go through long periods of testing. It doesn't mean they can't still crack, but it does mean that they are ready to go, usually at top performance, as soon as you unwrap the bat.
Unlike alloy, composite bats have a metal rod inside the bat to increase the weight to an acceptable level. These techniques allow the swing weight to be more easily controlled, and even with this rod, composite bats are still the lightest on the market. Distributing the weight more toward the handle of a composite bat can make it easier for players to generate bat speed. Since alloy doesn't have the same internal makings, the entire bat is made lighter to have the same effect on your bat speed. Lastly, alloy bats may have less "pop" than composites do, but they can hold this "pop" longer over the time you use the bat.
The way materials are weaved in composite bats can be altered to specific performance desires. Bat makers can create the optimal barrel flex while keeping the handle stiffer. The woven graphite on the inside makes a composite bat a little stiffer than an alloy model. This is why composite bats are believed to be the better performers. Composite bats do have the advantage with trampoline effect and studies have shown that ball speed off a composite is faster than off an alloy.
The lightness of composite allows you to get it around quicker than alloy bats, which can be important with high pitch speeds. Both of these bat styles have the same aluminum exterior, but the internal graphite in a composite bat makes a difference in batted ball speed. For this reason, composite bats have been banned from college leagues, as well as some high school leagues. The increased hitting potential has become a safety concern, so be sure to check the rules for your specific league. However, as new BBCOR bats are developed, composite is expected to play a greater role. If you're concerned about finding a bat that is legal in your league, you can use Eastbay's Bat Finder.
Generally, players look for the lightest bat they can afford. Lighter bats means higher quality metals with thinner walls, as we mentioned before. Keep your body type in mind, though. If you're a smaller, lighter athlete these lighter bats will help get the bat around quicker. A longer bat may cover more area, but the extra weight could slow down your swing and sacrifice your form. If you are a bigger, stronger player, you can consider a heavier bat. If you are able to get it around, you can use it to your advantage and maximize your power.
Alloys and Composites by Brand
Every manufacturer has their own special name for their alloy or composite combinations. Since names and alloy numbers don't provide much information, here's a quick description of some of the best alloys available. Use this to pick out the metal with the main benefit that will help you most at the plate.
- X10 Alloy: This material allows the barrel walls to be fine-tuned with thinner layers. This increases the amount of flex produced on contact.
- Paradox Composite: For strength and durability, Paradox Composite doubles up the barrel walls, but also shapes them especially for responsiveness and power.
- THT100™ Scandium Alloy: THT100 lends greater durability against cracks and dents, which can be especially helpful when added to extended-barrel bats.
- 7050 alloy: This alloy is a combination of lightweight and durable. It’s often seen on value-priced bats to provide good all-around performance.
- IMX Composite: IMX is strengthened with matrix structures for a design that maximizes performance through advanced materials and processes.
- TCT™ Thermo Composite: Currently only found in the Mako, Easton’s TCT™ material includes a tough resin that better binds composite fibers. It allows less material to be used overall so the bat is lighter and stronger overall.
- ST+20: Found in their Omaha bats, this is considered one of your best options for alloy. It's one of the strongest out there, an incredibly high-quality choice.
- AC21 Alloy: Louisville Slugger often combines this alloy with composite to ensure thin walls that don't shorten your bat's lifespan.
- Pure 360 Composite: Ultra-high strength ratings require less composite to be used in your bat, so it’s lighter overall.
- AZ3000 aerospace aluminum alloy: Specially selected for responsiveness and durability, this alloy is a perfect choice for players who swing aluminum but don’t want any dampening of their performance.
- 5150 Alloy: Well known among players who love its consistently balanced feel, the 5150 is weighted in a smaller region of the barrel for a lower swing weight.
- R1 Alloy: As RIP-IT's most responsive alloy, this is a huge performance increase with more than twice the strength and elasticity as before.
- R2 Alloy: R2 Alloy allows frequencies to travel through the barrel, helping to create a faster swing in two-piece models.
- R2 Composite: Repeated use of thin, strong layers make R2 an overall hotter composite.
Now take a look through this year's list of BBCOR Bats. Your choice depends on whether you're leaning toward alloy or composite, and which alloy sounds like it'll help you're game. You can find all of these baseball bats at Eastbay.