A guide to bat models
Some bat models stand the test of time
There are hundreds of different bat models available. With that many options it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. Often it’s a shot in the dark. Especially now with fewer options in brick and mortar stores for you to try before buying. There are so many options for bats online. It makes it convenient to get them shipped right to you. But unless you have an idea of what a particular bat will feel like, finding the right bat can be a shot in the dark.
But, knowing the attributes of different bat types can help in picking the model that’s going to give you the best results.
a short history on bats
In the early days of baseball, every bat was wood. Lumber was laying around everywhere and players would select from what was available to them. A wagon spoke, a table leg or an axe handle could serve the purpose with minimal alteration. The game was in it’s infancy and the best bat models were whatever you could find to use in a game. There were no mainstream companies mass producing bats for the public. If you were lucky, you knew a skilled woodworker that could make you a passable bat. If not you were on your own.
As baseball became more organized and leagues began materializing, a need arose for rules to better regulate bats. For example, in 1859, a rule was created allowing the barrel of a bat to be no more than 2.5 inches across (it’s 2.61 inches today) and in 1869, a rule imposed a maximum length of 42 inches (still the same today) for the hitting lumber.
What few bat manufacturers existed didn’t specialize in baseball bats. They were small, spread out and generally catered only to local customers.
a legend is born
In the 1880s, John Hillerich was watching a baseball game in Louisville, Ky. During the game a player that had been slumping, broke his bat. After the game, John took the player back to his father’s wood shop and created a bat made of White Ash to the specifics the batter asked for. The next day, John “the Louisville Slugger” Browning went 3-3 with the new bat Hillerich had made for him. Word spread and more players wanted one.
Though John’s father was reluctant to produce bat’s, John had the vision. The Hillerich family was in the bat business. Demand started rising for their “Falls Spring Slugger” bat, and history was made. In the mid 1890s, when John took over the business, he changed the name of their bat to Lousiville Slugger, the name most associated with bats for decades. They began signing well known players to endorsement deals, starting with Honus Wagner. Others followed including Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
what do the numbers mean?
This numbering system would be used for decades. Of course, most of the hundreds of models are no longer used as new ones take their place. But many of the bat models most used today came from that numbering system. You can see it on some of the mainstay models that have stood up to the test of time. These bat models have the right characteristics to make them desirable for generations of hitters. Among the most popular are the C271, C243 and M110 which we will discuss below.
With the mass expansion of bat manufacturers, each has their own numbering system for the models they create. Some of today’s popular bat models carry different numbering systems. The i13, X50 and AP5 are examples of this. Even Louisville Slugger uses a different numbering system, opting to go with the first and last initials of the player and their uniform number, as seen with the CY22 and CB35 models. But even newer manufacturers will use the model numbers of the more common bats like the 271 when making their own version.
weight and length
The weight and length of the bat you choose will make a difference in how your swing responds to it. A heavier bat has more mass in general. A longer bat puts more mass towards the end of the bat. While each model will have the same ratios of barrel, knob and handle sizes, your choice in length and bat weight will have an impact on the feel of the bat.
For example, a 34″ 31oz bat will have a heavier swing weight than a 32″ 29oz bat. In a balanced model, the difference won’t be as pronounced. But in an endloaded bat, you can feel a big difference in swing weight with a only a change of a couple inches or ounces. When choosing a model, take into account which size and weight bat will fit best with your swing.
How bat models are created
Bats are turned from billets which are large wood dowels. The billet is turned on a lathe to shape it to the desired dimensions. Many parts to the bat that can be altered to get the right feel for a hitter. Each part of the bat serves a purpose in both comfort and performance. The knob and handle for feel and counterbalance. The barrel and taper for hitting surface and swing weight. Cupping the end adjusts the balance.
For each model, these characteristic and changed, sometimes in 1/16″ increments to create new bat models. Even as little as that 1/16″ can make a big difference in the feel of the handle or the weight distribution of the bat. Ideally, the best bat model allows the hitter to produce as much force and bat speed as possible while still maintaining control through the hitting zone. Which bat is best for a particular hitter largely depends on their physical characteristics and swing type.
A strong power hitter might prefer a more endloaded bat model with a thinner handle that will deliver more mass at the point of contact. Their strength allows them to fight inertia to get the bat moving faster than an average hitter might. Sometimes though, they are giving up potential contact for the possibility of more power as an endloaded bat is harder to control.
A contact hitter might prefer a more balanced bat model where more of the weight is distributed near the hands. The knob or handle might be a little thicker and the barrel a little thinner or shorter. These bats have more control and allow faster bat speed in exchange for having less mass at the contact point.
Bat makers use these attributes to create bat models that will perform better based on the hitter’s swing. The goal is to make the ideal bat for the hitter, not the ideal hitter for the bat.
How to choose a bat
Choosing the right bat for you starts with self evalution. We all have a vision of the hitter we’d like to be. But there’s the reality of who we actually are and that’s alright. They say a $500 bat can’t fix a $1 swing. That is a correct statement. No matter the bat you use, you won’t find consistent success unless you first address your swing mechanics.
But, once you’ve done that, you have a starting point for the type of hitter you are. Then the bat your use can make a big difference. If you don’t have a power swing, a power hitters bat won’t change that. On the other hand, if you are a power hitter, a power hitter’s bat might give you a little added performance.
Things to consider when choosing your model
-A balanced bat is easier to control and can make it easier to create bat speed. But the hitting surface will be smaller and have less mass in the sweet spot. These bats are best for contact hitters with occasion power or hitter’s who would like better bat speed.
-An endloaded bat has a bigger sweet spot and more mass in the barrel. It is harder to get moving and bat control can be an issue. These bats are best for the big hitters in the lineup who are willing to get a few more swings and misses in exchange for the big hit.
-Between the other two is a slightly endloaded bat. These bats are a mix between the two types. Typically, they will have a little thinner but longer barrel than an endloaded bat. They are good for just about any type of hitter whether the contact, gap to gap or power hitter.
-No matter the model you choose, weight and length will be a factor in how it feels to you.
-Though different manufacturers will have the same model, they may have slight differences from company to company.
So now that we know that, let’s take a look at some of the most popular models and how they compare to each other.
Popular Bat Models
The C271 or simply 271 is probably the most popular wood bat model. It has stood the test of time. It was first introduced in the 1970s and is used by a large amount of major leaguers and amateur alike. It has a medium width barrel that goes into a long taper towards the handle. The handle has a medium width at the thinnest part and a medium large taper going into the knob. The combination of a long tapering, medium barrel and a largish tapered knob gives this bat model a slightly endloaded feel. Cupping will give it a more balanced swing weight, if desired.
When hitters transition from metal to wood, the 271 is often the best bat model to start with. It’s swing feel can be similar to popular metal bats and the long taper makes it a little more forgiving if you miss hitting the sweet spot. If you are looking for a good all around model, you can’t go wrong with the 271.
-Medium 2.5″ barrel
-Medium 15/16″ handle
-Good for both power and contact swings
The M110 or 110 is similar to the 271 but with a few differences. The M110 was created in the end of the era of thicker handled bats. This is a great transition model as it has good balance, with or without being cupped. It has a medium barrel and long, slow taper which helps balance the weight distribution of the bat. Along with a thicker handle and tapered knob, the 110 has a light swing weight that makes it easy to get the barrel through the zone.
The 110 bat model is one of the oldest and commonly used in baseball. The thicker handle leads to less breakage, too, That adds a lot of value to this model, especially for those new to wood.
-Medium 2.5″ barrel
-Thicker 31/32″ to 1″ handle
-Good for all hitters, especially contact hitters and those transitioning to wood
The C243 or 243 sports a thicker barrel with a faster taper. It has a thinner handle and smaller taper going into the knob. This combination makes the 243 bat model more endloaded, especially if you skip cupping. This is a popular model, especially among power hitters. Although, for a contact hitter with great control, the 243 can add a little more pop on well barreled balls.
The bigger barrel puts more mass behind the sweet spot of the barrel. The thinner handle allows for a bit more whip in the swing. If you have the power or timing to get the head of this bat through the zone, you can do a lot of damage to the baseball. However, it’s heavier swing weight can make control a little more difficult, so there might be a trade off in hit production.
This is probably not the ideal model for players going to wood for the first time. But once you are comfortable using wood in game situations, the 243 could be a good model to get a little more pop on the ball.
-Endloaded (slightly endloaded if cupped)
-Large 2.55″ to 2.6″ barrel with faster taper
-Thinner 29-32″ handle
-Slightly tapered knob
-Good for power hitters or hitters willing to give up a little control for a bigger barrel
The i13 bat model is has a medium thick barrel but it is a bit longer. This results in a faster taper to the handle and more weight towards the end of the bat. It’s handle is medium though a bit thinner than that of the 271. It’s knob is slightly smaller and the bottom of the handle tapers all the was out to the outer circumference of the knob. This taper/smaller knob combination gives a more comfortable feel in the bottom hand for many batters.
This bat is endloaded. Cupping can help to give it a little more balance. But even cupped, the i13 will have a heavier swing weight. This can make it harder to keep level through the zone, so it’s better only hitters with good forearm and wrist strength who can handle the extra weight at the end.
If it’s your first time swinging wood, it might be better to skip this bat. But if you are comfortable handling the lumber, want a bat with a longer sweet spot and better handle comfort, the i13 might be a winner.
-Medium 2.5″ long barrel with fast taper
-Medium 15/16″ handle
-Tapered to the outer rim of the knob for a smoother feel
-Good for power hitters or those looking for a more comfortable knob
Find your bat model
There are hundreds of bat models out there for you to choose from. The examples above are some of the most popular, but there are many more available. Whether you go with a large brand or a small business, the chances are, there’s a bat that’s just right for you. Find the bat type that will best suit your hitting style. Couple good swing mechanics with the right stick and you should be able to improve your performance.
It might take some trial and error, but if you go in knowing the different factors that make a good match, you should be able to find the best bat model for you.