Wood Bat Buying Guide

Wood Bat Buying Guide

Types of Wood

Wooden baseball bats have been used since the games creation. While technology has made great advances in the creation and development of metal baseball bats, wood bats are still the sole bat used in the professional ranks. There are three main types of wooden baseball bats: Ash, Maple, and Birch. Each type of wood has its own properties that make them more or less desirable by players.

Wood Bat Types in MLB

The flexibility, hardness, sound, and durability all play a factor when deciding which type of wood to swing. The manufacturer of the bat is also something to consider when choosing your next wood bat. The top wood bat manufacturers are Marucci, Louisville Slugger, Rawlings, Mizuno, Victus, and Old Hickory. Below is a breakdown of the three main types of wood commonly swung to help give an idea which type of wood is best for you.

Ash

Ash bats used to be the most popular wooden bats in baseball. Nowadays, approximately only 25% of Major League Baseball players swing ash. These bats lost popularity after 2001 when Barry Bonds broke the single-season record for home runs using a maple bat. Maple bats burst onto the scene and ash quickly took a back seat. While ash has declined in popularity, it still has qualities that make it a viable option to many players.

Ash is the most flexible out of the three species of wood, making it a great option for those looking for a bat that flexes and provides the feel of an aluminum bat. The flexibility of ash bats also provides a hitter with a more forgiving piece of lumber, as opposed to a stiffer bat which will break more easily on mishits. Also when ash breaks it stays together, meaning you don’t get the dangerous flying barrel seen when stiffer wood bats break.

Other positives of ash include the traditional wood bat look with its large, open-grains, as well as a much lower cost when compared to other wood bats.

The open-grain nature of ash creates a bat that is constantly drying out and much less durable than its counterparts. This constant drying can leave the bat feeling brittle and making it prone to splintering and flaking.

Ash Bat

Some of the top ash bat manufacturers are Louisville Slugger, Marucci, and Rawlings.

Pros:

  • More Flexible (forgiving on mishits)
  • Remains intact when it breaks (safer)
  • Low Cost
  • Traditional Look

Cons:

  • Least Durable
  • Softer Wood (less pop)

To see our complete selection of ash baseball bats, click here.

Maple

Maple bats are by far the most popular wooden bats in the game right now. Roughly 70% of big leaguers swing maple. As previously mentioned, Barry Bonds made maple popular back in 2001 by smashing 73 home runs with a maple bat.

Unlike ash which is an open-grain wood, maple is a close-grain wood making it very hard and dense. The hardness of the wood gives maple bats more pop than ash bats. The close-grains also make for a much more durable piece of wood when compared to ash. Maple doesn’t experience the flaking and splintering seen with ash.

When maple breaks it tends to shatter into two pieces. This can be dangerous to both players and spectators. The breaking of maple bats had gotten so bad, that some have voiced a desire to ban them from baseball for the safety of the players and fans.

In 2009, it was discovered that the hitting balls on the face grain of a maple bat promoted the integrity of the bat. Therefore, labels have been placed on the end grain to encourage players to hit the ball on the face grain, thus decreasing the chance of flying barrels.

Other than the potential danger of maple bats, the only real drawback is the price tag on a maple bat is going to run much higher than both an ash and birch baseball bat.

Maple Bat

Some of the top maple bat manufacturers are Marucci, Victus, and Old Hickory.

Pros:

  • Hardest wood on the market (most pop)
  • Durable (doesn’t flake)
  • Stiffer Feel

Cons:

  • High cost
  • Easier to break/Shatters when it breaks (dangerous)

To see our complete selection of maple baseball bats, click here.

Birch

Birch bats are somewhat of a hybrid of the previous two wood types. While birch is only swung by about 5% of Major Leaguers, the popularity of this wood is growing. It offers the best of both worlds when looking at ash and maple bats.

Birch is a close-grain wood like maple, this helps the durability of the bat as well as the hardness. Birch will not flake and splinter over time like ash bats do. Unlike maple, birch takes some time to break-in. However, once birch bats have been given time to break-in, the hardness of their surface reaches about the same level as maple.

While birch bats have nearly the same hardness as a maple bat, birch has a little flexibility. Birch bats do not have quite the flex as an ash bat. However, birch will flex more and be more forgiving than a maple bat.

Birch Bat

Some of the top birch bat manufacturers are Rawlings and Louisville Slugger.

Pros:

  • Somewhat flexible
  • Nearly as hard as maple
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Break-in period

To see our complete selection of birch baseball bats, click here.

Ink Dot

Ever wondered what the black dot on a wooden baseball bat is? If you’ve never seen one, ink dots are located on maple/birch wood bats approximately 12 inches above the knob. With both maple and birch being close-grain bats, the grains are very tough to see. Therefore, the the ink dot’s purpose is to show the grains of the wood and expose their quality, or lack thereof.

Ink Dot

What you want to see when looking at the grain of a maple or birch ink dot is a very straight grain. The straighter the grain, the better the bat will perform. In fact, the MLB ink dot quality control test will not allow a bat to be used that has a slope of grain greater than 3 degrees. The slope of grain is essentially the angle of the grains on the bat. Ideally the grains would be perfectly parallel with each other.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately the choice of what type of wood to swing comes down to personal preference. While maple has become the most popular type of wood bat, ash or birch may be the wood for you. Take the time to swing each type of wood and find the right fit for your swing. If you have any questions regarding wood bats, please contact BaseballMonkey Customer Service at (888)-771-3111.

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