This Christmas I was lucky enough to get my 4th wood bat from my parents. (Sorry dad for breaking the last 3) As I was holding it in my hand I noticed it felt lighter than my previous bat, but what confused me was the fact that both had the same length and weight. Using my ever-expanding knowledge of physics, I got to thinking about it and a few minutes later it dawned on me that its really not that confusing at all. Despite how un-exact of a science you may expect making wooden bats may be, (after all they are still made by using a lathe and cutting tools) there are exact model types of wood bats that tailor to different types of hitters. For example, the 271, the most popular model in the MLB features a medium barrel, handle and tapered knob to balance out the weight along the whole length of the bat. This gives the batter a more balanced feel and is ideal for guys looking for a good balance between contact and power, push and pull hits, etc. This was the model of my new bat, and to compare, my old wood bat was a 243. This model is less popular because it appeals to only one kind of hitter. Anybody looking to drive the ball out of the park, and who doesn't mind a few bad misses, would love the 243. When held compared to the 271, it feels a good amount heavier because it features a large, long barrel and a skinny handle. Using the equation for torque, one can easily see how with more of the weight located farther away from the point of rotation (in this case, my hands), the bat barrel will exert more force towards the ground and therefore feel heavier.
This same idea translates into hitting the baseball. With the 271, considerable power is lost because the handle, which has very low energy during the swing due to where it is positioned in relation to the point of rotation. There is alot of mass in that part of the bat, mass that is not allowed to contribute to the kinetic energy of the end of the bat, which is the part that collides with the ball and sends it flying. With the 243, although the added torque makes it harder to control, the mass added to the barrel of the bat pay the hitter back in dividends when the ball is propelled with an energy far greater than the 271 just due to the added mass in the barrel.
It seems like a no- brainer to use the 243, but hitting a 95 mph fastball with something that, when compared to the more balanced 271, feels like a sledgehammer is something that only the strongest and most coordinated hitters- and most of those players sacrifice dearly in the average department for a few extra home runs. Knowing this about wood bats, I will definitely be more picky about what I swing in the future- all thanks to physics.