With the baseball and softball seasons coming to an end, this is one of the best times to go out and buy that new bat you’ve been thinking about. Prices on baseball and softball bats tend to drop a little bit when the sports are out of season, so purchasing a bat now could save you a little bit of money.
Depending on which sport you play, and what style of that sport, there are a few things you’re going to want to look at when it comes to buying the right bat. What works for baseball may not work for softball, and what works for 12” fast-pitch softball may not work for 16” slow pitch softball.
Understanding the sport and why certain bats are made the way they are, will help you determine which bat is going to best help you and your team. Just because a bat is expensive doesn’t mean that it’s going to be better, and just because a bat is cheap doesn’t mean it’s not going to get the job done.
Think about it, if you’re playing 12” fast-pitch softball, which uses a hard ball (similar to a baseball), the bat you choose can help propel the ball faster, but if you’re playing slow pitch using a mush ball, then whether or not the bat is broken in, or has a lot of “pop” to it, isn’t going to really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Baseball bats and softball bats are not all created equal, so let’s take a look at what makes baseball bats different from softball bats.
Baseball Bats vs. Softball Bats
and softball bats vary in a lot of different ways. These differences are sometimes because of the rules of the game, but often time they are because of the way the game is played, and because of who is playing the game.
For example, when playing little league, most of the time softball and baseball bats have no difference. They both have similar shape and structure and are typically around the same weights and sizes, but once you move up to adult and high school level sports, things change.
Bat Length – Softball vs. Baseball
For adults and high schoolers, baseball bats usually top out around 33” while softball
bats are typically a bit longer at 34”.
The reason for this length discrepancy has to do with the way the games are played. In baseball, the pitcher is further away from the batter and is slightly raised up when compared to the batter, due to the pitcher’s mound. While in softball, the pitcher is much closer to the batter and is on the same level.
Because of this, the extra inch on the softball bat allows for the hitter to cover more of the plate when up to bat. Since there is less time for the batter to react to the pitch, due to the shorter distance and level of the pitcher, having that extra bit of length to reach the outside of the plate can be extremely helpful.
In baseball the ball is typically traveling faster than a softball, so having a shorter bat can allow for quicker movement when getting the bat off your shoulder and performing a full swing. And because the pitcher is a little further away and elevated, the batter has a little more time to make adjustments for pitches on the outside of the plate, thus reducing the bat by an inch to get the extra bat speed is a better option than having that extra coverage.
When it comes to the bat weight, softball and baseball bats are going to vary more than just a little bit.
Baseball bats, especially once in high school and adult leagues (and some little leagues) must abide by the -3 rule. This means that the bat must weigh within 3 ounces of its length. For example, if your bat is 33” long, it cannot weigh less than 30 ounces.
This rule is to ensure the safety of the players by preventing super light bats, that can be swung extremely fast, from being used during play. Bat speed is one factor that can impact the speed of the ball as it leaves the bat.
For softball bats the weight can make a big difference. Since there is no minus three rule in softball, fast pitch softball bats tend to be lighter than their baseball counterparts. These bats usually come in between 23-28 ounces so that they can be swung quicker due to the smaller distance between the pitcher and the batter.
For slow pitch softball a heavier bat is usually preferred since bat speed isn’t as big of a concern as it is in fast pitch. The heavier weight of the bat allows for more power and momentum in your swing. These bats usually weigh in between 26-30 ounces.
Barrel Diameter and Style
You may have noticed that baseball bats tend to have a wider barrel than softball bats. The barrel of a baseball bat usually measures in around 2-5/8” while a softball bat measures in around 2-1/4”, there are a couple reasons for this.
Baseballs are smaller than softballs, thus making it harder to hit them with the sweet spot of the bat. By keeping the barrel a bit larger, you provide more surface area for the ball to make contact with. In softball the ball is larger and thus doesn’t require such a thick barrel. A thicker barrel would make you more likely to hit a foul ball with a softball.
The thinner barrel also allows for the bats to be lighter in weight which allows for quicker bat speed.
Baseball vs. Softball
Baseball and softball share the same core rules with slight variations between the two, but in general the rules of the game are the same. The bats used in each of the different sports are way different and not at all interchangeable at higher levels.
While in little league, with smaller kids, your baseball bat isn’t going to be all that different from a softball bat, but once you begin to move up the ranks and play more competitive ball, you’ll start to notice the bats change length, weight, and shape. These differences allow for the best performance out of the bats for the game you’re playing.
It’s always important to make sure you’re using the proper equipment for the sport you are playing. There are rules in place for a reason, to make sure that the games are safe and fair for everyone playing. Using an illegal bat in softball and baseball can lead in injury and even forfeit by your team, so be sure you’re using the correct bats for the league that you are playing in.