While baseball and softball share a lot similarities in game play, there are notable differences between the two. One of the main differences is the types of bats used in each sport. This guide will help you differentiate between the types of bats used for each.
What Makes Baseball Bats Unique?
Baseball bats come in a wide variety of models, normally specified by weight and length for hitting profiles. To illustrate, a batter who wants to make contact and hit singles will prefer a lighter weight bat, whereas those who want power in their swing will opt for a heavier bat. Extra-base hitters who fall in between the two will probably want a more balanced bat. With wood bats, unlike metal bats, the more barrel you have, the heavier the bat will be.
All wood baseball bats for high school age and above must have a 2.5" or larger barrel and can be no lighter than a -3 length to weight ratio. This length-to-weight ratio is referred to as “drop weight.” So a 32" bat with a -3 drop weight will weigh 29 ounces. The difference in drop weight between a singles hitter and a power hitter for wood baseball bats is just one ounce. So unlike metal bats, you cannot have a big barrel and the lightest weight. In the pros, players may only use single piece wood bats.
Special Considerations for Softball Bats
Wood softball bats, like baseball bats, are designed for hitting profiles. Just like baseball bats, the power-hitter bats will be heavier and typically more end-weighted than singles or extra-base-hitters' bats. When selecting a softball bat, it’s important to determine if it’s going to be used for slow-pitch, for fast-pitch or for training.
Today, the majority of wood softball bats used for gameplay are for men's slow-pitch leagues to help make the game safer. With a wood softball bat, hitters return to who they really are. The power guy will still be able to jack it out of the park swinging a heavy bat. The smaller guys return to being contact hitters or extra base hitters as technology is removed from the equation. Thicker-handled bats will hold up to men's fast pitch leagues since a softer ball is typically used to compensate for pitch speed. But the windmill, high-velocity pitching and harder ball used by women impacts the success of using wood softball bats in their games.
Where female softball players are excelling with the use of wood softball bats is in training. Wood softball bats, just like wood baseball bats, promote good swing technique by leveling out swings, which promotes more drives into the gap. Wood softball bats are also great for hand-eye coordination and for strengthening the wrist and forearm areas. An early adopter of such for training, a university in northern Iowa has seen the results of such training on the field. More and more progressive instructors and programs are taking up wood softball bats and wood softball training bats.
In either case, wood softball bats are made of higher-density wood. These bats help transfer more energy to the softball upon contact. To help with the transition to wood, some wood softball bats feature a straight transition from handle to knob, resembling the feel of a composite or aluminum bat. But options in balance, weight, handle size and knob feel exist to meet every players need.
Differences Between Baseball and Softball Bats
There are a number of differences between the wood bats designed for baseball and softball use. Notably, it begins with the design specifications of each. Baseball bats typically have a diameter of 2.5–2.53”. ASA compliant softball bats, on the other hand, have one size barrel: 2.25”. Along with thinner barrels, softball bats are typically longer than baseball bats.
There are significant differences in length-to-weight ratios between wooden baseball and softball bats. As mentioned above, wood baseball bats have drop weights of -2 to -3 ounces, whereas softball bats have a drop of -3 to -5 ounces. So the difference between singles bats, extra-bases bats and power bats in the world of wood baseball bats is just 1/2 ounce between each. For wood softball bats, that difference grows to 1 ounce at each step.
With softball bats, handle diameters tend to be slightly thicker and transition from barrel to handle tends to be at a more gradual slope. This difference is mostly due to durability since softball players are hitting a harder and larger ball. Most baseball players of today prefer a slightly smaller diameter handle and faster transition from barrel to handle to create more bat speed. Smaller handles is why wood baseball bats tend to break more often.
Training Benefits Gained with Wood Bats
One of the main training benefits of wood bats is their smaller sweet spots and lack of technology found in metal bats, which forces the hitter to employ a faster, more fundamentally sound swing to achieve maximum contact.
When selecting a type of wood for the bat, a hitter’s style and experience level will be primary factors to consider. Yellow Birch is excellent for hitters looking to develop a familiarity with using wood bats while power hitters will love the pop Rock Maple bats provide.
Overall, there are vast differences between softball and baseball bats. In each case, knowing the hitter’s preferences will play a huge role in finding the best bat for their needs. When selecting a bat, wood ones are best, because they force the hitter to develop proper swing discipline.