How to Select the right Baseball Bat Size
The development of hitting skills is one of repetition, and with that, a hitter reinforces and strengthens their muscle memory to hit effectively. Choosing hitting tools wisely is important, as the wrong size bat can lead a hitter to counteract or compensate for the inappropriate tendencies required to make contact with a bat of incorrect size or weight. These bad habits’ will be harder to correct as the hitter advances in competitive levels of baseball play.
Finding what gives a hitter the control and comfort is the art and personal choice in bat selection. A batter’s strength, height, and even stance can factor into choosing a bat. The ball player must ultimately be able to move the bat through the swing path with ease and impart small adjustments during the swing with their hands, wrists, arms and body to make accurate contact with the incoming pitch. A hitter must have a bat they can use without tiring and control with their current grip strength. A bat too heavy or too long will likely cause the bat head to drop during the swing.
The size of a bat is simply its length. The length of the bat determines how far a batter can stand from the edge of the plate and still reach the outside strike zone. But that reach is not determined by the bat length alone, how the batter stands in the box and if the hitter casts the bat on the swing or pulls the knob of the bat toward the pitch will factor into the needed length. Additional factors of the hitter’s physical height and strength should also be considered. There are general guidelines around length of bats based on age group and seem quite typical for the general hitter.
Under 9 years old, there is a difficulty in getting a bat that is light enough, but length is typically between 26 inches and 28 inches. The ages 9-12 and 13-14 will see a more standard approach to bat selection at lengths of 29 to 32 inches and 31 to 34 inches respectively. If there is any doubt on these, go shorter, the lighter weight will be an advantage for the early ages. As the ball player moves into the high school level and beyond bat sizes stabilize to major league dimensions of 32 to 34 inches. Keep in mind that there is a direct relationship to length and weight in bat selection as a larger size bat is heavier and the right size decision is the trade off between these two elements to keep the batter comfortable and in control through their swing.
Since weight is directly related to length the weight of a bat is expressed as an offset or minus from the length or size. This is called the Drop Rating. As example, a minus 3 is a bat whose weight is equal to the length minus 3, or for a 33 inch bat the weight would be 30. This length and weight differential in bats breaks down to three general age levels for bat selection; Youth, Senior, and Adult. There is a variation in available drop ratings for youth bats between minus 12 and minus 7, whereas senior bats used for ages up to around 14 are either minus 7 or minus 5, and all adult bats typically high school level players and above – are minus 3.
The league, age group or level of play may have rules about which bats can be used such as high schools requiring a drop rating no greater than minus three. Additionally bats used in High School and College games must be BESR (BALL EXIT SPEED RATIO) certified which signifies a tested maximum speed of a hit ball off the bat. Be sure to check with an umpire, league official or coach on any rule limitations or requirements before purchasing a new bat.
A simple test of a player’s ability to handle a particular size of bat is to have them hold the bat, near the knob with their dominant hand right hand for righties out in front of them with a straight arm. Maintaining this for ten seconds without the bat head dipping or shaking gives a rough indication that the bat is light enough. Taking a few practice swings will help confirm the right bat size selection. Make sure the hitter is able to control the bat through the full swing. The swing should not pull the batter or send them off balance. These elements will help narrow the choices down to a few appropriate sizes or types, but ultimately it’s the hitter’s confidence and comfort that is the measure of the right bat size.