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If you are a hitter choosing which bat to buy is a crucial decision. But finding the best fastpitch softball bat is not an easy task. The selection of bats is huge, there are so many brands, models, styles. How to determine which one will be perfect for you? There are many different aspects to think about. It is important to choose a bat that will help you get the most out of your game. We have tried to come up with a guide that will help you make the best choice.
How to Pick the Right Size of the Softball Bat
A key to finding a faspitch bat that is perfect for you is to get the size and weight that fits you.
THE RIGHT LENGTH:
When choosing the softball bat that is right for you, you need to know how to measure it properly. The length is measured from the knob to the barrel. Place the knob at the center of your chest and extend the barrel out toward your fingertips. If you can touch the end of the bat with your fingertips, the bat is an appropriate size. Another way it to measure from the center of your chest to the tips of your index finger, with your arm straight out to your side. The approximate length of the bat you need according to the height and weight is shown in the chart below.
THE RIGHT WEIGHT:
When it comes to the weight, you should go with a weight that you are comfortable swinging. Many beginners or parents of young players tend to choose bat that is too heavy. If you can’t hold the bat with one hand, with your arm extended to your side, for 30 seconds without struggle, the bat is probably too heavy for you.
THE RIGHT DROP:
The drop is the number that represents difference between the length and weight of the bat. A lower drop usually indicates a heavier bat. The fastpitch softball bats usually have a drop ranging from -8 to -13. Don’t let this number confuse you: it is merely a indicator of weight to length ratio of your bat.
What More to Look for in Softball Bats
SPEED: Bat speed is very important for softball hitters, especially in fastpitch. In softball today, the pitchers are getting bigger, stronger and faster, the players have to either get faster or make their swing shorter. Players with faster bats can wait longer to see the ball better, which allows them to make better decisions. By increasing their bat speed, players will improve their mechanics, hand-eye coordination and will be able to hit for greater distances. When choosing the best fastpitch bat for you make sure to pick one that will allow you to get the maximum out of your bat speed.
PERFORMANCE: Intuitively, you would want to go for a bat that has the best performance possible. However, it is not that simple. A new requirements announced in 2011 introduced a new regulation parameter called BPF – bat performance factor. This does not limit the speed of the ball upon hit, but the increase in the liveliness of a ball hitting a bat compared to throwing a ball against a solid wall. According to current regulations bats may not exceed a BPF of 1.20. So when shopping for softball bat make sure to check whether it has a BPF stamp, to confirm it is legal for play.
MATERIAL: According to the material they are made of softball bats can be aluminum, or alloy bats, composite and hybrid bats also called half-and-half. Wooden bats are mostly abandoned in competitive fastpitch softball.
Composite bats are made of mix of graphite, fiberglass and plastic resin, which gives them a distinctive sound. Composite bats are durable, superior in performance, have a larger sweet spot, but they also tend to crack and they can’t be used in very cold weather. They are also the most expensive version of softball bats, so they are used mainly by players on a higher level.
Aluminum bats are traditional, less expensive, they give a “stiffer” feel and, in theory, they can lose their pop over time. They are used by the players that prefer a sturdy, lightweight bats.
Hybrid bats are created from the idea to give players the best of the both worlds. They are made in a way to include both aluminum and elements made of composite materials. Every manufacturer behind hybrid models have their own reason and way of crafting the bat they claim has the optimal performance. The most traditional hybrid bat is a composite handle and aluminum barrel, but there are many different variations.
COMFORT: The handle has a great role in how comfortably you can hit. The handle is defined by its thickness and grip. Having a firm grip is important, for safety as well as optimal hitting. A softball is much larger than a baseball, so it the chance for uncomfortable hand vibrations is greatly increased. A thicker handle reduces this vibrations, but it weighs more and can slow down the bat speed.
Balanced vs. End Loaded Fastpitch Softball Bats
Bats with a smaller drop (-9, -8), or smaller length to weight ratio, are generally considered end loaded bats. The weight is distributed more towards the end of the bat, making it a bit heavier to swing. Many players tend to choose a balanced, lighter bat, because they think they will be able to swing better. But that doesn’t always have to be the case. However, end loaded softball bats for fastpitch can have many advantages.
Sometimes two bats with the same actual weight might feel different when they are swung. This has to do with the distribution of weight. The “swing weight” is defined by something called moment of inertia, which depends both on the total weight and the balance point. The end loaded bats are initially harder to swing and control, but give much more power on impact, sending the ball further.
The bat with weight distributed towards the end of the barrel may not be good for the beginners that do not have developed strength and quick swing speed. For stronger power hitters this type of bat has many advantages. The “top heavy” bats require refined hitting skills because if you hit the ball just right, it goes a long way, if you don’t hit it perfect, you foul it off or pop it up.
If you are tall and strong the end load will help you keep your speed up on impact. After contact speed can actually increase using an end loaded bat, or at least stay the same and not decrease as much as balanced does because of the weight distribution keeps the inertia.
Youth fastpitch players need lighter swing weight so they can achieve more power at the plate. For them the balanced bat might be the best solution. But if a young player is strong and athletic enough to control the speed, then the extra power can translate into another 10 to 30 feet or more to the ball distance.
Have in mind that regulations are different form one league to another and you should check them before making a purchase, since USSSA bats may not be allowed in ASA play, and vice-versa. There are bats that have dual stamp and those are allowed in leagues of both associations.
Finally, you should know that choosing the right fast pitch bat is very individual. Ray Demarini used to say that for a softball player the perfect bat weight was 28oz. That may be right, but the real truth is that the perfect bat is the one you feel most comfortable with and you can use for a long time. You can browse though our selection of best fastpitch softball bats and read the reviews to help you with your choice.