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. 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 a 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 a 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 sturdy, lightweight bats.
Hybrid bats are created from the idea to give players the best of both worlds. They are made in a way to include both aluminum and elements made of composite materials. Every manufacturer behind hybrid models has their 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 the chance for uncomfortable hand vibrations is greatly increased. A thicker handle reduces these vibrations, but it weighs more and can slow down the bat speed.