The only thing better than taking a new shiny bat out of the wrapper is taking a few perfect swings and nailing some line drives into the outfield realizing you made the right decision. But slogging through all the dozens of options and listening to a sales pitch at your local sporting goods store isn’t always fun and games. There are nearly a hundred BBCOR Certified bats on the market. That’s a lot of bats to choose from. In this equipment guide, Dugout Debate covers all the bases: first we explain BBCOR certification, then we look at some of the other most important things to keep an eye on before you make a final purchase, and lastly we take a closer look at the best baseball bats of this year. If you’re a grizzled baseball vet we suggest skipping to our lineup of the best baseball bats. Also, if you’re looking for youth baseball bats check out that guide.
Overview of the Best Baseball Bats
Here are the most popular and top rated baseball bats (BBCOR and -3 Drop) currently on the market.
|Rawlings Plasma||Aluminum ; One-Piece||2|
|Easton S500||Aluminum ; One-Piece||4|
|Marucci One Black||Aluminum ; One-Piece||3|
|Louisville Slugger Vapor||Aluminum ; One-Piece||5|
|Combat Fray||Hybrid ; Two-Piece||4|
|Easton MAKO TORQ||Composite ; Two-Piece||4|
|Rawlings 5150 Alloy||Aluminum ; One-Piece||5|
|DeMarini 2015 Voodoo Overlord FT||Hybrid ; Two-Piece||5|
|Louisville Slugger Omaha 516||Aluminum ; One-Piece||1|
|RIP-IT AIR Elite||Composite ; Two-Piece||3|
|Easton S2Z ZCORE||Composite ; Two-Piece||3|
|Rawlings TRIO Balanced||Hybrid ; Three-Piece||3|
|DeMarini 2016 Voodoo||Hybrid ; Two-Piece||7|
|DeMarini 2016 CF8||Composite ; Two-Piece||5|
What is BBCOR?
BBCOR stands for ball-bat coefficient of restitution. Yeah, we like BBCOR better too. It is a relatively new standard that was put in place in 2011 to replace BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) which failed to account for bat performance after it is broken in. To make a long story short, BBCOR came about because of the trampoline effect. The trampoline effect is a term used to describe the phenomenon of when the baseball “jumps” off the bat upon contact (stiff barrel = slower, soft barrel = faster). Pre-BBCOR, organizations like the NCAA determined ball exit speeds were too fast, resulting in too much risk to the pitcher and infielders. 90 mph pitches were coming off bats at nearly 110 MPH. Pitchers were vulnerable to comebackers, which could hit their unprotected head at up to 4000 pounds of force. At the very least, that would make for a very bad day. Talk about staying cool on the mound and having confidence in your reflexes.
Almost all high school and collegiate players are now required to use BBCOR certified bats. Though hitting production has been noticeably reduced as a result of these restrictions, players are much safer. It is rumored that BBCOR now makes all bats (composite, aluminum, hybrid) equal in performance. That’s not true. Just like with previous regulations, not all bats are created equal. To meet these BBCOR standards, barrels must be thicker than before, or dampened somehow internally. Bat manufacturers have come up with many different ways to still meet the new standard and optimize the bats weight and speed.
- Standards for NCAA Players can be viewed here.
- Standards for High School and Youth Leagues can be viewed here.
Keep your Eye on the Bat: Top Factors to Consider
Bats have got increasingly complex over the years. Sports science continues to find ways to tweak and hone bats. Thousands of dollars are spent figuring out ways to increase the sweet spot by a fraction of an inch.
Material. The most common bat materials found in high school and college are aluminum and composite. Hybrid bats are made of both composite and aluminum material. Each has its own distinct contact sound: the “ping” of the aluminum versus the “thud” of a composite.
- Composite: Composite bats are composed of woven fibers such as Kevlar, graphite, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. Manufacturers use numerous tight weave tech to create the optimal pop in their bats. One thing to keep in mind is that composite bats need to be broken in for best performance. The best way to do this is take about 100-200 swings, rotating the bat a quarter turn after each swing. Many studies have found newer composite bats to be better performing than bats constructed from other materials because of their lighter weight. Composite bats are also known for their ability to better absorb vibrations. Typically, they are more expensive than their aluminum bat counterparts.
- Aluminum: Metal, aluminum, and alloys all fall under the aluminum category. The feel of aluminum making contact with the ball is stiff and responsive. You will really feel the ball when you make a good connection. Aluminum bats are usually more affordable than composite bats. They do not require that “break in” period that characterizes composite bats.
- Hybrid: Hybrid bats are a middle ground of sorts. They are designed to reduce some of the cost of a full composite bat and still retain many of the benefits. If you’re on a strict budget you may want to look at these when checking out aluminum bats.
Construction. There are two major construction designs for bats: one-piece and two-piece.
- One-piece: The handle and barrel of one-piece bats are made from one solid piece of aluminum, wood, or alloy. These bats are great for power hitters because when making contact with the ball, little to no energy is lost using a one-piece bat. This allows you to completely crush it. These types of bats are also known for their robust durability.
- Two-piece: This type of bat obviously differs from the one-piece bat in that the handle and barrel are two separate pieces. These pieces are bonded together. The two-piece design allows the bat to flex, making it better for contact hitters whose main focus is putting the ball in play. Two-piece bats generally have a faster swing speed than one-piece bats.
Size. One of the first metrics you should look at is size. Your weight and height will help determine the best option for you.
- Weight: As players get bigger and stronger they usually prefer heavier bats for maximum power. It is a good idea to see how much weight you are comfortable with by swinging some of your friends and teammates bats.
- Barrel: Barrel diameter is restricted by most leagues to a certain maximum. Most youth players in Dixie and Little League baseball with players 12 and under use 2 ¼ inch barrels. There are some exceptions in specific leagues and travel teams that allow the use of larger 2 ¾ inch barrels. High school and college leagues restrict players to a 2 5/8 inch maximum barrel diameter.
- Drop: Also known as the length-to-weight ratio. You may have heard this term thrown around before. It is the way a bat’s weight is measured and is unique to softball and baseball. The drop weight is found by taking the difference between the length of the bat and its weight. For example, a bat that is 34 inches long but weighs 26 pounds has a drop weight of -8. Ideally you want something that optimizes your swing speed (without losing too much power) by matching your ability to the bat’s size. All BBCOR bats feature a drop 3 length to weight ratio. So if someone is talking about the best -3 baseball bats you know they are talking about BBCOR bats.
- Length: We’ve included the chart below that shows you the best length for your personal weight and height. All BBCOR bats range from 29 to 35 inches in length, with most falling between 31-34 inches. Of course, longer bats are usually heavier which could slow down your swing speed, but on the other hand they give you greater reach. It’s a good idea to find a middle ground.
Extras. Powerful endcaps, well-designed handle knobs, exceptional handle grips, manufacturer’s warranty, and other featured highlights are worth keeping an eye on. For example, some bats have cushioned handles to reduce contact sting or special endcaps designed to eliminate vibration by pushing energy back into the barrel for maximum power.
Price. There is a wide range of bat prices—all the way from eye ball popping to lowly prices that draw skepticism (is that bat going to explode when it hits a wiffle ball?) We’ve included a few different price ranges in our best bats line-up to assist you in making your selection. Of course, you want to buy a bat from somewhere that has competitive pricing as well as a good reputation. Boutique bat stores offer top notch customer service, but marks up their bats accordingly. Many online stores have great prices and a wide selection, including all the size and weight options, but you’ll need to have a good idea of what you are looking for. Wherever you go, we think a key thing to look for is the company’s return policy, you don’t want to spend a couple hundred bucks and be stuck with a bat that has a defect or isn’t right for you.
Top 7 Best Baseball Bats of 2016-2017
These bats meet the 2017 BBCOR standard and are the top picks of this year.
1. DeMarini Voodoo Overlord: This series of bats has been among the favorite of many athletes for several years running. Demarini is one of the gold standards in the business and is a leading innovator in the chase to craft the perfect bat. Their latest Voodoo bat has been praised as their best yet. The 2015 Voodoo Overlord FT is a -3 drop bat that uses an X12 alloy material for the barrel. The barrel has a slight end load for extra power and pop. The Overlord’s barrel punishes the ball for daring to come near. (Sorry Pitchers)
Their 2014 version is also a worthy companion and you may be able to save some $$ by going with the slightly older version. Plus, DeMarini has put some badass graphics on this monster.
2. DeMarini CF7: Another successful bat from DeMarini, following the CF6 and CF5, the CF7 is the brand new bat of 2015. This is an expensive composite bat and is almost entirely constructed from their Paradox +Plus composite material. This composite tech blends together some of the best fibers in the industry. The new D-Fusion handle is promised to eliminate all handle vibrations. There are a select few bats that can match the top of the line balance of power and light weight that the CF7 offers. RCK also finished the ends off with their low pro end cap on one end and the RCK knob aka the “Real Cool Knob” on the other.
3. Easton S2Z ZCORE: Easton is a premier manufacturer of some of the best baseball bats the market has to offer. They’ve been locked in a battle with DeMarini for the title of best baseball bats for some years now. The S2Z ZCORE is a -3 drop BBCOR bat that implements a two-piece construction design and the expected 2 5/8 barrel diameter. The ZCORE series of bats use a Hyperlite Matrix Aluminum, and are great for contact hitters looking for a fast swing speed. If you’re looking for a one-piece design from Easton, they also offer the S3Z ZCORE bat.
4. Easton MAKO TORQ: This bat is quickly growing in popularity, in part because of the new TORQ technology. Easton indicates that studying high speed film of some of the world’s best hitters it shows they actually adjust their grip mid-swing. This helps them keep the sweet spot of barrel in the hitting zone longer and get more leverage. The new Torq handle is designed to assist hitters in rotating their hands while swinging. Easton has seen so much success with this new bat tech they are now implementing Torq in more of their bats. Also, a thing to be aware of is that the Mako Comp has the same design as this bat. The only difference is the handle that “twists” and adds $100 to the price tag.
5. Rip-It AIR Elite: The AIR from Rip-It has been putting up huge sales numbers and has solidified Rip-It as one of the big players in the bat business. The AIR is a single-piece alloy and the AIR Elite is a two-piece hybrid. Both are BBCOR certified and implement Rip-It’s Rifle Barrel design. This barrel is designed so that the average wall thickness is extremely thin but still strong enough to last numerous seasons. The Elite has an aluminum barrel (R3 Alloy) with a composite handle (R3 Composite) making it Rip It’s fastest bat yet. These bats are backed by their 400-day warranty with unlimited parts replacements and is further complemented by their 30 day love it or return it policy.
6. Rawlings 5150: This bat made our list because of its maple barrel and composite handle hybrid build. The Rawlings 5150 alloy is a BBCOR approved bat.
7. Louisville Slugger 2016 Omaha: A trusty bat from the long-standing Louisville brand. This bat uses a new lightweight 7U1 alloy material and implements the Slugger Flex Band technology in the barrel. The “lizard skins” grip and bright yellow and red design is a head turner. It’s backed by a 30 day no questions ask performance return policy just in case you aren’t feelin’ it.