Can Maple Bats Make a Difference?
Baseball aficionados understand that each player (batter) has a unique approach to the game of baseball, from a psychological and physical vantage point. This means that playing habits, player characteristics, and swing mechanics all play an important role. However, when the player comes to the plate, it is only him and his bat that can make things happen. Can using maple bats really make a difference every time a player is called to bat?
Different types of wood have varying characteristics. For more than a century, since 1884, the preference has always been bats made out of northern white ash. This was an accepted norm up until 2000 even with professional ballplayers.
It is interesting that player preference has shifted in favor of sugar maple bats. The reason for this is perceived to be the preference of some of the homerun kings of the century that have broken long standing baseball records. More notably, the monster season of Barry Bonds, where he registered 73 home runs during the 2001 season. Before 1996 maple bats did not exist in the MLB, but 7 years after Bonds’ record breaker, nearly half of major league players preferred maple bats.
Introduction into the Major League
There is no exact date when maple baseball bats were really introduced into a major league game. One of the players first known to use maple bats was Fernando Seguignol, and may have been the first professional player to ever hit a homerun with that type of bat.
It is not hard to imagine how word can spread like wildfire in the major league and by the start of the next season the Blue Jays were already ordering a shipment of maple bats. By 1998, major manufacturers of baseball bats began seeing the market value and started mass production of maple bats.
Maple Bat Characteristics
The million dollar question is whether there are characteristics of maple bats that make them better than the old standard ash bats? In terms of hitting area, there is no real advantage because both types of bats have specifications. Neither has even proven to hit the ball farther.
Players like Torii Hunter however say that they feel maple wood made harder contact with the ball, which means more power behind the swing. It is also noted that ash bats have the tendency to splinter near the head after about a week of use, which means they tend to breakdown faster. But, as in many cases, maple bats have the propensity for breaking with greater violence than ash bats.
According to baseball bat manufacturers, there are 2 actual advantages that can be garnered from using maple bats. One is that baseball bats made from maple allow players to increase their batted-ball-speed (BBS). The other is that maple bats do last longer, reinforcing what many professional baseball players have observed.
In terms of player statistics, offensive statistics in particular. According to a study by Rader and Winkle during the 1990s, the offensive statistics of players using maple bats increased by as much as 50%. The hitting peaked during the 2000s up until the 2007 season where offensive numbers continued to show promise for professional players using maple bats. It is equally important to note that when institutional changes were made to the game of baseball like changing strike zones, banning substances, and institutionalization of drug testing programs, offensive statistics decreased. This means that although maple bats may help players to hit better, certain game restrictions can negate the positive effects.
Basically, the price of a maple bat and one made from ash can be anywhere from $15 to $20 with maple bats priced at about $65 a piece and ash ones at $48. Bottom line is that focusing on the basics is important, but equally important is to make sure that you have high quality baseball gear to help elevate your game no matter what level you are playing in.
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