Dead Bats & Aristocrats: A Deeper Dive into the 2018 USA Bat Standard 

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By Ty Webb 
With youth baseball in full swing, 2018 marks the first year of the USA Bat standard. You can read more about the new standards pretty much anywhere. If you aren’t aware of the USA standard, your kid doesn’t need a new bat. Let’s hope that’s the case. Otherwise, your chances of being parent of the year just took a huge hit.
After watching kids of varying ages swing these bats and after reading several online threads, it is pretty apparent that these bats aren’t what kids (or parents) wanted. However, youth baseball isn’t always about the kids, is it?
What’s the basis behind the USA Bat Standard?
It depends who you ask. The initial USA Bat press release in August 2015 referred to preserving the “integrity of the game.” Translation? It was probably that baseballs were flying off bats like golf balls. No reference to exit speed was cited in the release, but those concerns are reasonably assumed. Frankly, to admit a safety concern would drive the defense attorneys of national organizations bonkers. Per the USA Bat FAQs, baseball remains one of the safest sports out there (unless your 10 year old throws 75 pitches twice on a weekend to win a tourney, but that’s a whole other issue).
Interestingly, a more recent quote in a promo issued last month by USA Baseball seemed to indicate that there would be more opportunity for fielding balls now that one wouldn’t have been able to get to in the past.
Wait, what?
I can’t find that quote/ad now, but I saw If you can find that ad, good luck. The fact that 2 awesome physicists are on the USA Bat committee tells you all you need to know.
Let’s not forget that 2 million kids have to BUY new bats. (Bat manufacturers and distributors for the win!)
Are these USA Bats heavy?
Pretty much. Without getting into the physics of how relevant swing speed is versus actual weight, which is the subject of a great article by Bat Digest, the majority of bats I’ve come across are just plain heavy. I’ve seen some -10s weigh like -8s. I saw a -10 composite come in at a -7.5. Then again, I saw a Ghost that was only .3 over its stated weight. In bats, manufacturing consistency is not consistent. This is even more true this year across the board.
The fact that USA Bat barrels are now bigger in diameter and mass lends themselves to an end loaded feel, even if that isn’t the goal. Are you surprised that certain ultra light model bats are tougher to find than others and that manufacturers are putting out brand new bats as I write this article?
Can my kid use wood?
Sure, but it might be too heavy. The initial FAQs for the USA Bat press release said wood was too scarce as the basis for using alloy or other materials to mimic a “wood standard.” Nice try, so that was amended to say that wood is not capable of offering light weights like metal or composite. A better semi-true statement that now passes the laugh test.
USA rules DO allow solid one piece wood bats without the need for a USA stamp, so don’t let someone tell you otherwise.
Currently, there are no wood composite 2 piece bats that have a USA stamp, so they cannot be used per USA rules. From what I have seen, stronger kids that are 11 or 12 might actually benefit from high quality pro grade wood bats. However, very few companies are making those bats other than in -5 and -8 weights. You can try a lightweight wood bat, but I’ve yet to see performance testing for much lighter wood bats. I have seen kids using -5 wood bats launch balls in person and online, but these are the exceptions to the rule. These bats do have pop and wood will promote proper swing mechanics in my opinion. However, they aren’t practical for most young kids.
Is metal or composite “hotter?” 
It seems like a tie. I have not seen a major difference between the two materials performance wise, but I will leave it to number crunchers for that. It still comes down to the hitter, but because the performance level is already set, the use of composite at the USA level doesn’t mean that the bat is going to break in and launch a ball like an old Mako. In my opinion, metal is just as good for USA Bats. However, if your kid doesn’t have great mechanics, his/her hands are not going to enjoy the feel of a 1 piece bat. Ultimately, as they get older, stronger hitters will use one piece alloy bats to maximize power transfer. For now, many kids use two piece bats to avoid the pain of mis-hits. So if your kid hates hand sting, one piece alloy and wood might not be answer just yet. One option is a hybrid, where the handle is composite and the barrel is alloy.
At the end of the day, physics tells us that a heavier end loaded bat should produce more distance and faster exit speeds than a lighter bat, but how many 8 year olds are going to handle an end loaded big barrel bat?
Private hitting coaches might be very busy these days (FTW).
Can my kid use a USA Bat at a tourney that allows USSSA approved bats?
Sure, but you can be sure that the other team is probably loaded up with 1.15 BPF bats (aka the old bats). This poses a conundrum for the parent who has a child primarily in USA Bat events with the occasional USSSA or 1.15 approved event. It’s very tough to justify buying a $300 USSSA Bat for 1-2 events a year. My advice is to beg, borrow or steal an old bat. Ok, don’t steal a bat. Ask around to parents who have older kids. Check FB Marketplace, Letgo, Sideline Swap or EBay. Maybe $40 for a used composite isn’t so bad if your kid gets to use it for 24-30 at bats. This situation is going to annoy more than one coach or parent this summer, so make sure you check the tournament rules ahead of time and plan ahead.
How much different are USA Bats when compared to the old bats performance wise
1.15 BPF was the old rating. BBCOR is .50 BPF. USA Bats are said to be .53 BPF, even though there is no stamp on the bat.
Don’t expect to see off the fist HRs anymore. At the 11 and under level, don’t expect to see many at all, in my opinion.
While there won’t be formal youth stats to track this change the way college tracked the change to BBCOR, it would seem that defensive skills in the infield might increase.
For those very young kids playing OF, bring an iPad and some snacks into the outfield.
Is it true that fastpitch softball bats are 1.20 BPF?
Yes, and those pitchers throw from a closer distance. Hmmm.
As a parent, do you agree with the USA Bat standard?
Mostly. It is what it is. I’ve seen the ridiculous exit speeds that have been generated with big barrel 1.15 bats in the hands of older kids at 46 feet. So there needed to be some limitation by the national organizations. In my opinion, some type of phase in at say, the 10U level, may have made more sense and allowed much younger kids to enjoy jumping into the sport longer. The last time I checked, I didn’t hear of 8 year olds hitting the ball out of the park consistently.
Only time will tell if this USA Bat standard reduces interest in the sport, or if towns will rush to change their charters to USSSA programs. Those numbers won’t come out for years.
Unfortunately, baseball just doesn’t have the fast paced hook that lacrosse and ice hockey have. When I last checked, sticks and stick technology have only increased.
Shouldn’t a bigger barrel make you a better hitter?
Not necessarily. If that was intended to be the case, there would have been an emphasis on adjusting to the new bats and really focusing on proper sizing for players. I didn’t see that discussed anywhere. It seemed like it was jump in the pool with a lead pipe and enjoy your swim.
Do you work for a bat company or a bat distributor?
Nope. These are just my opinions.
Who is asking these questions anyway? 
I’m not sure, and it’s a little creepy. Like we’re being watched or something…

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–If Dreams Park concession stands accept credit/debit cards?
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Angela Weight

Founder and publisher of Travel Ball Parents.com, Angela Weight is still a little shocked to be running one of the most popular youth sports parenting sites on the web. Click the ABOUT US tab to read her story.

3 thoughts on “Dead Bats & Aristocrats: A Deeper Dive into the 2018 USA Bat Standard 

  • May 31, 2018 at 8:33 pm
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    Count me in the “this needed to happen club” I have 10 year old that plays competitive travel baseball (USSSA)and a 7 year old that plays little league
    The freakish way balls are blasted in USSSA tournaments is extremely abnormal, fielders dont have a chance and parents think their kid is next Babe Ruth because their kid fisted a ball over the left field fence.
    Parents want to complain about purchasing a new bat when they already shell out thousands of dollars for other assorted junk and inflated tournament prices.
    Bottom line,..as a coach and a parent,.the new bats are a blessing,.the games are far more competitive,.and kids are becoming better hitters because of new bats and parents have a better understanding of how good their child really is.

    Reply
  • May 16, 2018 at 7:26 pm
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    The ridiculous part of this whole farce was that if you have a well established bat standard like 1.15 bpf and multiple leagues that use it then there was one obvious solution to eficiently meet the needs of leagues looking to slow down the ball. The answer is to do it by slowing down your leagues ball. New balls are required every year, require little R&D to meet a standard, and don’t require every kid in the country or their family paying lots of money for a dead bat. The ball can be tuned up or down every year at little expense if changes need to be made. This has been a windfall of epic proportions for the bat manufacturers and will continue if the standard is modified in the future as ‘tweaks’ to satisfy public demand. This has been such an obvious cash grab it is difficult to stay with Little League, I’m sure they are getting returns from the manufacturers as well.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2018 at 12:54 pm
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    I think that the switch to the USA bat standard benefits the kids in the long run as a precursor to BBCOR bats. Frankly, I’m disappointed that USSSA did not adopt the new standard. My 12U player grew almost 3 inches over the winter and that meant a new bat – or in this case two new bats. One USA bat and one USSSA bat.

    As for the USA bats being heavier, if they are that’s a good thing. A lot of kids swing drop 12 and drop 10 too long into their youth baseball careers. Then when they get to middle school or high school they struggle swinging the mandatory drop 3 BBCOR bats. Way back when I was a kid playing little league all we had were drop 3, drop 2, and drop 1 bats.

    My suggestion is that when your player gets to the 9U / 10U age have them swing a drop 8 bat, then move to a drop 5 by 11U / 12U. Remember, there comes a tipping point when the mass behind that bat trumps the artificially high bat speeds generated by the lighter drop 10 and drop 12 bats.

    Have them grab a heavier bat at the appropriate age. Their middle school and high school coaches will thank you.

    Reply

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