Swing Weight v.s. Printed Weight
How To Better Understand The True Weight Of Your Bat
When searching for the right size bat, it is important to pay more attention to the bat’s swing weight than the weight printed on the bat. Unfortunately, most swing weights are not widely available as most manufacturers only print the stated weight. To find your true bat size, be sure to consider the following.
Understanding the Problem: Not all weights are created equal
Bats with the same stated weight will feel very different when hitting because weight distribution affects how a bat feels more than the actual weight of the bat.
Think of a sledge hammer. Imagine swinging a sledge hammer by holding the handle. It feels heavy. It is difficult to get the heavy head of the tool around. Now, turn the sledge hammer around and hold the sledge piece in your hands. Swing it again. With the heavy piece in your hands, the sledge hammer is much easier to swing.
While the total weight of the object did not change, the experience swinging it was completely different. It is the same with two identically weighted bats. How the manufacturer distributes the weight is essential to consider when selecting a bat and weight distribution is impossible to tell if all you care about is the bat’s total weight.
Understanding the Swing Weight
This concept, that the power to swing a bat depends on how the weight is distributed within the bat, is referred to as the physics principle of swing weight. Each bat has a unique swing weight and will be easier or more difficult to get through the zone depending on its swing weight and the player swinging the bat. Hitters need to find a swing weight that gives them maximum force and swing speed. A sledge hammer could do some damage at the plate, but if your eight-year-old can’t get it to the ball in time, it is not the right fit.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a physicist to buy the right sized bat. You simply need to understand that bats with the same scale weight can swing quite differently. In most cases the swing weight between two bats can be upwards of 10 to 15% different within the same scale weight.
Bat Size Chart Deficiency
The fact that swing weight is not very well correlated with total bat weight makes bat size charts less useful. Granted, most size charts can get within a stone's throw of the right bat size for you. But, suggesting a 31/21 based your height or age or weight only puts you in a category of 21-ounce bats that might feel considerably different among each other.
Calculating the Swing Weight
Calculating the actual swing weight of a bat is not simple. To get an accurate number requires equipment not readily available to the average baseball or softball player. However, there a few general tricks we’ve picked up along the way that can help.
Trick 1: Find the Balance Point
After measuring hundreds of bats’ balance points over the last five years, we see a correlation between balance point and swing weight. If you want to know how one bat feels compared to another, simply measure the balance point. In most cases, bats with a balance point more toward the end cap also have a heavier swing weight.
In fact, when deciding between two bats that have the same scale weight, the one with the balance point closer to the end cap will almost always have the higher swing weight.
Trick 2: Pay attention to the Load
Often, manufacturers do a decent job of notifying customers about the bat’s load. Words like “loaded” and “power” tend to mean a heavier swing weight (or more of the bat’s weight is distributed toward the end cap). Words like “balanced” and “speed” tend to mean a bat with a light swing weight. You can often find the company’s intention of swing weight in the description of the bat, too.
This isn’t a fool proof classification across brands, as there is no enforced standard as to what ‘loaded’ and ‘balanced’ might mean. But, it is a decent way to see how bats swing compared to others within the same brand.
DeMarini, as one example, separates their end loaded and balanced bats into categories called Insane and Zen. Easton often uses phrases like XL and Speed.
In more recent years, some companies started putting their swing index on the bat. Easton put them toward their end cap in the 2018 BBCOR models and Slugger put them on their website for 2019.
Trick 3: Longer Bats Tend to Swing Heavier
This may be too obvious to point out, but do note that two bats with the same stated weight of different lengths will likely swing differently than each other. The longer one almost always has a heavier swing.
A 32/20 drop 12 USA bat almost always swings heavier than a 30/20. Again, both bats weigh 20-ounces, but the longer bat likely has a balance point more toward the end cap.
Finding the Right Swing Weight For You
If all of this sounds too complicated, then the good news is this: most bats with the same category swing no more than 15% differently than each other. Meaning, if you were to solely use a bat chart for the right size, then you’ll be within the ball park, so to speak.
This is also why we suggest you buy from places online that allow for free returns (like baseballexpress.com). You don’t need to take the wrapper off a bat (or hit with it) to know if it’s the right swing weight for you. When you get the bat, just take a few air hacks. If it feels between good and alright, then it will likely work fine. However, if it feels more like swinging a sledge hammer from either end—either difficult to get the barrel around, slow to get the bat through the zone, or like it's going to fly out of your hand, it's so light—it may not be the right fit for you.
Be sure to check out Brian’s list of the Top 2019 BBCOR Bats and catch all of his reviews at BatDigest.com.