Last Updated: April 16th, 2018
7 Min. Read
Introduction to Composite and Aluminum Bats
Forget what you know, what you believe and start reading. The USA Bat Standard has changed the game. The debate between composites vs. aluminum bats have ALSO changed. We're here to spread the truth. *For the definitive answer: Scroll all the way to the bottom.*
According to numerous online surveys, youth baseball players heavily favor any variation of metal bats (both aluminum and composite) over woods. No matter the material, younger divisions of baseball produce higher rates of offensive production with these types of bats. Before diving into which type of bat will benefit your youth baseball player the best (composite or aluminum/alloy), we feel the need for you to understand the fundamental differences between these classes of baseball bats as well as their specific characteristics, purpose, and origins.
What Is An Aluminum Bat?
Aluminum bats also known as alloy bats arrived into the youth community as a more efficient option over wood bats roughly forty years ago. At that time, aluminum bats innovated the hitting experience by giving youth hitters a new type of bat that out-performed woods in areas like pop, bat speeds and swing weight. Additionally, alloy bats gave off a loud “ping” sound that resonated throughout the field. Wood bats quickly became obsolete and aluminums occupied the majority of youth baseball dugouts.
Modern day alloy bats share some common traits regardless of the company that produces it. The barrels and handles are composed of a wide variety of aluminum metals which vary in durability, density, and length. The quality of an aluminum metal youth baseball bat is generally reflected in the market cost. Although this isn't always true, more expensive alloy bats tend to utilize higher qualities of metal giving the youth player a more efficient offensive tool. Lower quality metals are more susceptible to irritating vibration swings, weakened durability, and a more rapid depreciating value over time.
The barrel of a modern aluminum bat will bear a single or double wall design. This identifies how many layers of metal encapsulate the youth bat. Alloys that come equipped with a double wall structural design generally create a wider sweet spot region and have added mass for increased durability vs. other aluminum bats showcasing a single wall construction. This isn’t to suggest that all single wall barrel youth bats are inferior. Because they possess less material than double wall barrels, they carry less weight making them lighter and easier to swing. A struggling hitter who might have trouble catching up to fastballs in the strike zone should consider using a single wall alloy bat especially those who are in the younger divisions of youth baseball where fundamentals are first being taught by coaches and learned by kids.
What Is A Composite Bat?
Since the dawn of the new millennium, composites have hit the youth baseball community with the notion as being the evolution in new youth baseball bats. The aim of composite bats is to provide hitters with a bat option that would deliver better offensive performance through its unique carbon fiber composition material. Composites have garnered more popularity than aluminum bats because of this technologically advanced genetic makeup. Similar to how the aluminum bats inevitably turned wood bats obsolete in younger age groups, composites were seen as the type of bats that could surpass their alloy counterparts.
The genetic makeup of a composite bat is unlike anything found in an aluminum or wood. Bat manufacturers use carbon fiber based materials when creating composites that carry less density than alloys but offers equally and in some cases, more production value. Similar to how aluminum bat models feature a wide array of different metals, not all composite bats hold the same singular type of composite material. For example, the particular type of composite found in the 2018 Easton Ghost X called the “EXACT Carbon Composite” will encompass a completely different type of composite substance found within a 2018 Demarini CF Zen called the "Paraflex Composite Design." Each company engineers and develops their own unique brand of composite bats using their own researched materials.
What Are The Benefits And Advantages Of An Aluminum (Alloy) Bat?
The Cost (Cheaper):
The most convenient benefit parents enjoy in choosing an alloy is the cheaper cost associated when compared to composite bats. In the sporting goods market, the majority of composite youth baseball bats possess a retail value higher than even top-notch aluminum bats. Although composites carry a reputation of delivering more performance, skilled players can usually produce relatively the same offensive production with an alloy which can save parents some serious cash.
Virtually No Break In Time:
One of the biggest advantages to swinging an aluminum bat is the out of the wrapper performance upon opening and taking the bat out of the box. Generally, composite bats require a break in period of about 150-200 swings before a player can expect to attain maximum productivity.
The most unique aspect of an aluminum bat involves the unique and undeniable “ping” sound heard when the sweet spot collides with the baseball. In youth baseball, players know the louder the ping, the harder the hit. The ping sound that echoes off the alloy barrel is probably one of the greatest sounds to be heard in a game.
As bat manufacturers continue to develop more technology advanced aluminum bats, a major aspect in their evolution is the lightweight design especially found in modern models. All aluminum bats come in a single or a double piece construction. The single piece bats use occupy less mass than the two piece bats and are usually among the lightest ones available.
One of the most valuable benefits that come with purchasing an aluminum bat relates to the strength and durability one can expect. An alloy bat that emits high levels of durability can maintain optimum performance for at least two years of use. Also, its well known that composite youth baseball bats generally display more cosmetic flaws and damages over time than aluminum bats.
What Are The Benefits and Advantages Of A Composite Bat?
The most significant benefit received by composite bats is the level of pop, youth players achieve. When compared to alloy or wood bats, composites produce more potential for pop. The complex blend of carbon fiber materials propels the baseball off the barrel at quicker speeds and extra force vs. aluminum bats. The combination of the launching speed of the ball and the impact at which collision occurs is called the trampoline effect of a swing. Composites will deliver at elevated levels.
Another huge benefit that comes with composite bats is their ability to control and deflect the stinging vibrations that may sometimes occur when making contact with the baseball. As any hitter will agree to, the most annoying moments of stepping inside the batter’s box occurs when their hands ring and feel like an electric jolt is running through the fingers. Composites are the best type of bat to best absorb that negative energy, especially two-piece constructed composite bats. Composite handles can help to prevent shock so well that many bat manufactures have developed hybrid options that utilize a composite handle with an aluminum barrel.
A More Balanced Swing Weight:
They also provide hitters with a more balanced swing weight than wood bats and most aluminum bats. Swing weight is simply the amount of weight transferring through the strike zone as hitters rip their bat upon the baseball. Since composite bats tend to stretch more of its mass evenly throughout the barrel, hitters can better transition their weight across the plate more evenly.
Even Lighter Than Alloys:
As a whole, they tend to have a lighter weight design than alloy bats that share the same length/weight ratio. The graphite and complex carbon fiber materials that make up the mass of composite bats are naturally lighter than the majority of aluminum metals.
What Are The Cons Or Drawbacks Of An Aluminum Bat?
When purchasing an alloy bat, it's not uncommon for some to dent when being used. Many factors can cause an aluminum bat (or ANY bat for that matter) to incur some significant cosmetic damage. In other instances, the baseball simply just hits the bat at an awkward angle causing slights dings or bends. Sometimes, players are simply given a “lemon” in which the strength of the bat somehow isn’t up to par with what has been advertised. In any case, using a damaged bat is illegal in all youth baseball organizations and can potentially cause injury and harm. For "lemon" situations we recommend checking to see if your manufacturer's warranty is still active.
Cold Weather Conditions:
Colder temperatures will definitely have a negative effect on the performance and durability of aluminum bats. The metal becomes too stiff and unsuitable for taking on collisions with the baseball. The colder the weather, the more likely the following will occur:
- Increased chances of cosmetic damage (dents and cracks) to the alloy bat
- Increased stinging vibrations upon the hands
The primary issue that occurs with cold weather damage to alloy bats comes from the chemical change of the baseball. In colder climates, baseball become denser causing them to become harder and slightly heavier. Sometimes, the impact upon the alloy barrel is too intense for the structural design to remain undamaged.
Lower Quality Alloys Exhibit Increased Sting Vibration
As stated earlier, bat manufacturers will produce their aluminum bat models with the intention of utilizing different qualities of alloy material to offer different price ranges. Higher priced metal bats will encompass higher quality aluminum. The most significant downside for using a cheaper metal bat is how prone they are to incur negative vibrations to the hitter’s grip. If your child plays in older divisions of youth baseball, consider spending a few extra bucks for safer alloy bats is worth the money spent.
What Are The Cons Or Drawbacks Of Composite Bats?
Required Break-in Process
Like a new car needs to be broken in before really being able to drive, a composite bat is the same way. It is able to exert its peak performance, however they all need a break in period of 150 hits minimum. No need to take a new composite to batting cages for breaking in. A few simple soft toss sessions will get the job done. Make sure to use real baseballs and swing with medium strength. After roughly 150-200 baseballs later, your composite will be fully broken in ready to go.
Cold Weather Conditions Also Affect Composite Bats
Much like alloy bats, composites also are more likely to incur performance altering damage in colder climates too. When a composite bat draws such breakages, it doesn’t dent like aluminums. The carbon fiber material of a composite bat will lead to vertical cracks along the barrel similar to how a wood bat breaks and cracks.
Fairly High Cost
Composite bats come with the heftiest price tag. Depending on the brand, some can reach costs of above four hundred dollars given sales tax or shipping fees. Although composites are expected to outperform aluminum alloy bats by design, performance comes much more from the user rather than his or her bat. Of course, a well-constructed baseball bat definitely boosts a hitter’s offensive capabilities, but many youth players can achieve the relatively the same levels of hitting output with an alloy which can save youth baseball families some money every season.
Has The 2018 USA Bat Standard Affected The Composite vs Aluminum Bat Debate?
Since September 2017, our staff has evaluated over forty eligible youth baseball bats abiding by the USA Bat Standard. Each model we have reviewed has undergone an evaluation process that our team collectively designed and executed. After analyzing all of the 2018 youth bats, (with the exception of a few) 2018YouthBats.com possesses a thorough understanding of the performances by composite and aluminum USA bats this year. We can confidently state that in our opinion, the USA Bat Standard has narrowed the performance gap composites have held over aluminum alloys.
Not only did our evaluation results have alloy bats producing strikingly similar figures to composites, but the majority of our volunteer hitters preferred the swing weight and balance of aluminum bats over the composites. Out of every hitter who test swung at least two fully alloy bats and two fully composite bats, a whopping 61% ranked one of the metal bats as the most comfortable in terms on achieving level swings, instilling more confidence, and overall comfort at the plate.
Let us also not forget the core principle of the USA Bat Standard. The primary reason for implementing this rule was to bring back the “integrity of the game” by utilizing bats that perform at “wood-like” levels. We already knew that the new bats would not be as powerful as before. The actual element of a baseball bat that this new standard specifically targets lies in the trampoline effect when a baseball collides with the bat. The spring-like effect has a lower exit velocity than in prior seasons. The design behind the USA Bat Standard inadvertently impacts composite bats much harder than aluminum. The main reason youth players swing composites is to hit the ball harder and further. When the USA Bat Standard hit the scene, the disparity of power between composites and alloy has shrunk to a level where spending the extra money for a composite doesn’t seem rational in our opinion. We're hoping that in 2019, composite options will feature some added innovations making the ball travel longer yet still adhering to the new standard.
So Which Is Best, A Composite Or Aluminum Bat?
At 2018 Youth Bats, we believe it is a tie between the two! Other articles WILL tell you, composites have been paving the way while aluminum bats have been playing catch up, we would've told you the same pre-USA Bat Standard era. We're now here to tell you, that POST-USA Bat Standard era, it is a tie. The debate is now between a matter of preference. SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE TABLE.
We've broken down each type of bat, Aluminum and Composite, into 4 different categories: Pop, Vibration Control, Grip & Comfort, and Durability. "X" indicates the winner of the category.
WHAT IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO: If your slugger prefers a little bit more pop and less stinging to the hands when swinging (Vibration Control), we suggest buying them a composite bat. Sluggers who prefer a require a better grip and comfort at the plate that should save parents money (Durability) in the long run should go for Aluminum (Alloy) bats.
When deciding on a bat for your slugger, parents must face a series of questions before truly understanding if a composite or alloy will suit them better. Some of these questions are:
- How well can my child maintain a level swing?
- Will and end-loaded barrel option affect his or her transfer of weight?
- Does my child prefer a stiff/traditional feel of an ally handle or the unique grip of a composite?
- Does the sound of the bat have an impact in building confidence with my child?
- What is my budget for a youth baseball bat this season?
- What weather conditions is my child likely to be playing in?
- Does my child prefer a lightweight style bat or one that comes a bit denser?
- Does my child prefer longer barrels where the mass is distributed throughout the barrel or a shorter bat with the mass packed into the sweet-spot?
Table A: Composites vs Aluminums (Most CURRENT as of April 2018 Results, POST-USA Bat Standard)
For the best mobile-viewing experience, please ROTATE your screen.
|Type of Bat||Pop||Vibration Control||Grip & Comfort||Durability||Overall|
Table A is the most current and up-to-date table we have created to accurately reflect and explain how we think the USA Bat Standard has affected the composite vs. aluminum bat debate.
Table B: Composites VS. Aluminums (PRE-USA BAT STANDARD)
|Type of Bat||Pop||Vibration Control||Grip & Comfort||Durability||Overall|
Table B reflects PRE-USA Bat Standard era, all previous seasons.