The 5 Myths of Using a Metal Bat: What the Bat Manufacturers Refuse to Tell Us!
AB 7 – HIGH SCHOOL
BASEBALL SAFETY ACT
5 MAJOR MYTHS vs. FACTS
“Metal bats pose no greater safety risk than traditional wood bats.”
Performance-enhancing metal bats create an obvious safety risk -- here are the hard facts:
1. At identical bat speeds, metal causes balls to fly significantly faster than wood.
Studies show that balls travel at a maximum speed to 93 mph off a wooden bat,
and 4 to 7 mph faster off an aluminum bat. That’s a significant difference, but it
doesn’t stop there.
2. There’s also a difference in bat speed. Metal bats are designed to swing faster
than wood, which adds even more velocity. Industry-sponsored studies
downplaying the velocity difference between wood and metal bats invariably
assume no difference in bat speed – ignoring real-world conditions.
3. Now consider the “sweet spot.” Metal bats have a much larger “sweet spot” –
the contact point that generates power and velocity. That means many more hard-
hit balls and a greater statistical risk of injury.
4. Plus the “break-in” factor. Many non-wood bats create even greater velocities
over time because the “trampoline” properties of the metal increase as the bats are
broken-in. This effect is so well-known that players sometimes accelerate the
process by subjecting the bat to a “rolling” procedure.
5. All of this translates to a greater safety risk for pitchers, who stand unprotected less
than 60 feet from the batter: they have less reaction time, are exposed to hard-
hit balls more frequently, and when balls do hit them there is more damage
because the ball is traveling faster.
“The evidence must be inconclusive – bat manufacturers dispute the safety issue and cite
studies suggesting minimal differences between metal and wood bat performance.”
Bat manufacturers say different things to different audiences. When someone gets hurt
and people question the safety of metal bats, they downplay the performance advantage
of their products. But when promoting their products for sale, manufacturers admit all
the key facts: they routinely boast of greater bat speed, more power, larger “sweet
spots” and improved performance after a break-in period. These facts prove the
safety problem -- no matter how they spin it when someone gets hurt.
The NCAA acknowledges the safety problem too. In 1998, the NCAA tried to
conclusively address the problem with safety rules restricting the use of metal bats… but
Easton Sports Inc., the nation’s leading aluminum bat manufacturer, filed a lawsuit
to stop them. The settlement of that suit incorporated more lenient standards approved
by the bat manufacturers.
“AB 7 will cost schools more money because wood bats break more than metal bats.”
Switching to wood will not significantly increase costs for players or their teams. In fact,
it will level the playing field for disadvantaged communities and save money. Again,
here are the hard facts:
1. Traditional wood bats cost between $20 and $60. The price of metal bats has risen
faster than gasoline. Top metal bats cost up to $400 because they deliver enhanced
performance, and players understandably want that extra edge. This creates major
disparities between wealthy players, who have no problem paying $400 for a bat, and
less affluent players, who must choose between buying a metal bat their family can’t
afford or putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage with a wood bat.
2. While traditional wood bats break more frequently than metal, experience in New
York City and the state of North Dakota – where metal bats are banned – suggests
switching to wood bats still produces a net savings. In Marin County, where leagues
voluntarily suspended use of metal bats for the 2010 season, the number of broken
wood bats and the replacement costs have been much lower than metal bat
manufacturers typically claim.
3. The cost comparison isn’t even close when you consider the option of new wood
composite bats that sell for roughly $100. These wood-based bats can be purchased
with the same one-year guarantee as leading metal bats, but at a fraction of the cost.
“Metal bats are already regulated by the NCAA – this bill isn’t needed.”
The problem is not being adequately resolved by the NCAA. The current “Ball Exit
Speed Ratio” (BESR) standard was designed by bat manufacturers to mask the
performance advantage of metal bats. It ignores bat speed, among other key factors.
As safety concerns continue to mount, the NCAA recently banned some metal composite
bats and proposed a new set of safety standards that take effect in 2011 for college
baseball and 2012 for high school baseball. The new standards were likewise conceived
by bat manufacturers and it is unclear whether they adequately address safety issues.
However, it is clear that many of today’s top-selling metal bats will be illegal in a
few short years under the new safety rules.
AB 7 is needed to:
accelerate the phase-out of bats that have already been deemed unsafe;
create a level playing field for players and teams who choose to take the
precautionary step of using wood bats until new safety rules take effect in 2012;
provides an essential NUDGE to baseball officials and equipment manufacturers –
to seriously review all appropriate safety options, including more meaningful
restrictions on performance-enhancing bats and the potential for protective head
and/or body gear for pitchers.
AB 7 is already making a positive difference by elevating this debate! Easton
recently unveiled conceptual drawings of lightweight, highly functional products
that could be worn by pitchers to reduce the risk of serious injury. These products
are not commercially available today – but could be brought to market by 2012.
AB 7 provides a temporary measure of safety for pitchers until these products
become commercially available.
“AB 7 will hurt our economic recovery – Easton is a California company that could lose
revenues and jobs if metal bats are banned.”
High school baseball is a fraction Easton’s global sporting equipment business, and like
most bat manufacturers they sell both metal and wood bats, including wood composite
During the AB 7 moratorium, Easton would sell somewhat fewer of its lucrative metal
bats, which are manufactured in China. But it will sell more wood and wood
composite bats, which are made with American labor in the United States. AB 7
could also have a market-creating effect that would benefit Easton’s proposed protective
products for pitchers.