May 10, 2008

Maple Bats: One of Baseball's Most Dangerous Weapons: About two or three times a game. players swinging bats made of maple wood end up with kindling in their hands while the barrel – blunt and thick on one end, splintered and sharp on the other – flies every which direction. "Someone's going to die at a baseball stadium soon," writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. "Might be a player. Could be an umpire. Possibly even a fan. It almost was a coach."

posted by Ying Yang Mafia to baseball at 11:31 AM - 15 comments

Research on the two woods used in bat making shows there is no difference in distance when striking the baseball. Why will it take a tragedy to support a ban on the maple bats? What is next? Balsa wood bats for those who complain about the weight of ash? I sure hope not!!!! Safety of the players, coaches, fans and umpires should be of the utmost importance!!! This is one area the union needs to stay out of.

posted by RAZORDODGER at 01:19 PM on May 10, 2008

Unfortunately the ash tree won't be around much longer due to the emerald ash borer as well as the various diseases that attack the tree. Ash will be as rare as Elm soon.

posted by scully at 02:17 PM on May 10, 2008

I can't even imagine major league baseball using the god awful aluminum bat. I would give up the sport first.

posted by RAZORDODGER at 02:20 PM on May 10, 2008

And, of course, the Most Dangerous Weapon in baseball is, Greg Maddux with a tank of ether and a pair of nail clippers.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 03:29 PM on May 10, 2008

But just think if you splintered Greg Maddux* (armed with a tank of ether and a pair of nail clippers) like a baseball bat made from maple. My god, the destruction would be on a massive scale! * - you have to call Greg Maddux, "Greg Maddux," otherwise Greg Maddux will kill a puppy. Again.

posted by NoMich at 03:40 PM on May 10, 2008

Emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis What a lovely name.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 04:02 PM on May 10, 2008

I can't even imagine major league baseball using the god awful aluminum bat. Metal bats are being questioned regarding their safety too. Some youth and high-school leagues are banning them here in St. Louis. There will not be metal bats in the MLB.

posted by BoKnows at 04:35 PM on May 10, 2008

What safety issues have caused their being banned in St. Louis? I am glad, though.

posted by RAZORDODGER at 04:59 PM on May 10, 2008

Doesn't the ball come off an aluminum bat much faster than off a wooden bat? Frankly, I'm surprised that the NCAA still uses aluminum bats.

posted by NoMich at 05:02 PM on May 10, 2008

Yep, the wood bats absorb more of the impact than a metal bat does. So, imagine an MLB player hitting a ball 15% harder. Frankly, I'm surprised that the NCAA still uses aluminum bats. Me too, NoMich. The NCAA players are men, and some can hit the ball just as hard or harder than an MLB player. (As a kid, we used to crank golf balls down the block with a metal bat. Man, were we stupid.) The injuries noted in the article surprised me. I hadn't heard about any of them. But there was story after story about the coach getting hit with a ball. I'm beginning to appreciate my nosebleed seats more and more.

posted by BoKnows at 05:21 PM on May 10, 2008

“We found that the batted-ball speeds were essentially the same for the two woods,” Sherwood said. “Maple has no advantage in getting a longer hit over an ash bat.”
Ah, but there's the rub! It's not about bats hitting the balls further overall, it's about having a wider sweet spot- which is one of the other advantages of aluminum bats besides hitting it further, and which is why maple became popular: it's a wood bat with a larger, and thus more forgiving, sweet spot. You lose less speed on the batted ball when hitting just off the sweet spot with maple than with ash. Outside of Ted Williams and Ichiro Suzuki, hitting the ball with the sweet spot is the exception, not the rule. Mis-hit balls go furthest with aluminum bats, then a little less far with maple, then less far with ash. This link- go to point #3 in particular, and check out the site it is on- has more on the physics of the batted ball. If you look at the ball speeds, outside the sweet spot the ball speeds drop off faster for wood bats than aluminum bats. Well, maple bats are in the middle: the ball speed drops off faster than aluminum, but not as fast as ash. Now, if that extra 5-10mph on the mis-hit balls nets one swing a week that is transformed from an easily played hopping grounder into a squibber that gets through the infield for a short single, that's 1 hit a week you didn't get with ash. If you're an every day player, 1 hit a week is about 25 hits, which for a 600 at-bat season would turn a guy with 175 hits (.291) into a guy with 200 hits (.333, and a pretty big contract come signing time). Even if the benefit is only once every two weeks that a ground out becomes a clean short single, or a warning track pop fly gets over the fence, that's still 20 points in batting average. So it's by no means clear that maple bats aren't giving the players some kind of benefit. What's odd, however, is that the same physics that says maple bats have an advantage of ash bats also notes that stiffer bats have wider sweet spots, and wider handles means stiffer bats- without any real cost to bat speed, since weight in the handle is at or near the pivot point and thus shouldn't slow down the player's swing via heaviness. It may be that players prefer thin handled bats because they are easier to hold in the finger tips when producing a quicker, more whip-like swing.

posted by hincandenza at 02:33 AM on May 11, 2008

The National Federation of State High School Associations has had a rule limiting the performance of aluminum bats (and indeed, any bat made of anything except ash) since 2001. Here is far more information than you probably want to know. In short, the ball must not come off the bat at greater than 97 mph in the standard test. Further, the coefficient of restitution of tbhe baseball used in high school sports is limited to 0.555. This too limits the speed of the ball coming off the bat. While I don't think either of these rules would ever fly in professional baseball, they do show that the non-wood bat can be "tamed". The big issue here is the danger to non-playing personnel at a game from the shattered maple bat. I deliberately left out players on the field, as they should be aware of what's going on, and can take appropriate measures. The easiest solution would be to extend the screens in front of the stands to at least as far as the bases. This would protect the fans, but greatly reduce the probability of snagging a foul ball (a significant drawback in some eyes). The same could be done for the dugout. Coaches on the field could use some protection, but in light of the resistance to batting helmets, maybe they would want to take their chances.

posted by Howard_T at 05:21 PM on May 11, 2008

I believe that hickory wood was used in the "early days" and is still used to make garden and various hand tools. I wonder why it isn't used today. And they could make laminated wood bats that could be engineered not to break and react/sound like a solid wood bat... Of course all sorts of things could be done to these engineered bats to "juice" them up and more regulations would probably be needed to keep up with this new technology..if ever allowed... Just wondering Mike

posted by scmike at 11:12 PM on May 11, 2008

Good case in point came during yesterday's Sox-Mariners game. Jim Thome hit a ball towards the shortstop, the barrel of his bat went flying at and just barely missed the pitcher. The pitcher had turned to his right to possibly field the ball and never saw his potential death approaching from the left. Even my father-in-law yelled "Damn !" and he can barely see anymore. Someone is going to die or be seriously injured very soon unless something is done.

posted by wdminott at 01:33 PM on May 12, 2008

Again with the Mariners examples, I remember a few years back (although I do forget who the M's were playing) that the bat broke and went careening toward the pitcher and actually struck Paul Abbott upside the head. Just 1/2 spin more and he would have been skewered in the head or neck. And on a related note, all this talk of maple and hickory makes me hungry for BBQ and donuts.

posted by THX-1138 at 02:11 PM on May 12, 2008

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