15 April 2011

Little League Bats


This is, as you can probably see, an article from the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago. Apparently the powers that be in the Little League hierarchy have decided that they are going to take no chances on new composite bats hurting someone. I had a feeling this might well be the un-intended consequence of the rare serious injury or death that happens with any kind of bat. The relative light weight of the bat means that young and weaker players can swing it more easily. If they hit it just right it sounds great, goes further and apparently attains a velocity a few miles faster than the older metal bats and wooden bats. There is no convincing evidence that these bats are more harmful than the more traditional bats. They do make it more difficult to pitch inside in high school and college games because instead of breaking the bat and/or producing a weak pop fly to the infield, these bats are strong enough not to break and often the ball will fall between the infield and outfield, or at least that is the way it looks to me. So our Mustang hitters, for example, must learn how to bat using wooden bats and the pitchers need to learn how to pitch against those who use wooden bats.

This is going to result in headaches for umpires, coaches, players and their parents. And will not result in any significant increase in safety for the pitchers. Steve Thomas, a sports columnist and writer for the Bismarck Tribune summed up the arguments very nicely last summer. But he said nothing about safety because the data are not available. I didn't realize that the folks in North Dakota have gone over entirely to wooden bats. I hope they keep good records. Then in a few years we may have enough information to make a reasonable argument for and against metal and wooden bats.

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