Baseball and softball players today have to choose from a plethora of bats. Gone are the days when wood bats were the only option available. Players who want something other than a wood bat need to consider the ‘composite vs aluminum bats’ debate.
While composite bats have their benefits, the performance is pretty much even when pitted against aluminum/alloy bats.
This debate has raged on for several years, with popular belief being that composite bats outperform aluminum bats. Here is my $0.02:
Composite Bats vs Aluminum Bats
They are made out of a carbon fiber polymer, which is then mixed in with graphite and fiberglass. These materials are so light that manufacturers will sometimes insert a metal rod in the handle to bring the weight up. The materials give composite bats vital properties such as improved weight distribution, greater strength, and better pop.
The most significant upside of composite bats, however, is their barrel length. Because of how light they are, composite bats can be stretched out to be longer than aluminum bats without negatively impacting their swing weight. This then makes for a much larger sweet spot.
As a result, composite bats are great for players in the little league, high school, and collegiate levels of play. Younger players can take advantage of the larger sweet spot. Because inexperienced players are still honing their hand-eye coordination, this dramatically improves confidence at the plate.
Also, because most composite bats come as two-piece bats, they do a fantastic job at dampening sting on mishits. This is great for younger players who are just starting.
Pros & Cons of Composite bats
- While composite bats are a lot more durable than wood bats, they are much less durable when compared to aluminum bats.
- When it comes to their construction, composite barreled bats come as either one-piece or two-piece bats. They typically have larger barrels than other types of bats but have lower swing weights when pitted against aluminum/alloy bats or wood bats.
- Composite barreled bats are a lot more expensive than aluminum bats.
- Much like wood bats, composite bats crack when they break, unlike aluminum bats which dent.
- Composite bats need breaking in, which typically requires about 150 to 200 hits. This improves performance over time, improving the trampoline effect hence the need to break them in.
- Unfortunately, composite bats are quite fussy when it comes to changes in temperature. In cold weather, their performance decreases, and they are more susceptible to cracking.
Also known as alloy or metal bats, they have been around longer than composite bats, coming onto the scene around the 1970s. They are and touted as a cheaper, more durable solution to wood baseball bats.
The best evidence that alloy barrel bats perform just as well as composite bats do is at the collegiate level, where a majority of players opt for alloy barrel bats. These players have honed their hand-eye coordination to the point where they do not need the bigger sweet spots touted by composite barrel counterparts.
The 2020 Louisville Slugger Omaha is a one-piece, aluminum alloy bat that makes it to our best BBCOR baseball bats of 2020 list. Made from a single piece of aluminum, this drop 3 bat gives players a stiff and traditional feel making it the closest thing to a wood bat.
Pros and Cons of Alloy/Aluminum Bats
- They are typically less expensive compared to composite bats.
- Bat manufacturers will often infuse their bats with additional elements in the aluminum to create an alloy that gives the bats improved properties like durability. This makes some aluminum bats more expensive.
- Alloy bats are typically heavier than composite bats and have smaller barrels than their composite counterparts.
- Do not require any breaking in – they come hot out of the wrapper.
- They are a lot more durable than composite bats because they dent instead of cracking as composite bats do. You can still get use out of dented bats, but when a bat cracks, it is dead, and you can’t get any use out of it.
- Aluminum bats are better for use in cold weather, which is something we explain in this article.
The In-Between Hybrid Bat
If you want the best of both worlds, get yourself a hybrid bat. They have the qualities of both aluminum and composite bats, sporting a two-piece design where an alloy barrel is fused to a composite handle through a little connective piece.
This, in essence, makes the handle a lot lighter and allows for a longer barrel than usual.
When it comes to the composite vs aluminum bats debate, we think both materials have pretty unique benefits. For starters, composite bats give manufacturers some wiggle room to push the envelope with their innovation by getting creative & running experiments. Engineers can create bats that swing light and allow for better plate coverage, where every inch counts.
While composite bats need to be broken in, their pop increases over time as players continue to work them in. Aluminum bats, on the other hand, do not need to be broken in. That said, however, they lose pop over time with sustained use.
Found the material that’s right for you? If so, check out our top 10 lists in our bat review section!