Often, we often see questions such as “how to tell if composite bat is dead”, “do composite bats lose their pop”, “how to tell if a bbcor bat is dead?” So is there any way to tell if your bat is dead? What are some red flags? Without obvious signs like cracking or denting, it can be hard to know for sure. Cosmetically, your bat could also be in decent shape but could still let you down during games or cage sessions.
Bats losing their ‘pop’ happens due to lost compression from cracks, loose connection points, end caps that come undone, etc. Most bats are good for about 1 – 2 years, depending on use (less if shared amongst entire teams).
Dead bats don’t have the same pop off the barrel, causing the ball to fly slower and shorter.
In truth, a compression test is the only thing that’ll tell you for sure, but these testers aren’t always available. Most leagues require bat testing before use. Umpires have access to these compression testers. But how can you tell without one?
Here are 5 signs that will help you know for sure.
Has the Sound Changed?
Sound is one of the quickest ways to know if your bat is either dead or on its last legs. Composite, alloy, or wood bats give off a distinct sound whenever a baseball or softball barrels off it. Different bats also have a sound of their own. For instance, the sound of Louisville Slugger will sometimes vary from that of a Demarini.
If the sound has changed, then your bat probably is dead. While it may still hit effectively, bats that sound different will hardly ever keep their original pop.
If it’s a wood baseball bat, grab it by the barrel and gently tap the knob on the ground to listen for somthing akin to the baseball bat crack sound effect. A live bat should make a high-pitched ping sound, while a dead bat will sound dull. Also, hit a few balls with your bare hands. If the bat sting the hands more than it normally would it is likely dead.
If the sound of a bat you’ve had for less than a year has changed, it is worth calling the manufacturer if you still have your receipt to have the bat replaced under warranty.
Is There Visible Structural Cracking and Denting?
Before we cover this, it’s important to distinguish between paint chipping, structural cracks, and superficial cracks.
Paint chipping is normal with use and is not one of the signs of a dead bat.
Structural cracks are huge, jagged visible splits in your bat’s barrel. Hairline fractures or stress cracks (also structural) are the tiny cracks on the bat that are caused by repetitive hitting or overuse. A composite bat is as good as dead once it forms a structural crack.
Superficial/cosmetic cracks are commonplace with composite bats. As you hit with your composite bat more, the composite resin within the bat’s barrel begins to break down/shatter/loosen. This process is referred to as breaking in a composite bat. The breaking down of composite resin forms spider-web-like cracks on the bat’s barrel and ultimately improves the performance of your composite bat. Bats that are fully broken in have more pop & launch the ball further.
On the other hand, aluminum bats don’t crack or break. Instead, they dent. You can feel for large dents and warping across the length of the barrel to tell if your alloy bat is damaged. Aluminum bats are prone to denting, so depending on the size of the dent, they may remain usable. If the bat is dead, you will notice that hits don’t travel as far as they used to.
Has Your Bat Lost Its Pop?
Aluminum bats come hot out of the wrapper, unlike composite bats. What this means is that you can immediately unwrap your aluminum bat and start swinging for the fences. On the other hand, composite bats need a couple of hundred hits to perform at their full potential. A process referred to as break-in.
For aluminum bats, take note of how far your hits travel (you’d need another bat to compare) to know if it’s lost its pop. Their composite counterparts would need to go through the break-in process first fully. Composite bats that are “hot” and still don’t hit true might be dead or headed there.
Always remember that aluminum and composite bats have a limited life, and so they will eventually lose their pop over time.
Is There Rattling Inside the Bat?
A rattling bat is one where you hear something moving around inside the barrel when you shake it. Often, rattling shouldn’t cause concern. While it may sometimes feel like the bat is coming undone from the inside, it’s more likely that a small, loose piece of epoxy glue from the endcap or connection piece in the case of two-piece bats has broken off.
Because some umpires will disallow your bat from play, you should first check if a rattling bat is allowed in your league. If not, check with the manufacturer if your bat is covered under warranty in case there’s something inside the bat’s barrel, e.g., if the end cap is broken and loose. Otherwise, if the umpire allows it, keep swinging!
Generally, however, you needn’t worry about your bat rattling since this has no negative impact on your bat’s performance.
Has the End Cap or Knob Come Undone?
The end cap or knob of your bat are integral structural pieces of your bat. So it goes without saying that a knob falling off or an end cap popping out or pushing in may signal the end of the road for your bat.
While you may have seen some people pop the end cap back in and proceed as if nothing happened, it is almost impossible to reinstate the end cap as it was originally. As a result, bat performance will decline, and the reinstated piece will fall out eventually.
Bat manufacturers offer either repair or replacement should the end cap or knob loosen or break from normal play.
How to Take Care Of Your Bat
Few things are as heartbreaking as your expensive new bat dying a premature death. So how can you keep your bat at peak performance for its life span? The answer is proper preventative care.
Below is a brief list of preventative measures you should take. You can find a comprehensive list in our “How to Take Care of Your Baseball Bat” article.
- Playing in cold or wet conditions: Do not hit rain-soaked balls, or play in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit if you can help it. These balls are denser and can dent your alloy bat or crack/break your composite bat. Always keep a wood bat or cheaper bat handy. Also, don’t store your bat in hot or humid conditions, such, e.g. your car’s trunk or other areas with extreme temperatures.
- Do not share your expensive game day bat: Try not to share your bat with teammates, as team use will prematurely cut the life of your bat short.
- Batting cages & cage balls: The warranty covering your bat most likely prohibits hitting batting cage dimple balls. Some batting cages still use cheap off-brand dimpled balls that are hard and heavy. But, let’s go with the assumption that the dimpled balls you find are the softer modern ones in the best batting cages. Hitting in a batting cage will still wear your bat out quicker for no reason other than repetitive hitting or overuse. Each hit shortens the lifespan of your bat, so why risk ruining your expensive new bat? Always have a cheaper equivalent bat available, and use the game bat only during games.
- Do not hit your bat against your cleats to clean them: Doing so will ruin the paint job. Learn how you can properly clean your baseball/softball cleats.
- Rotate with every hit: Hitting two solid objects together exerts a lot of force on either object. Repetitive hitting off one side will cause wear or denting. To keep this from happening, make a ¼ turn with each hit to keep contact uniform on all sides.
- Don’t use your expensive bat during batting cage sessions: There are always people asking if they could borrow a bat to hit with, on top of the fact that cage balls will certainly ruin them. Instead, get yourself a cheap bat (either new or used) to extend the life of your game day bat.
Making a Warranty Claim – Different Bat Manufacturers on How Return a Dead Bat
Unless stated otherwise, your bat is covered under warranty, with the warranty period typically being 12 months from purchase. Some manufacturers will have different warranty periods depending on the bat you buy. Your warranty protects you against things like breakage, dents, rattling on the inside, a loose knob and damage to the end cap.
Warranty Snippet From Louisville Slugger
Under this limited warranty, Louisville Slugger will provide a one-time repair or replacement of your non-wood bat within 1 year from the date of purchase (“Warranty Period”) for the following 3 conditions resulting from normal field use — (1) severe denting, (2) structural cracking, or (3) broken end caps or knobs. IF YOUR BAT EXPERIENCES (1) SEVERE DENTING, (2) STRUCTURAL CRACKING, OR (3) BROKEN END CAPS OR KNOBS, THEN PLEASE CEASE USING THE BAT AND SUBMIT A WARRANTY CLAIM. To qualify for warranty service, you must be the original purchaser of the bat and provide proof of purchase from an authorized Louisville Slugger dealer.Read more here: Non-Wood Bat Limited Warranty | Louisville Slugger
Warranty Snippet From Easton
Easton prides itself on the quality and performance of its products, which meet, and often exceed, industry quality and durability criteria or guidelines. However, all materials are subject to fatigue and possible breakdown over time. Easton’s limited bat warranty is as follows:
For the periods specified below from the date of original purchase, Easton will warrant the following bats against defects in materials or workmanship: Composite and Aluminum bats – 1 year. Hybrid and “Comp”-model Wood bats – 90 days. All Senior Softball and all wood bats do not have a warranty.Read more here: Bat Warranty Information | Easton