"How do you know if a bat is too heavy?" is a common question we receive when we discuss bat control, bat-speed, and bat-feel (hitter's instinct).
Heavy or Light Bat Concepts
It's not the wand it's the magician. The bat isn't a cure-all for a bad swing or approach. Find a bat that's comfortable, then work on approach. If you're spending the majority of your time wondering if you're using the right or wrong equipment, you're missing the boat.
Use the heaviest bat that you can swing as fast as possible. Diagnosing problems at the plate is one of the biggest challenges in youth baseball & softball. Suddenly a player stops hitting like they used to and their average drops – and it seems impossible to explain why.
If you can't take a controlled-aggressive swing, opposite field, with the right approach, the bat may be too heavy.
It's a "feel" thing. The quickest way to know if a bat is too heavy is to ask the hitter. The most important thing is that the hitter feels comfortable, confident and "hitter-ish" at the plate.
High confidence with an imperfectly-sized bat beats low confidence with the perfect sized bat any day.
Approach, Approach, Approach
As you know - when I begin diagnosing what the possible issue is with a hitter, I begin with the approach and how well they're seeing the ball.
Without the right approach and good pitch recognition, it'll be hard for hitters to keep their confidence at an optimal level with good mechanics.
Faulty Mechanics & Heavy Bats
The idea is simple. Are you swinging the bat or is the bat swinging you?
Faulty swing mechanics are definitely a contender, but it might also be a bat that’s too heavy. Let’s look at common mistakes when choosing a bat and how to diagnose a heavy bat problem.
Common Mistakes when Choosing a Bat
A common reason players pick a bat is because their teammates are using it. Watching a teammate have some success at the plate makes it more likely that a hitter will associate the performance with the bat.
You might think, “If they can hit homers with that bat then I should get one too.”
The reality is - you should choose a bat that fits you and your swing, not your teammates.
Another common mistake is – you guessed it – picking a bat that’s too heavy.
To really drive the ball, you need a quick, short swing that makes contact. Many baseball and softball players think they need a weightier bat to give them more power.
But if your swing is too slow, you won’t have the power you’re anticipating. The best rule of thumb is, according to Smith, “Swing the heaviest bat that you can swing, as fast as possible.”
Signs Your Bat is Too Heavy
So how can you tell if your bat is too heavy? If this is the case, you’ll typically have bat drag. Bat drag results in lots of swinging strikes, hitting the ball straight into the ground between home plate and the mound, and an excessive uppercut.
If, as a parent, you notice these signs in your child’s swing, there are a few ways to test if their bat is too heavy.
The first, simple test is to have your kid hold the bat straight out in front of them, parallel to the ground, with their dominant hand. If they can’t keep the bat steady in this position for 20 seconds, then the bat’s probably too heavy.
Another test to try is evaluating your hitter’s soft toss performance. While younger players won’t have a good handle on soft-toss right away, it’s a good way to test for older players’ bat weight.
If during soft toss drills most of the hits are line drives, then their bat is a likely good weight. You can read more about the soft toss test here.
Choosing the Right Bat Weight
The tests mentioned above can be used to determine a player’s ideal bat weight. A few other things to keep in mind are height, weight, and age. Taller, stockier, older players might prefer a heavier bat.
Keep in mind that as you get older and grow as a softball or baseball player, you’ll have to adapt your bat size.
When it comes to finding the right bat weight, tests like these are a good place to start. But they’re only a start. When it comes down to it, pick a bat that you can swing comfortably, that feels good to you.
Remember, you want the heaviest bat you can manage at the fastest swing speed.
Parents should keep this in mind for younger players, too, who might not be so attuned to their swing. Taking your child to the sporting goods store and having them try out bats is usually the best way to pick a new one out.
If you hesitate between a lighter bat and a heavier one, odds are you’ll have more success at the plate with the lighter one. If you do that, and stick with these tips, you’ll find the perfect bat for you.