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Among the most sacred times for any young ball player is going bat shopping before the baseball season begins. There are so many models to choose from, and picking the best is an essential part of preparing for a memorable season at the plate.
While bat shopping, players often look at the color, barrel size and design, the model, and the performance of the bat. Parents usually look for the price tag, understandably so, with at least an eye on performance. Every parent of young baseball players have major league dreams.
The number on the price tags will only go up. This emphasizes the importance, for both players and parents, to know that bats have different certifications that prove their legality for game use; and that various leagues and age groups have their own requirements for those certifications.
Two of the most common baseball bat certifications are BBCOR and USSSA. There are several differences between these two bats.
In summary, USSSA stamped bats have a higher Bat Performance Factor (BPF) than BBCOR bats, and come in various barrel sizes. The USSSA-certified bats are used at the youth level or in what is called travel baseball; BBCOR bats are used at the high school and college levels.
If you think about it, the bat barrel size allowances (or lack thereof) make sense. The USSSA has a slightly larger maximum barrel size ~ the idea being the bigger hitting surface will help young and learning players to make better contact.
By high school, players have the act of making contact with the ball down pat. At that age and older, the agencies that regulate bats are concerned more about defensive player safety, and therefore cap barrel size at ⅛-inch smaller (2 ⅝”).
Why the differences? And what the heck are all the acronyms?
Bat Performance Factor (BPF) for Baseball Bats
Before understanding the certifications, it helps to understand BPF. Bat Performance Factor Is a standard that determines how “live” a bat is. A BPF is a measurement of the speed of the ball after impact of the bat, compared to the speed of the ball before impact as well as the trampoline effect of the bat compared to that of the ball.
A trampoline effect is the exit velocity of the ball after it leaves the bat’s surface. Basically, big trampoline effect numbers mean the bat is designed to perform much better than straight wood bats.
With BBCOR-certified bats, the trampoline effect is reduced, limiting how much pop that bat has. In short, how powerful the bat will be in hitting the ball further.
After these measurements have been tested and recorded, the bat receives a BPF number. This number is determined by comparing the collision of the ball with the bat and the collision of the ball against a solid wall.
A bat with a post-collision speed that is 15% faster than that of a solid wall would receive a 1.15 as its BPF. A bat with a 5% increase would receive 0.5. Different governing bodies require different BPFs for their bats, and it’s usually stamped on the bat.
If a bat has a BPF of 0.4, it would qualify for a BBCOR stamp which allows for a 0.5 BPF. However, the BPF stamp will say 0.5 instead of 0.4 because the BPF listed on the bat just signals that the bat does not exceed the approved BPF.
Because of this, bat companies will often shoot for a BPF that is as close to the maximum number as possible in order to maximize performance.
When shopping for bats, it is important to research the actual BPF of bats, to understand how “live” they are. These can sometimes be found in product reviews from both experts and customers.
Having real, precise BPF numbers to compare models can help greatly in the decision-making process.
What Are the Qualifications for a BBCOR Bat?
BBCOR stands for Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution. Essentially, BBCOR measures the trampoline effect of each bat. If a bat meets its standards in terms of trampoline effect, it can receive a BBCOR stamp.
BBCOR bats (see Amazon) also do not exceed a barrel size of 2 ⅝”, and the length and weight difference is always drop 3 (-3). This is the difference in the length and weight of the bat, and drop weights closer to zero are preferred for older players.
For example, a bat that is 33 inches long will weigh 30 ounces. BBCOR bats typically come in length sizes of 34, 33, 32, or 31 inches, since they are made for the high school and college level.
BBCOR bats also have a BPF of no more than 0.5.
What Are the Qualifications for a USSSA Bat?
A USSSA bat has a little more “pop” than a BBCOR bat because this organization allows its bats to have a little more of a trampoline effect.
USSSA bats (see Amazon) can have barrel sizes of 2 ¼”, 2 ⅝”, or 2 ¾”. The minimum size of a USSSA marked bat is 29 inches with drop weights of either -5 or -8.
The USSSA-certified bats have a maximum BPF of 1.15.
Why was BBCOR Invented?
BBCOR became a big talking point in the baseball world in 2011 when the NCAA decided to move from BESR-approved bats, and go with the BBCOR certification. High School baseball leagues around the country would follow their trend the next season.
For the uninitiated, BESR stands for Ball Exit Speed Ratio. This is just a different way to measure how live a bat is. The standard for BESR bats was not as stringent as that of the new BBCOR model; therefore, the ball came off the bat at much higher velocities.
The reason for the switch from BESR to BBCOR was player safety. Many baseball fans also began to criticize the college game and how players’ offensive numbers were inflated due to the bats being too “hot.”
The top NCAA division championship game was a home run derby that year with a final score resembling a football score.
Also, certain BESR bats were known to be hotter than others. College teams typically have bat contracts that only allow them to use certain bats.
If company X’s bat was hotter than company Y’s, and College A had a contract with Company X while College B had a contract with Company Y, there was an unfair competitive advantage.
Another argument for the change was that the old BESR bats made it difficult for professional scouts to truly evaluate a hitter. The NCAA wanted to stick with using aluminum bats, but they also wanted to move toward a bat that was similar to that of a wood bat.
As expected, offensive numbers plummeted when the BBCOR bats were introduced. However, they have started to take an upward trend, but it is likely that they will never again reach that of the old BESR days.
What is USSSA?
USSSA stands for the United States Specialty Sports Association. They are the governing body for most travel baseball tournaments. They have four divisions: Major, AAA, AA, and A. At the Major and AAA level, teams often compete nationally.
USSSA has its own set of rules and regulations that tournament directors must follow, and bat regulations are no different. Their tournaments require bats to be stamped with the USSSA symbol. Umpires typically check this before games.
It is possible for some 14u and even 13u tournaments to only allow BBCOR bats since some players in those age groups play for their high school teams where they have to use BBCOR certified bats.
Things to Know About USSSA and BBCOR Baseball Bats
You may not be aware, but USSSA-stamped bats actually must be BBCOR certified as well.
All USSSA stamped bats must pass the BBCOR certification before being legal for USSSA play. Once the bat is BBCOR certified, the BPF is tested to see if it qualifies to be endorsed by USSSA.
Remember, USSSA bats are allowed to have a BPF of 1.15, so as long as it meets those requirements, it will be stamped with the USSSA logo.
Below is a picture of a high school/college level bat that has only received BBCOR certification:
Now, here is a picture of a USSSA bat and its stamp:
As a consumer, it is important to know the requirements of the league to be played in, and look for the correct stamps when purchasing. If all of the certification requirements confuse you, just simply knowing which stamps to look for on the bat can simplify the bat purchasing process.
Bat Requirements for Fastpitch Softball
- Stamped with USA Bat (or ASA); or ASA only (for competition capping exit velocity at 98 mph)
Depends on the league, and type of competition (recreational league play, or tournaments of various skill levels). Such as:
- USA Bat (ASA only for 98 mph exit velocity cap)
- NSA up to 1.20 BPF
- USSSA (Thumbprint, or 220-lb. compression)
- USSSA (240-lb. compression).
Note: Some slowpitch softball bats have been deemed forever legal for use in slowpitch games
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is USSSA better than BBCOR?
Answer: It’s difficult to compare because they have different regulations. USSSA regulations are more loose than BBCOR, hence making it a challenge to compare in terms of performance.
Q.: Do BBCOR or USSSA baseball bats have more “pop”?
A.: USSSA bats tend to have more pop as they allow for a higher BPF. However, remember that they are typically used in youth levels of baseball, so the extra pop is in the hands of younger, less developed players. BBCOR bats have come a long way though in the amount of pop they have.
Q.: Why do different governing bodies have different bat regulations?
A.: The bat regulations of a league or organization often depend on the age group for which it serves. Also, most youth baseball leagues are affiliated with a national organization such as Little League Baseball or PONY Baseball, and as such must abide by those rules (or, typically, that league’s postseason all-star teams could be disqualified from participating). Private leagues might be run by a volunteer board of directors, who can vote to change that particular league’s bat regulations on a season-by-season basis.
Because BBCOR certified bats have a lower BPF, they are intended to be used by older players. USSSA bats are intended to be used by younger age groups because they have a higher BPF allowing players who are still growing to have a little more help to hit the ball hard.
Q: Are BBCOR bats legal for USSSA?
A.: Sometimes, USSSA tournaments allow for players to use BBCOR bats. This typically happens at the 13u and 14u levels as most of those players already own BBCOR bats because they use them in high school. Whether or not they are allowed usually depends on the tournament.
Q.: Are there other bat baseball bat certifications?
A.: Along with BBCOR and USSSA, other bat certifications include USA Baseball and NTS. USA Baseball has even more lenient standards than USSSA and is the bat certification used for Little League.
NTS is a new certification very similar to that of USSSA. As of right now, any bat that is stamped with both NTS and USSSA are eligible for USSSA play. As of November 1, 2021, only NTS stamped bats will be allowed.
Which bat is better? USSSA or USA Baseball?
USA baseball allows for a 1.2 BPF where USSSA allows for 1.15. This means that USA Baseball bats have slightly more pop, but not by much.
Q.: Are two-pieced bats allowed by BBCOR standards?
A.: Yes, there are two-pieced BBCOR certified bats. When BBCOR first became the standard for high school and college baseball, many speculated that two-piece bats would not be allowed because they allow for too much of a trampoline effect.
However, many bat companies have found a way to make two-piece bats that also meet the BBCOR standards. Nothing in the BBCOR certification makes two-piece bats illegal as long as their BPF meets the necessary requirements.
Q.: What happens if a player uses an illegal bat during competition?
A.: If a player uses an illegal bat during competition, the player can be called out by an umpire, and the bat then is taken out of the dugout and forbidden for future use. In some leagues, players and/or coaches can be ejected for using illegal bats. Oftentimes, umpires check bats before games to ensure that all are deemed legal. Some umpires, if there are suspicions or complaints and they have the time or energy to do so, will look closely at bats after batters drop them to run to 1st base.