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Nearly anyone who has ever shopped for a baseball bat will be familiar with the term bat drop, because it is the primary measurement by which bats are categorized. So what exactly does bat drop mean, and how is it measured?
Bat drop, also known as drop weight, refers to the difference between the weight of a baseball bat and the length of a baseball bat. Bat drop is calculated by subtracting the length of the bat, measured in inches, from the weight of the bat, measured in ounces.
For example, if a bat is 34 inches long and weighs 31 ounces, then the drop weight would be negative three (31 − 34 = −3). A bat of this size could be called a “drop 3”.
The smaller the difference between the weight and the height, the heavier a bat will feel. That means a drop 3 bat will feel much heavier than a drop 12 bat. Therefore, as players get older and stronger, they tend to use bats with smaller and smaller drop weights.
A bat drop of -3 is considered small, while a bat drop of -12 is considered large. This can be confusing, because -3 is technically a larger number than -12.
The explanation for this is that the size of a bat drop refers to the magnitude of the difference between the weight and the height. There is a greater difference between the weight and the height of a drop 12 bat than of a drop 3 bat, and so a drop 12 bat is said to have a greater drop weight. This is important to keep in mind when shopping for a baseball bat.
The Range Of Available Drop Weights
Louisville Slugger, one of the most prominent baseball bat manufacturers in the world, sells bats with drop weights that range from -12.5 to -3. Victus Sports, another major bat manufacturer, sells bats with drop weights up to +1. Not to be outdone, Old Hickory Bat Company – the third most popular bat manufacturer in Major League Baseball – sells bats with drops weights up to +3.
Most youth sports leagues use bats with drop weights ranging from -10 to -5, while high school and college players normally use bats with a drop weight of -3. Major League Baseball players will sometimes use bats with even smaller drop weights.
Why Bat Drop Matters
Players who are stronger, and therefore capable of swinging a heavier bat, often prefer a bat with a small drop weight, because a bat with a lesser drop weight can lead to increased power. Conversely, players who are not as strong might prefer a bat with a more extreme drop weight, because those bats can be swung at a faster speed.
In other words, stronger players might prefer a bat with a drop weight of -3, while smaller players might prefer a bat with a drop weight of -10. However, this is just a suggestion, it is not a rule.
Why Bat Size And Bat Speed Matters
Heavier bats increase power because a heavier bat can transfer more momentum when the bat connects with the ball. Therefore, the ball will come off the bat at a faster speed and travel a farther distance (unless a fielder gets in the way).
Similarly, a bat that is swung at a faster speed can transfer more momentum to a batted ball, therefore hitting it faster and farther. Smaller players may not be able to swing heavy bats, but they can make up for that by swinging their lighter bats at faster speeds.
Players are often advised to use the heaviest bat that they can still comfortably swing at a quick enough speed. This will maximize how hard – and therefore how far – they can hit the ball.
How Drop Weight Differs Between Baseball Leagues
As the level of competition increases, the drop weight of bats used tends to decrease. This makes sense, as those who play at higher levels of competition are likely to be stronger and therefore capable of wielding a heavier bat.
Similarly, younger players tend to use lighter bats with greater drop weights, while older players use heavier bats with smaller drop weights. This stands to reason, as older players are usually stronger than younger ones. A common drop weight for youth baseball bats is -10 or even -12, while high school and college players tend to use bats with a drop weight of -3.
In fact, -3 is usually the maximum drop weight when it comes to high school and college baseball in the United States of America.
The Drop Weight Of A Major League Baseball Bat
The Official Baseball Rules state that a bat can be no longer than 42 inches in length, but these rules do not provide a minimum length nor any weight restrictions. However, the league and the players can jointly agree on regulations for drop weight in their collective bargaining agreement. Prior to the 2012 season, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed the maximum bat drop allowed would be +3.5.
Some professional baseball players use bats of different weights in different situations. For instance, three-time MVP Albert Pujols uses a slightly heavier bat when he faces left-handed pitchers. As another example, the company that designs two-time MVP Bryce Harper’s bats has produced dozens of different bat models for him over the years.
What Is A Typical Drop Weight For A Softball Bat?
Softball bats tend to have a larger drop weight than baseball bats. This is because softball bats are usually much lighter than their baseball counterparts. A standard size softball bat at a highly competitive level will typically have a drop weight between -8 and -10.
What Other Measurements Are Used For Baseball Bats?
There are several additional measurements that are important to keep in mind when designing or purchasing a baseball bat.
The thick part of a baseball bat is known as the barrel, and this is the ideal place to make contact with the ball. The Official Baseball Rules state that the barrel of a bat can be no more than 2.61 inches in diameter at its thickest part.
Baseball bats may be designed with a small indentation at the top. Bats with such an indentation are known as cupped bats. According to the Official Baseball Rules, the indentation may be no wider than two inches and no deeper than one and a quarter inches. It can be no less than one inch in diameter.
Does Bat Drop Have Another Meaning?
In addition to being a measurement of bat size, the term bat drop can also refer to a kind of on-field celebration.
Whenever a batter puts the ball into play, he has to drop his bat so that he can run the bases. Sometimes, especially after hitting a home run, a player will drop his bat in a memorable or unusual way. This act of celebration is also referred to as a bat drop.
However, it is more common in this situation for a player to toss his bat – not simply drop it. This particular act is known as a bat flip.