To most, a wood bat is just a wood baseball bat. But to the more serious players, coaches, and fans we know that’s far from the truth. Wood bats actually provide a multitude of variances such as turn model(s), swing weight(s), and the topic at hand today, wood types.
The type of wood you choose to swing can play a big factor in both your enjoyment and productivity each time you step into the box. The two most common types of wood used to make baseball bats are maple and ash. To help you determine which type is right for you or your hitter, we’ve taken the time to list out the pros and cons of both maple wood bats and ash wood bats. Take notes as you read because the more you know, the better you’ll play.
As always, if you have any questions regarding wood bats or other baseball bats, feel free to reach out to our team of Bat Experts. They can be reached via live chat, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can give us a call at 866-321-BATS (2287). They’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Now, let's begin.
What's The Difference Between Maple and Ash Wood Bats?
The main difference between maple wood baseball bats and ash wood baseball bats is the strength/density of the wood types. Maple wood is denser, stronger, and stiffer. Inversely, ash wood is less dense and softer. But what does this mean in terms of wood baseball bats?
If you choose to swing a maple wood bat, you are choosing to swing a stiffer style of bat. It will not offer much (if any) “give” on contact meaning you are more likely to get wrung up with negative vibrations on miss-hits. However, with great stiffness comes great power. If you have a strong hitter that is able to get all the way through the baseball, a maple bat tends to generate the most power on contact. As a result, maple bats are generally recommended for more experienced wood bat hitters that are already comfortable swinging wood.
Taking a look at the other end of the spectrum, ash wood bats offer hitters more “flex” or give on contact. Considering ash is a softer, more forgiving material, hitters tend to find ash bats to feel more balanced compared to heavier woods like maple and birch. As a result, younger, smaller hitters often gravitate toward ash wood baseball bats.
Pros & Cons of Maple Wood Baseball Bats
Maple wood bats are the most commonly swung wood bats in the world. So why is that?
- Stiffest/Most Powerful Wood Type
- Top-of-the-Line Durability
- Compresses Over Time to Become Even More Durable
- Does Not Flake or Splinter
- Largest Variety of Available Bats/Turn Models
- Can Get Heavy in Humid Conditions
- Conducts Vibrations When Hit on the End or Taper
Pros & Cons of Ash Wood Baseball Bats
Before the rise in popularity of maple bats, ash bats reigned supreme. Some professionals like Evan Longoria continue to choose ash over the competition. So what are the benefits and pitfalls of swinging an ash wood bat?
- Most Flexible Wood
- Enable Hitters to “Whip” the Barrel Through the Zone
- More Forgiving When Hit on the End or Near the Taper
- Tend to Dry Out with Time - Causing Flakes or Splinters
- Less Stiff (Powerful) Compared to Other Options
The History of Wood Bats
The first wood baseball bat dates back to the 1840s. Players would fashion a bat from any scrap wood they had laying around. The most commonly utilized items were wagon spokes, ax handles (not the Axe Bat handles you see today), and even legs from tables. Due to their original purpose, most of the early wood baseball bats were made of hard hickory wood. They were often way too heavy and sported a flat surface (much like a cricket paddle) which caused high amounts of drag with each swing. The result was a slow, contact-seeking swing to put the ball in play.
As the game continued to grow and players got smarter about their equipment, the rounded barrel became mainstream. Hitters and wood carvers began experimenting with new types of wood. The type they eventually settled on was ash. Ash, being so soft, proved to be easily manipulated into the length and shape desired by hitters. Over the next couple of decades, a vast majority of baseball players of all ages and skill levels swung ash wood bats.
But as pitchers began throwing harder and hitters began swinging more violently, baseball was in need of a new wood that could adequately hold up to the rigors of the sport. Insert maple wood bats. Blessed with a naturally higher density than ash, maple proved to be the perfect answer to baseball’s problem. Around the 1990s maple started to take over the game. Ash bats remained popular but it was easy to see that maple wood bats were the future of baseball. Fast forward to today, and nearly 75% of MLB hitters swing maple wood bats.
[Note: if you are looking for the next type of wood to have a meteoric rise in popularity, birch wood baseball bats are quickly becoming more and more popular with hitters of all ages.]
We hope you learned something from this post. If you are interested in purchasing a wood baseball bat or want to learn more about bats, be sure to visit JustBats - where we’re with you from Click to Hit!