Monday, March 2, 2009

A good way to improve American baseball? Ban aluminum bats

Earlier this month, John Lofflin wrote in this post that the best way to “fix” Major League Baseball was to start at the Little League level. I couldn’t agree more. But one thing that should happen immediately could start at the upper levels and trickle down: ban the use of aluminum bats.

There’s been some controversy in Chicago over banning aluminum bats in little league for safety reasons. But I think the real issue here is quality of play. If young players use wooden bats, they’ll be more prepared to play with wooden bats in pro ball. Of course, most young ballplayers won’t make it to that level. But what’s the argument in favor of letting youngsters use aluminum bats? Baseball is more fun when the offense scores more runs, and aluminum bats allow for that? Maybe so. But if you’re not having fun playing baseball with a wooden bat, you probably shouldn’t play baseball at all. Go play soccer.

Now I'm all for allowing aluminum bats in softball. You need a little extra juice to knock a huge softball around. And besides, aluminum is used at the highest levels of softball.

But on the baseball side, let’s start at the top of the amateur ranks and ban aluminum bats in college ball. (Can you believe college ballplayers even USE aluminum bats? It’s unfathomable to me. How can major league teams draft players based on their stats using aluminum bats? That’s probably why the Royals have had so many bad drafts in the past few decades. Yeah. That’s it.)

So start with college. Then, in a couple years, ban aluminum bats from high school. A couple years later, junior high and middle school teams. Then all Little League and youth leagues.

(I’m guessing that there are a whole lot of players and parents out there who would PREFER to use wood bats but still use aluminums. I can understand that; if the whole league is using aluminum bats and you’re using wood, that would make for a pretty sizable competitive disadvantage.)

Here’s my bold statement of the day: If a talented young ballplayer uses a wooden bat instead of an aluminum bat, that experience will give him even more of a boost in his career than steroids ever will.

--Matt Kelsey


  1. I would agree. I pitched in college and would have loved a ban on metal bats. I saw several pitchers hit with line drives, luckily my cat like reflexes allowed me to avoid being hit (or the fact that most of the balls hit against me didn't bounce in the infield, or sometimes even in the outfield.) If you watch the College World Series this year, you will see homeruns hit on poor swings thanks to aluminum bats.


  2. Marty, I think you were probably more prone to whiplash than getting hit by a ball, right?
    Just kidding. I could always take you downtown, but you didn't give up that many longballs. You were a ground ball pitcher.
    Thanks for becoming a follower!
    -Matt Kelsey

  3. My thought is this will help pitching, as well. I may be wrong, but it seems to me the only way to beat a metal bat is to get to the plate before it does, which must put the emphasis on heat rather than finesse. Henry may have a thought on this, as well.

  4. Many kids use alumunum bats because they are unbreakable.

  5. Anonymous- you make a good point. Let me add, though, that while aluminum bats may be difficult to break, they are NOT un-damageable. Aluminum bats lose their "pop" rather quickly, in fact. Wood bats break commonly in Major League Baseball these days, where pitchers throw 95 mph and hitters look like bodybuilders, but when you're talking about youth baseball the pitchers just don't throw hard enough to break wood bats consistently. I'd venture to say a good wood bat would usually last a kid until he grows out of it. (Heck, Roy Hobbs used just one wood bat his whole career - but that' for another blog post.) Also, wood bats are a lot cheaper. A good wood bat can be had in the $25-$50 range; good metal bats START at $100 and go up from there.
    -Matt Kelsey