This is the second-part of a two-part series on the impact of composite bats in high school baseball. This part focuses on the impact the bats have had on offense.
The switch from aluminum to composite bats are not just about the type of metal and alloy that is used to make the bat, but also the size of the sweet spot.
While aluminum bats have a bigger sweet spot, composite bats have a sweet spot that is an inch to an inch-and-a-half, which better represents a wooden bat.
Because of the smaller sweet spots, players have not been able to hit with as much power, which has had an impact on the amount of runs scored this year.
“It’s at least three to four runs a game, sometimes even more,” Watson Chapel coach Chad Cope said. “It’s just changed the game. It’s made a huge difference.”
Pine Bluff coach Greg Easter also said he has seen a drop-off of about three to four runs a game with the new composite bats.
But having a smaller sweet spot will also make the hitters better in the long run. The bigger sweet spots allowed for more hits even if the hitter put a bad swing on the ball.
“You would get rewarded with a lot of cheap ground balls and more bad swings,” Cope said. “Ground balls that were going through last year are not going through this year.
“Pitchers are being rewarded for making good pitches now. Pitchers love the change and hitters have to adjust.”
Easter said the new composite bats have taken away a lot of “cheap” hits.
“The pitchers make a good pitch and it would still flare over the infield,” he said. “Now it has kind of helped get it back to being a pure game and it has made people do some other things.”
Composite bats may have entered high school baseball in Arkansas into the small-ball era, which emphasizes moving runners into scoring position and not relying too heavily on power hitters.
This also means quality pitching and error-free baseball is becoming more of a priority, according to Star City coach Scott Johnson.
“I feel like good teams can still be good if they are solid defensively and can still pitch,” he said. “For my team, we try to pride ourselves on pitching and defense, mostly. It should be an advantage for good, quality teams.”
Cope was not planning on his team to rely on its power this year, even with the change to composite bats.
“We are more of a pitching and defense team, so it really hasn’t hurt us that much,” he said. “The pitcher have to throw strikes, and if you limit the hitters, you know you have a good chance.
“It’s just an adjustment level. They struggled in college offensively, and this year, you are seeing better.”
While offensive numbers may be down, the new bats could help college scouts see what hitters can adjust to the next level.
“It helps out college and professional scouts, because they know who can swing and who can’t now,” Cope said. “They see who can better use their hips and hands and who swings right at the plate.”
The lack of offense is frustrating, though, from coaches to players to the fans because more offense is always more exciting. But as time goes on and players get used to the new bats, Easter, who has coached for the past 25 years, expects the amount of runs scored to even out.
“Offense is going to put people in the seats,” he said. “When I first got here, the bats were like they are now. It just makes you go back and work offensively.”