Recent Comments by Justus

Aluminum Bat Maker Liable in Baseball Player's Death

A few facts to keep in mind.

First, none of us were in the courtroom to hear the testamony and arguments. We might well have agreed with the jury in that case. Remember the comment earlier about the fellow who quit designing high performance bats because he knew they were unreasonably dangerous.

Second, in High School and College baseball, the bats must meet a Bat Speed Exit Ration (BESR) standard. That limits the performance of the bat construction.

In addition, at least high school limits the weight ration to a -3. That is, the bat must weigh no less, numerically, in ounces than the length in inches -3. On the other hand, some high performance bats come with as high as a -9. This allows a batter to generate significantly greater bat speed, hence greater speed on a batted ball. This same effect is what pro players are after when they cork their bats: the bat is lighter over the same length so they get the same leverage but higher bat speed and batted balls travel farther. This limitation is also aimed at the safety of the players, as well as keeping the competition closer to what it would be with wooden bats.

This incident happened in a Legion game, which is a significantly under-reported fact in this story. The governing body will likely adopt bat restrictions after this, if it has not already.

Third, it is said that aluminum bats replaced wooden bats because of the cost of broken bats. This may have been true in the beginning, but parents and players are now spending well over $300 per bat for some of these highly juiced models in order to gain an advantage. The cost savings is gone due to the arms race.

What difference does 8 mph make. Well, a good estimate is that a baseball in flight loses 1 mph for every 7 feet it travels. That means a ball leaving the bat at the optimum angle and 8 mph faster will travel 56 feet through the air before it slows to the speed it would have had. That is roughly the distance from the batter to the pitcher after the pitch is delivered.

That 8 mph faster and/ or increased distance in the air will get more hits and more balls sailing over the outfielders' heads. And it will hurt a lot more if someone gets hit by it. Somehow the conservation of energy comes into play here, and energy transfer is a square function, so the increased impact is greater than if you simply went on momentum, which is a linear function.

Media coverage will always be lacking in details if for no other reason than the reporters cannot be familiar with every subject, so some good questions are never answered in the press. But if the BESR, trampoline effect and bat weight data were reported, it is my suspicion that this is not a verdict against metal bats per se, but against the high performance bats that truly are dangerous on the field.

posted by Justus at 04:07 PM on October 30