FanDuel - WFBC

March 24, 2010

High School Pitcher Struck by 100-Mph Batted Ball: Gunnar Sandberg, a 16-year-old pitcher from Marin [Calif.] Catholic School, is fighting for life 12 days after being struck in the left temple by a batted ball. The school has stopped using aluminum bats out of safety concerns. The aluminum-hit ball was going at least 100 mph. Doctors are waiting for him to come out of a chemically induced coma.

posted by rcade to baseball at 08:54 AM - 12 comments

Ahh, the annual rite of spring. The aluminum bats are bad argument is early this year.

posted by Demophon at 08:33 AM on March 24

The school has stopped using aluminum bats out of safety concerns.

For Pete's sake. If it didn't matter before, why does it suddenly matter now?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:08 AM on March 24

The conversation about whether or not aluminum bats should or shouldn't be used continues to be raised everytime something like this happens. Studies have shown that if a ball is hit with an aluminum bat, the ball travels a fraction of a second faster than if the same ball was hit with a wooden bat so a pitcher that has to field a 'comebacker' doesn't have the reaction time to defend himself from the ball.

This is sad to see that Sandberg is fighting for his life but it's not the first time that this has happened to a pitcher that was struck by a baseball hit by an aluminum bat. I do hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery and can play again in the near future.

posted by BornIcon at 09:19 AM on March 24

>The school has stopped using aluminum bats out of safety concerns.

>>For Pete's sake. If it didn't matter before, why does it suddenly matter now?

Someone got hurt real bad after the "before" and before the "now"? That's probably their reasoning. Aren't people allowed to recognize that something did matter before, but they just didn't realize it?

For my part, as the father of a 10-year-old kid whose league is getting bigger and stronger every day, I'm fine with a little extra caution. I hope this kids pulls through; I can only imagine how his family feels.

posted by Uncle Toby at 09:29 AM on March 24

Why don't pitchers wear helmets? I've always wondered.

posted by fabulon7 at 09:30 AM on March 24

As we've covered before, aluminum bats are getting more dangerous over time because of manufacturing improvements. Aluminum-struck balls are 8 mph faster than wooden ones.

It's only a matter of time before the number of catastrophic injuries and deaths leads to new regulations or class-action suits. A former batmaker has been campaigning for a law against aluminum bats that "exceed wood standards." That seems like a pretty good starting place to me.

posted by rcade at 09:57 AM on March 24

And of course the sidebar ad is of Michael Strahan crushing a baseball with an aluminum bat...

I don't really understand the resistance -- professional baseball uses wooden bats. If you want to be a professional baseball player, you need to learn how to hit with a wooden bat.

I see that there is a cost issue since wooden bats break, but can't you buy multiple wooden bats for the same price as a high-end aluminum?

posted by Jugwine at 10:27 AM on March 24

I see that there is a cost issue since wooden bats break...

I think most parents would rather deal with a broken wooden bat than a child in a coma or worse because they were struck on the head by a ball hit with an aluminum bat. The cost of bats shouldn't be an issue when it comes to the safety of someone's child but we all know that it is and that's the sad part about this whole thing. It can and should be avoided.

posted by BornIcon at 11:05 AM on March 24

I'm wondering about the estimates of the speed of the batted ball. Was there somebody there with a JUGS gun or something? Or is that conventional wisdom when it comes to line drives up the middle?

posted by L.N. Smithee at 12:09 PM on March 24

I think most parents would rather deal with a broken wooden bat than a child in a coma

I'm not sure. Maybe. The problem is the parents aren't buying the bats, the town is. Here in Dover, NH they're talking about getting rid of not just all of Little League, but both pools, the skating rink and all other athletic facilities due to a tax cap, so every little bit counts for local municipalities trying to fund sports.

aluminum bats are getting more dangerous over time because of manufacturing improvements

It's not just the increased velocity, it's the larger sweet spot (and overall performance of the bat) which lets players hit pitches they wouldn't be able to hit fair with a wooden bat. So you have decreased reaction times and increased number of possible collisions.

posted by yerfatma at 02:33 PM on March 24

Was there somebody there with a JUGS gun or something?

I'm not going to pretend to be smart enough to explain this, but I'm guessing it's just physics: an aluminum bat deforms less (or maybe it's more, I got a 1 on the Physics AP) so more energy is transmitted to the ball and that results in x% higher velocity. Given the average speed of a batted ball, 1.x * AVG = 8 mph. That 8 mph figure is the highest observed difference in rcade's link and it was for high school athletes. The number would be different in Little League or the MLB.

posted by yerfatma at 03:17 PM on March 24

High school bats are supposed to be limited by the Bat Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) rule. This is intended to make the metal bat more like a wooden bat in performance. It is true that BESR does not change the size of the "sweet spot", however.

The metal bat was first introduced as a matter of economics, not performance. When the metal bat did not cost a lot more than a wooden model, it was much cheaper for a player to go through a season with one bat, rather than have to replace a bat several times. Now that metal bats, using exotic materials are the norm, their costs have increased greatly, while the cost of a wooden bat has stayed more or less the same (taking into account inflation). I can't point to any studies, but perhaps the economics of wood vs metal have changed enough that wood bats are cost effective.

One unforeseen consequence of a return to wood could be the increased use of maple and hickory rather than the traditional ash. The major leagues have had a well-documented problem with bats shattering, producing sharp-edged fragments flying at high speeds. There has been at least one incident in spring training this year where a pitcher has been struck by a bat fragment. In the case I know of, the pitcher suffered only a gash on his hand that wasn't serious. It could have been much worse.

posted by Howard_T at 04:07 PM on March 24

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