Friday, May 9, 2008

Maple Bats

Jeff Passan takes a look at the dangers posed by the shatteriffic nature of maple bats.


Alex said...

This is great. I was convinced MLB would ignore this problem until someone was maimed or killed with a broken bat (although that's sort of what they're doing, if you consider the Pirates coaches maimed). But man, this makes me detest the players union even more. It's like they said "No way" when MLB proposed banning the bats before the question was even finished. A ban would be for the safety of its own members! Too bad safety doesn't translate into $$$ as well as homeruns do. Still, good know the wheels are in motion, however slow. How long till we actually see a change implemented?

Osmodious said...

I find it interesting that they are actually taking an analytical approach to this, considering the knee-jerk reaction that now has 1st and 3rd base coaches wearing those ridiculous plastic bowls on their heads.

I'm not certain that there are any statistics for this, being that the data would be more anecdotal than empirical, but I'm sure there are far more people injured by flying bats (and debris) than by foul balls. What happened to Colbaugh was incredibly unfortunate, but it was also seemingly an isolated incident (not to mention the fact that a helmet would have done nothing to help him, being that he was hit in the neck). Personally, I think the helmets were a 'look what we did to fix this' kind of thing, rather than an actual solution of any kind.

This is a far more prevalent issue, and does need to be addressed before something terrible happens. Figuring out a way to make maple bats less susceptible to breakage would be the right thing to do here...and if they can't be, then ban them.

Although, I will say that it seems like there are far fewer splinters with maple. They break into 2 or three large pieces, rather than splintering into toothpicks that can stab a sliding or fielding player...

Daniel said...

I think the difference is that MLB could put helmets on base coaches and 1) Look good because they took steps to address a danger (whether it was effective or not) and 2) would not piss off the union in the process.

Regulating bats would accomplish number 1 but not number 2. So I think to make a change, MLB is going to have to use a detailed, analytical approach to the bat issue so that they have stronger footing when they dig in to fight the union. In short, MLB is lazy and self-serving and the union is obtuse, what else is new?

RoyceTheHack said...

I've been fascinated by the whole maple bat phenomenon for a while now, and I think there is an angle to this that we, as observers, aren't able to grasp. One of my other zealot pastimes, or, addictions, in addition to baseball and motorcycles, is guitars. I am fortunate to own several. Guitars all have a personality- all of them. Equal instruments made by the same hands in the same factory are different, in subtle ways. A large factor in an instrument's character is the wood it's made out of. The finest instruments are made out of rosewood, ebony and maple. Maple, in particular, is very light and very resonant; very 'bright' in sound terms. It falls into the category of, 'hardwoods', and has been used for centuries by skilled craftsmen for everything from pianos to violins. Here's my point: I feel Mr. Sherwood's scientific efforts are worthwhile and interesting. But this comment from the article supports my theory (which, is coming...), more than anything:

“We found that the batted-ball speeds were essentially the same for the two woods,” Sherwood said. “Maple has no advantage in getting a longer hit over an ash bat.”

Well, what I think hitters have grown addicted to is how it Feels to rip a well-hit ball with a maple bat. If you look carefully at a slab of mature maple, compared to a slab of equally mature ash, the maple has a far more intricate line of growth - or, pattern and the grain is tighter. Simply stated, when a player hits a ball well with a maple bat, I think the vibe from the impact is more pleasing. Or rather - intoxicating.

So - I think this is one of those intangibles we'll have to leave in the hands of the players. However, I agree that it is a serious problem, as I too am convinced that someone, somewhere, is going to be killed or horribly maimed, and soon, by a shattering maple bat.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Interesting points, Royce. I think people like me (and many of the readers here) tend to see things through such a raw-data-first prism that we forget the qualitative differences in such things from time to time.