Science of Baseball: From the Classroom for the Ballpark

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Whether you pick a light or heavy bat doesn’t end up having much of an impact on the batted ball speed (more on that later). Confusingly, the stat that really matters isn’t written on any baseball bat in any store in America. What you really want to know is the moment of inertia, which is essentially where the balance point of the bat is. Two bats with exactly the same total ounces can have very different moments of inertia and will feel different when you swing them. An end-loaded bat is harder to swing, whereas balancing the weight towards the handle makes even a heavy bat feel lighter, and thus you can swing it faster and control it more easily.

But here’s the key: “If swung at same speed, the bat with the larger moment of inertia will hit balls faster.” That’s according to Dan Russell, a professor of acoustics at Penn State who studies vibrations in baseball bats. “Moment of inertia matters way morethan the weight, but no manufacturer lists moment of inertia, and I have no idea why. I’ve been asking that for 20 years.”

To figure out the moment of inertia on a bat, you can try to balance it on one finger. The closer you have to balance it to the wide end of the bat, the higher the MOI and the faster you’ll be able to hit the ball (assuming you’re strong enough to swing it at the same speed).


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