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Bat design and higher-strength materials have allowed for aluminum alloy bats to become lighter, enabling players to get greater swing speeds. Composite bats have a more consistent ball-exit ratio over the life of the bat. They’ve also been credited with making hitters better, because they have a flexible handle, a larger barrel and a larger “sweet spot.” When fully broken in, the composite fibers begin to loosen, and the bats reach top performance–even outperforming aluminum bats.
Make sure you first check the rules of the league you are in. In most wood bat leagues bamboo and composite bat are illegal to use.
Maple is very hard, dense wood. The surface hardness is about 20% greater than ash. The harder the surface, the faster the ball will jump off the bat. Maple is a closer grained hard wood. The grain is not as easy to see as it is with ash. The straightness of the grain does not matter as it does with ash. Maple will not splinter. The grain will not separate. The hardness of maple makes a bat with less flex.
Ash does flex. When a ball is hit with an ash bat, there is a trampoline effect. The ball doesn't just jump off; it first compresses the wood, then like a spring board it leaves with much more force than maple. This spring board effect is one of ash's greatest strengths and weaknesses. The spring board and compression traits of an ash bat will cause the grains to separate over time. The flex of an ash bat will appear to have a larger sweet spot. Ash bats do not snap the way a maple bat does. Ash bats will break just as easy, but usually they just wear out. The grain of an ash bat will flake over many uses.
Birch is tougher than ash, and more flexible than maple. This hard hitting imported wood does not flake like ash and out-performs maple. A lighter wood, birch allows athletes to swing larger barreled bats through the hitting zone.
Bamboo chutes are hollow, they are made by pressing bamboo "strips" into billets, and then the billets are combined and made into bats. Bamboo is an extremely strong natural product, with a tension strength greater than steel.
Composite are typically some combination of different wood types that have been fused together to make a more durable bat. For this reason composite bats will last the longest, and will also be among the most expensive wood bats. Composites make great practice bats.
The cup is the bowl-like indentation at top of bat. The difference is the weight in ounces that the wood bat carries. When players get the cupped bat, it usually takes about 1/2 an ounce off. If the cup is too deep, it can affect the strength of the barrel, basically if you hit a ball of the end of the bat the cup could crush or even crack or break the barrel. Capped wood bats are more top heavy and are usually heavier. It comes down to preference to the hitters.
A balanced bat has an even weight distribution throughout where the end loaded has a half ounce to a whole ounce at the end of the bat.