Baseball Bat vs. Softball Bat: 3 Major Differences Between Them

Despite a few similarities in both the games, there are still a few notable differences between the two games, one being the difference in the types of bats used in both games.

This article will shed light on some of the difference in the types of bats used for both the games and a little science behind it.

Can You Use a Baseball Bat for Softball?

This is a question that is frequently asked by many and there is quite not a ‘black or white’ answer to that. There is no difference in bats for softball and baseball, at the youth level.

Playing softball with baseball bat

However, Baseball and softball bats have their designated roles to play when it comes to adult level. Usually most common adult baseball bats are slightly shorter than slow pitch and fast-pitch softball and quite heavier too.

As long as an adult player can adjust to this slight difference, one can use a baseball bat to play softball. The difference in performance would, however, be about the same as an older lower performance softball bat.

Difference Between Baseball and Softball Bats

Difference between baseball and softball bat

Bat Length and Weight

There is a significant difference between baseball bats and softball bats. The most obvious is length. The most commonly manufactured length of the baseball bat is slightly shorter than adult slow pitch softball and fast-pitch softball.

The length of adult slow pitch softball ranges from 33” to 34”, the common length of a fast-pitch softball bat is usually 32” to 34” and the length of an adult baseball bat ranges from 31” to 34”.

The other difference that marks a baseball bat from a softball bat is its weight. The weight of a bat comes to be considered an important factor when it comes to the speed with which a player can swing a bat.

However, the moment-of-inertia is what the bat swing speed is strongly dependent on. Moment of inertia is directly linked to the weight and length of a bat. Many older models of slow-pitch softball bats were much heavier, weighing in between 34-38oz.

Higher the speed of the pitched ball, lesser the time the batter has to decide to commit to the swinging and must be able to swing the bat faster and hence, fast-pitch softball bats are generally lighter than slow-pitch softball bats.

The baseball bats which bear the BESR certification mark required for High School and NCAA college play has a range of weight determined which is smaller because of the ‘minus-three’ rule.

According to one of the restrictions on bats, imposed by the NCAA, a 33″ baseball bat could weigh 33oz, 32oz, 31oz, and 30oz, but not 29oz as the numerical value of the weight in ounces should not be more than three less than the numerical value of the length in inches.

Most major league players use bats that weigh 32-34 ounces however in rare instances players have been seen using as heavy as 42oz bats.

Barrel Diameter

The difference in barrel diameter is another crucial point of difference between baseball bats and softball bats. Baseball bats have barrels that are fatter than softball bats.

The adult baseball bats used under the NCAA college and high school rules should have barrels of 2-5/8″ in diameter. For wood softball bats, the diameter of the handle tends to be thicker and transition from barrel to handle tends to be at a gradual slope.

This is mostly due to durability as the softball players will be hitting a larger diameter ball.

But in case of baseball, most players today prefer a handle with a slightly smaller diameter and a faster transition from barrel to handle to create more bat speed.

Even if the difference between a wooden softball bat and a wooden baseball bat is as less as 1/16”, it is still a difference big enough to be noticed when it is about bats.

Trampoline Effect

A long long time ago, the names ‘softball’ and ‘hardball’ were rightly associated with the sport. Let alone be soft, modern softballs can be actually harder than baseballs taking into account what you are measuring, the static or dynamic stiffness.

Not only different in length, weight, and diameter but also the difference in effective stiffness of the barrel of the bat are dependent on differences in the elastic properties of baseballs and softballs. Baseballs and softballs differ not only in weights and diameter but also in the construction and elastic properties.

COR or the coefficient-of-restitution of a typical baseball is 0.55 which means it will bounce back with a little more than half of its original speed if thrown against a hard surface. COR value determines as the ball deforms during impact, how much energy is lost due to internal friction. COR value varies from softball to softball ranging to a maximum to 0.40, 0.44, or 0.47.

Moreover, the speed of the pitched ball is different for baseball and softball. The speed of the pitched ball in baseball may range from somewhat above 80mph, reaching 90-95mph at the professional level. The speed drops to around as low as 25mph in slow-pitch softballs. However, the speed of the fast-pitch softball can touch as close as the speed in case of baseball.

The result of the interaction of the ball with the bat is largely dependent on the difference in ball speeds coupled with the differences in elastic properties of the ball.

When the barrel hits the ball and the interaction makes the hollow barrel squish, it is called the trampoline effect. Ever seen how a spring works? The barrel of the bat acts as a spring.

The energy which would otherwise have been lost now is used to return the ball which results in the ball traveling back at a much higher speed than it would have traveled after being hit by a wooden bat without the trampoline effect.

The protagonist of this little act, the elastic properties of the bat and the ball decide the effectiveness of the trampoline effect and the bat-ball collision.

And since the elastic properties are different in both baseballs and softballs, the elastic properties should be different for both baseball and softball bats too in order to optimize the trampoline effect.

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Vijay Singh
I started playing Baseball when I was 13 years old. I never made to MLB or any big league, but played enough to share some knowledge.

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