We get asked a lot, "What wood are your bats made out of?" On that note, full disclosure: we only make bats out of sold, one-piece, top-grade maple. More importantly, why do we only use maple for our bats, and is it the best wood for a baseball bat?
In our opinion, maple is the best all-around wood for baseball bats, but that's not to say you can't get a quality, professional-grade bat made out of other woods, like birch, ash or bamboo. Below is a breakdown of the differences, pros and cons of each wood that baseball bats are typically made out of.
Benefits of Wood Bats Made of Maple
Maple is a really hard, dense wood giving it maximum strength for hitting baseballs coming at you at all speeds. All in all, maple is about 20% harder or stronger than ash (more on ash wood later) which gives maple more overall "pop" as we say. When you look at a piece of raw maple, you'll see that the grains are really close together which is an indication that it's a dense wood. In general, the denser the wood is, the stronger it is. Also, the grains in maple are harder to see than ash which is why you see the ink dot test on maple bats as a test to see if they are qualified for use in the major leagues.
The only cons with maple bats also come from their density. While denser woods are typically stronger, they are also heavier. Still, maple bats aren't so heavy that they are too heavy to use - they can easily be made to equal the weight of BBCOR bats (drop -3), let alone the weight of ash, birch and bamboo bats. But, all in all, maple bats are probably the best all-around wood to use in baseball bats. The hardness of maple bats allows less flex and more pop from the sheer strength and inertia of the bat. Also, since there's less flex in a maple bat as compared to an ash or birch bat, the batter's swing stays a little more controlled and "true" through the entire swing. This allows for slightly better bat control and better contact hitting while sacrificing none of the power.
Benefits of Bats Made of Ash
Ash is probably the second-most popular wood used in baseball bats behind maple (birch is gaining in popularity and may surpass ash in the near future, but more on that later). What ash bats lack in density they make up for in flex. Flex, in turn, gives them good "pop" on contact. Ash wood isn't as dense as maple, and ash bats tend to "flake" more frequently than maple bats... not so much to where you should never use one, but if you want a bat that lasts longer, ash may not be the best choice.
Still, ash is a good wood to use for baseball bats. It's a hard-enough wood with decent pop, but what a lot of players like about it is the amount of flex it has. Because it's less dense, the bat flexes (bends) more during the swing, giving it more of a "whip" action through the strike zone. While the flex and whip through the strike zone can slightly hinder the accuracy of the bat path, it can also reward you with a little extra bat speed with the whip through the strike zone. So the pop you would get in pure, dense, hard maple you can also get with the added whip of ash.
Overall, ash tends to give a little less bat control and a little less overall pop compared to maple, but there are plenty of baseball players who prefer it. As we mentioned, another consideration is that, while ash bats are typically a little less expensive, they also don't last as long as solid maple bats.
Benefits of Birch Baseball Bats
To keep this a little shorter, birch is kind of in-between maple and ash. Birch baseball bats are harder than ash, but not as hard as maple; birch bats also allow a little more whip and flex through the strike zone as compared to maple, but typically not as much flex compared to ash.
In terms of density - you guessed it - birch is in between maple and ash, although it's a little closer to maple. Birch is a good middle-of-the-road bat. Generally, you get almost the same pop out of birch that you would get from a maple bat, as the whip from the bat makes up for the slight lack in density. Keep in mind, too, that, like maple, the grains are hard to see, therefore birch bats require the ink-dot test in order to qualify for major league baseball. When you go to buy a birch (or maple) bat, look for the ink-dot test as only the best-quality, once-piece (solid) pieces of maple or birch will qualify.
Benefits of Bamboo Baseball Bats
Bamboo is an extremely hard wood (like maple) and it has plenty of pop, although bamboo is not allowed in the big leagues (and some other leagues). In short, wood baseball bats are required to be made from a single piece of wood. As you probably know, bamboo is hollow inside and the walls of a bamboo shoot don't get nearly thick enough to make a 2-1/4" barrel bat (let alone 2-5/8"). If you look at a bamboo bat, you'll see that it is several sections of bamboo glued and compressed together, then formed into a baseball bat.
So long as bamboo bats are allowed in your league, there's really nothing wrong with them. They have plenty of strength, pop and flex - they're just not allowed in the higher levels of play (yet).