Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Great Bat Debate

You thought I would let the Chimpanzee Rodeo die? I didn't find that monkey riding a dog for nothing, folks.
Anyway, I just wanted to pass along this Kansas City Star article (ed. note: Starticle?) comparing the merits of a pair of baseball bat materials.

Ash v. Maple. Let's get it on.

As New Englander and fan of syrup, I was saddened by the results.
Smith said ash likes to grow in a long straight grain, which is fairly easy to see. So if you look at a piece of ash, it’s evident if the grain is parallel to the length of the board.

“That’s what you want to have,” said [Washington State University Sports Science Lab' Lloyd] Smith, who is with the school of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “That’s where the strength is. If your grain is not parallel then you’ve introduced a weakness in the material.”

However, maple generally does not like to grow in a straight grain. Also, the grain doesn’t have as much contrast, so it doesn’t stand out as much as ash.

This is important, because it makes it easier to detect a crack in an ash bat.

This is a great example of a unique and interesting sports story. And the Star uses the internet to its advantage with a nice graphic to accompany the piece. 

It's too bad the text on the graphic is barely legible, even when the picture is enlarged.

Finally, the article answers the obvious question: If ash is better, why is maple the popular choice among major leaguers.

Blame it on Barry Bonds. Smith estimated that about 5 percent of baseball players used maple bats before Bonds broke the single-season home run record in 2001.

“There’s much more superstition in baseball than there is science,” Smith said, “so people started saying, ‘Aha, here’s the magic formula. It’s not Barry Bonds, it’s maple.’”

Of course, we all know it's not maple. It's the steroids.

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