Balance Bat Research

As part of a coach’s conversation in the summer of 2014, Dr. Clark conducted an extensive search for a training bat that would help players keep their hands inside the pitch. After a number of attempts, Dr. Clark concluded that there were no training products on the market that would offer players immediate feedback with regards to their swings. Dr. Clark then created a small research project to explore training principles that had transformed other sports.

This initial research lead to the architectural design and initial proof-of concept testing. In conjunction, a first prototype was developed and field tested. The first prototype demonstrated a number of positive results from various players. The next stage in the product development was to ensure the training bat was functional and usable with live pitching. During additional testing it was determined that the extended knob and the additional weight of the bat was durable and would withstand a ballistic impact of a pitched ball.

The Balance Bat is designed around three concepts. First, the Balance Bat is a game ready training bat based on Little League up to major league bat performance rules for wood bats. Regardless of the level of play the wood bat rules consist of:

  • The bat cannot exceed a certain overall bat length
  • The bat cannot exceed a certain barrel diameter
  • The bat must have a handle
  • The bat must have a knob
  • The bat must be made from one piece of wood

THERE ARE NO RULES FOR WHAT KIND OF KNOB OR LENGTH OF KNOB IS ON A BAT

The second concept is based of Newton’s second law of motion: The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. When swinging a baseball or softball bat the player wants to generate as much force as possible when impacting the ball. The concept of ‘Batted Ball Exit Speed’ states that for every 1 mile per hour the ball comes off the bat that equals five feet.

The third concept is the concept of 20% under & overload training. The concept goes all the way back to the 1960’s and how Russia trained their athletes. For the Balance Bat that means the Balance Bat plays the role of the overload training tool to the player’s game bat. The 20% rule theorizes that a player positively change their swing performance mechanics by using a training bat that is within 20% of their game bat as the player swings the Balance Bat; although it weighs more than their game bat the additional weight on the knob acts as a counter weight to the barrel weight and therefore the player can focus on their body to move the mass of their bat instead of their hands. Here is a quick reference:

Is there a critical formula for the relationship between the dimensions of the individual parts of the bat?

Yes! The formula is the barrel diameter and knob length to calculate the volume of the knob. This allows the density or mass of the knob to factor into the overall formula. When you add the mass of the knob on the end of the bat you move the center of the mass towards the knob. This movement reduces the overall torque value at the pivot point for the player in their top hand. I use 8.5 inches are the pivot point factor for the formula.

The formula is a basic formula and was designed to identify the ‘New’ Torque and Center of Mass positions for the Balance Bat; without making a lot of bats i.e. if I wanted to make a 36” long bat my formula would give me a reference point for both Torque and Center of Mass.

Since  ash wood was the original wood for the Balance Bat there are two factors that cannot be control: the density of the wood and worms. Therefore, 65 was used for the density factor as it was a common density for ash wood and there was an assumption that worm holes were in every bat. The only way to identify worm holes is to to x-ray the bats.

The Balance Bat is a game ready bat and with the knob maintaining the same diameter as the barrel no one can argue that the knob exceed the barrel diameter rule for wood bats.

As stated above there are some other applied physics that are working in the Balance Bat favor for the performance of the bat. There are two other bats on the market that have a bunch of weight on the knob. Having just a ball of heavy weight on the knob turns the bat into a dumbbell with a barrel.

The Balance Bat is different as it is a true training bat that factors in knob weight, knob shape, not moving the entire center of mass into the hands, but keeping the COM outside the hands, and understanding that the player will have to manage the barrel weight sometime during their swing; the Balance Bat is just delaying and allowing the player to control the barrel better.

How does adding the extended knob help increases overall swing speed and reduce barrel sag? 

Why is rotational inertia decreased?

When you move the center of mass and balance point towards the hands you reduce the torque that the top hand feels the player is able to keep their hands tighter to the body. When a player swings a bat they should swing the bat with their body.

Additionally, the player’s energy is created from the ground up. The player pushes their back foot into the ground and then shifts their body weight to their front foot. Right before the front foot lands the players body weight moves up through their knees and into their hips. As their hips rotate around their spine their shoulders then receive all the energy and once their shoulders complete their rotation the energy is transferred through their arms and finally into their hands. The last element to a player’s kinetic chain is their hands.

But what happens players train their hands before their body.

The Balance Bat helps a player understand, feel, and perform the correct swing sequence. The extend knob of the Balance Bat acts as a counter weight so the player does not have to move the load of the barrel weight. In addition, the Balance Bat performs a ‘Whip’ like action so the player does not release their hands early. There is a delayed wrist action as a result of the extend knob.

How does movement of the center of gravity toward the pivot point allow the hitter to increase overall swing speed, keep hands inside the pitched ball, increase space between the hands and hips, establish a swing pivot, and increase hand and forearm strength. As stated above the players hands are key to their swing as the hands are the last thing to transfer the player’s energy in their swing sequence. When a player releases their hands to early the barrel of the bat takes on incorrect bat patterns such as sag, casting, dipping, etc. In addition, players sometimes keep their hands to close to their body and do not all their arms / elbows to have enough room to swing / rotate around their body.

The Balance Bat forces the player to create the right spacing between their hands (knob) and their body to maximize their rotational inertia.

Last, the Balance Bat weights 28% + more than their game bat. Therefore, the player swings more weight, but does not feel as if they are swing more weight. This additional weight transfer into increase load and for the most part the Balance Bat becomes a weight training tool that focuses on hand and forearm muscles.

The Balance Bat’s overall Knob weight plays a key role in changing the swing performance of a player. The weight of of the knob is within 30% of the overall weight of the bat. The example is a 32″ wood  bat would weight 29 oz. With the Balance Bat knob the weight of the bat is 37 to 39 oz.  Just adding weight to the end of a bat does not mean that a player will be able to change their swing. The weight has to be calculated in such a way that it meets current research that states that if you train with a training bat that is within 20% +/- 10% you can alter a players swing (Under and Overload Training principles). The design of the knob is also different if you look a the end-shape of the knob.

The niche of the Balance Bat is any and all baseball and/or softball players that want to improve their swing with the support of sound research that includes bio-mechanical principles will do so if they use the Balance Bat and bio-mechanical and kinematic sequencing together.