Whether you are a parent or a coach, by far the easiest way to improve a kid’s real game hitting results is to switch to a lighter and/or smaller bat. Of course, that only works if you first determine that the bat is too long or heavy.
This post explains several methods for determining whether a bat is too heavy, starting with a reliable method any parent or player can use without a coach. I used to think it required substantial coaching skill to figure this out. It doesn’t.
Just observe soft toss. If the player hits mostly line drives, the bat is fine. If not, try a lighter bat.
How Anyone Can Determine if a Bat is Too Heavy
To elaborate on the soft toss test:
Soft Toss is when someone kneels at a corner of a net with a bucket of balls, tossing each ball diagonally to a batter with considerable arc. The batter attempts to hit the ball square with the sweet spot of the bat into the net. This is not as easy as it sounds. The ball is not thrown identically each time, so this requires not just good mechanics, but also good hand/eye coordination and bat control for mid-swing adjustment.
It’s unreasonable to expect a first-year baseball player to reliably hit soft toss well. Even many second-years will struggle. These beginning players (or also very young players) may still lack even the most rudimentary mechanics every hitter must have, and may still need more practice to get better hand/eye coordination as well. But most kids who have played baseball for a few years will be able to contact almost every soft-toss pitch. You want to see these more experienced players getting good hits off soft toss the majority of the time.
You know it’s a good hit when you see a line drive. I’ve written in more detail elsewhere about the benefits of using a net in the backyard to improve hitting, but when checking bat weight/length, just count line drives.
Here’s how you recognize high quality line drives: you are looking for hits that come off the bat hard and straight. Not up. Not down. It is fine (desirable, actually) if a right-handed hitter hits the ball slightly to his/her left on inside pitches, or slightly to his/her right on outside pitches. But hits should still not go up or down. Good hits are ones that come off the bat hard and parallel to the ground, which is what we call line drives. Down slightly but very hard is next best, as these would be hard grounders during games, which are harder to field than all other hits but line drives (on average).
If, during soft toss, a player can’t hit a majority of line drives, then there’s little hope for that player hitting line drives during games or reliably getting to first base safely (actually, at the 10 and under age, there’s ample chance for error on even the weakest of hits, but as kids get older the value of poorly hit balls diminishes). Either the bat is too heavy, or the player has mechanical issues that need to be worked out.
The next step is to have the player swing a lighter and/or shorter bat and see if he or she hits mostly line drives. If yes, you have your answer. And maybe you have your new bat as well.
You can try a similar test without a net. Use whiffle balls or soft balls pitched a short distance. If they can’t hit mostly line drives, then there’s either a bat size/weight issue or a mechanical issue.
However, I don’t find the pitched whiffle test to be as reliable. One player on my team this year reliably hit line drives when we tossed him Smush balls. But during his first two games, he never hit the ball in play, let alone line drives. When I tried soft toss into a net, he hit line drives less than 20% of the time. The culprit was his 21.9oz, 31″ Easton XL1 (since renamed Mako XL). Great bat, but he couldn’t control it well enough when he had less time to predict where the ball was going to go. For both soft toss and live kid pitching, ball trajectory is much less predictable than with coach pitch, machine pitch, or hitting off a tee.
When I had this player try a teammate’s lighter and less end-weighted 21.1 ounce Easton S3, he hit mostly line drives into the net. Next game he hit bombs to the outfield for both of his plate appearances with the lighter S3.
Another very simple test that anyone can do is to hold the bat out straight. If right-handed, use right hand to hold the bat straight out, parallel to the ground. If he can’t easily hold it in this position for 20 seconds, it’s too heavy. I haven’t used this test. I care about line drives, which is more likely to be influenced by mechanics which are far above (or below) average than arm strength.
How I Do it as a Coach
The first practice of each new season, and then a couple more times during the season, I used to check the printed bat lengths and weights to see if any bats were too heavy. Turns out that was a flawed method, because bat makers print weights with more of an eye to marketing than accuracy:
Actual bat weights range from printed weight to 3 ounces heavier.
Starting this year I stopped relying on the weight printed on bats. I brought a scale and asked my wife to weigh bats, measure player heights, note bat lengths (which ARE listed accurately), and record bat models. I didn’t have all the information compiled until several weeks into the season as it turned out to be moderately time consuming and disruptive. Next season I’ll simply have a coach do this at a station at one of the first 2 or 3 practices.
What did I learn this time around? Out of 12 players, there were 4 players whose bats were heavier than I expected they could handle based on their height, body build, and bat weight/length. A couple more players were borderline. But I reserved final judgement until I watched them swing during soft toss.
At this point I could baffle you with various hitting mechanics lingo, such as slow swing, long swing, loopy swing, bat drag, over loading to compensate, dropping the bat head, dropping hands, etc. The easiest of these is to just see how fast the swing is—if it’s obviously far slower than the team average, there may be an issue with bat weight.
Any coach reading this will have heard of and be able to notice some of the too-heavy mechanical issues I just mentioned, or maybe all of them and then some. I’m getting better at noticing them myself.
But now that I’ve started using the line-drive-into-the-net-test I outlined above, I don’t see a need for a highly experienced hitting coach in order to diagnose “too heavy.” I am probably typical among youth baseball coaches when it comes to knowledge of hitting mechanics. After several years of coaching, I know enough to be dangerous, but it’s still not at the level where I can reliably correct most mechanical flaws, or reliably identify who is swinging a bat that is too heavy. However, I can very reliably identify which hits into a net are quality line drives.
UPDATE: Less than 2 weeks after posting this, we had our first 2 regular season games. How did we actually do as a team? First game, 17 hits, 3 strikeouts. Second game, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts. The most interesting part is what happened to the 3 players present who switched to different (usually lighter) bats. One player didn’t get a good ball to hit, so mostly walked. The other two were players who I knew from prior years. Historically, these two had low batting averages and few line drives. One of them hit 3 line drives in these two games (4 for 6, 1 HBP, 1 BB). The other had many quality at bats that led to 2 hits (2 for 3) and 5 walks. I expected them to do better with the different bats, but not this much better.
Do NOT automatically assume that a player can’t swing a heavy bat. I have a player on my team this year who is only 4′ 11″ and is the youngest player on my 11- to 12-year-old Bronco team. He is stocky, with a massive upper body. He’s swinging a 31″ 24.6 ounce Easton Mako Torq. Despite his big upper body, I was skeptical. But he can hit line drives most of the time during soft toss, and he hits the ball hard into play during games. Him, I leave alone.
There are also times to suggest a player use a heavier bat. The most obvious is when a player has a slow swing with a light bat and is not amenable to making the mechanical changes needed to speed up the swing. There was a player on my team last year who fit this profile exactly. He hit the ball very weakly into play with his light bat and slow swing. So one day I strongly suggested he try the end-weighted Techzilla 30″, 22.9oz bat. His swing speed was identical. The weak hits turned into screaming line drives and very hard hit grounders.
Ideally, you’d want a kid like that to improve his mechanics. But if he’s going to insist on his slow-swinging ways, may as well hand him a heavy bat.
What About Better Mechanics?
In the last section I mentioned that poor mechanics are also a frequent cause of difficulty hitting line drives. In fact, the vast majority of recreation league ball players have, at best, mediocre mechanics. Typically, the only players with good mechanics are those who have taken lessons, or who have a parent that has played at the high school level or beyond and knows how to teach mechanics.
There is a line of thought that says that using a very light bat is simply a Band-Aid for poor mechanics. To some extent, I agree. Better mechanics will enable a player to swing a heavier bat properly, and therefore hit the ball much further. Better mechanics is key to being able to advance to the high school level.
However, in my experience, players don’t much improve their mechanics during the regular rec season. Most coaches don’t know how to teach mechanics well, and even those who do generally don’t have enough time. The only players I ever see improve their mechanics during rec season are those who have little or no experience. Most beginners start at such a low level that there are some very simple things a coach can change for dramatic improvement.
For those who hope to play at the high school level, learning good mechanics is a must. I explain how and when to do this in my hitting mechanics post.
But given how difficult this is to do during a regular season, the “Band-Aid” approach of getting players to hit more line drives by using a lighter or smaller bat is going to be the most practical approach to improving game results. For kids who are very frustrated with their hitting results, this fix will be quick and appreciated. Apart from the occasional extraordinary coach who spends a great deal of time teaching mechanics one-on-one during the regular season, kids aren’t going to be improving their mechanics fast enough during a rec season to make much of a difference.
More Anecdotes on Switching to a Lighter Bat
At one point my son insisted on switching to a 30″ bat when he was the shortest 8-year-old in the league. It was a very light 16.5oz bat, but too-long also harder to swing. He still got contact and often beat out weak grounders for a single but his hit quality plummeted for years. He hit mostly weak grounders and popups, with only occasional quality line drives. It wasn’t until he was 10 1/2 years old that he was consistently able to get quality hits with a 30″ bat. In retrospect, I should have talked him into using a 27″ or 28″ long bat of a similar 16 or 17 oz weight.
I could tell many stories about “batting cage hitters,” but I’ll just sum it up: Many a decent hitter gets super excited about a great new bat with a ton of pop. He tries it out at the cages, or with coach pitch, and is absolutely crushing the ball, typically loading up big with a really long swing to add power. In games, he rarely even puts the ball into play, with lots of foul balls, weak grounders, and strikeouts. The culprit is always a bat that is too heavy or long, which he is able to control well enough with predicable fastballs coming in from the pitching machine or coach pitch. But once exposed to kid pitch, and especially tougher pitching, difficulty controlling the too-heavy bat becomes apparent.
Then there is the 9-year-old player on our team last year who had below-average mechanics, a below-average batting eye, and fear of bat vibration. One day I strongly urged him to borrow a teammate’s bat, the lightest bat on the team. His first two swings off coach pitch resulted in a line drive single and a hard grounder through the gap. He was really excited, and said:
“Wow, this bat really has pop!”
No, it was not a bat with really great pop. It was an inexpensive single-piece aluminum bat that was super light and short and therefore easy to control. Now it was easier for him to square up the bat to the ball, hitting it with the sweet spot.
The real story was bat control. With his sub-par swing, he couldn’t do much with an appropriately sized bat. But hand him a light bat and he could control it.
Control the bat well, and you will reliably hit the ball into play. For players not hitting the ball reliably into play, the single simplest way to improve bat control is to reduce the length and weight of the bat. Yes, it really is that simple.
27 thoughts on “Is Your Kid’s Bat too Heavy? Here’s How to Tell”
HI. My son will be 9 in June. He will be playing summer league. He is currently using a 15 ounce 28 inch bat. He is 4’5″ and weighs 61 pounds.
I bought a 17 ounce 29 inch bat but he complained it is too heavy.
What are your thoughts regarding a bigger barrel 28 inch 16 ounce for summer league? The 15 ounce is 2 1/4. He is not getting enough pop on the ball so not sure what to do.
I appreciate any feedback.
Mark – My guess is if you weighed the 29in 17oz bat, you’d find that it’s quite a bit heavier. For his weight and height (which is almost as tall/heavy as my short 11-year-old son), 29/17 seems about right or maybe only slightly heavy if the 17 is really 17. A big barrel 28/16 could be fine but not everyone does well with big barrels.
Would be good to try out a teammate’s big barrel if possible. As I mentioned in the article, have him try a bunch of bats from teammates in soft toss, and see which one feels right to him and results in a lot of line drives.
Be careful with Mako bats especially as some of them weigh as much as 3oz higher than what is printed on the bat.
Lastly – I would worry about bat control more than pop. If he hits line drives consistently during games, then that is terrific no matter how far they go. I have seen many a batter go for a bat with huge pop during batting practice – but during games they almost never manage to contact the ball with the sweet spot and thus get very few hits.
My son is 5 and just finished tee ball, there is coach pitch that starts this coming Jan. and he played with a 24 inch easton bat. He hits the ball extremly well for 5 on a tee and when I throw to him live. His only complaint is the vibrations that comes from hitting the harder little leauge balls. Do you have a suggestion to a bat that is 25 inch with a minus of 11 or 12, that will give off less vibrations ? Thanks for the help.
If your son is hitting the ball extremely well, that would normally mean he is hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat. When hit on the sweet spot, there should be no vibration. It’s possible there’s something defective with his bat – has it become dented?
Assuming his next bat is a normal bat, here’s how it usually works with vibration:
No bat will vibrate when the ball is hit by the bat with the sweet spot (unless it is defective or damaged). However, when the sweet spot is missed, the bat will vibrate and the ball won’t go as far. This could happen out towards the end of the bat or it could happen in closer to the batter’s hands.
Aluminum bats experience the greatest vibration from mis-hit balls. In order to reduce this vibration and therefore reduce any fear they might have of swinging away, many players prefer either composite or two-piece bats. Some of the more expensive bats have high tech end caps or connecting pieces between the handle or the barrel that will further dampen vibration.
Some players actually prefer the vibration as it is feedback for mis-hit balls. Aluminum is stiffer so also has the advantage of being easier to control than bats made form other materials that have a whip effect. My son always uses aluminum bats and he does experience vibration from time to time, but not too much because he usually hits the ball with the sweet spot.
If you haven’t already found the bat guide on my site, there is a great deal of detail on the many different technologies that can go into a bat, and many bat recommendations for various age groups:
The 5-6 year old age group rarely uses expensive, high tech bats, but you can see some of those models by looking at the 7-8 year old recommendations, then buying a shorter bat for your son.
My son was taking lessons and playing with a light bat… I consistantly saw he was way ahead of the pitch. No matter how many times his coaches told him to wait, he would always be ahead of the pitch.. He was using a 17oz bat. I took him to the cages for practice and they had a 30oz bat there that he could use. So we tried it and he hit the ball better. I knew the 30oz was way to heavy, so bough him a 32/22 drop 10. Bingo… he started hitting line drives, wasn’t as early (still struggles with being early) but at least he doesn’t bat last any more…
Interesting story, marksky. 5 minutes of soft toss into a net with a few different bats would have been an efficient way to figure this out.
Hi my son is 4 he used the same bat this spring & fall. In the spring he never striked out now for fall ball he is holding the same bat extremely high & he is missing. We have been trying to correct his form but keeps pulling the bat up high. It is hard to explain we did let him try a smaller bat & he didn’t like it. I think his bat is 13 oz & it is long. Could it be too heavy.
Amanda – Age 4 is very young to be teaching “good hitting mechanics.” The less words you use, the better. If you can put the ball low on a hitting tee, and tell him to hit it in the air – that might be a way to have him automatically correct what he’s doing without telling him how to hold his hands and arms and so forth.
Note that every inch of length makes a bat harder to swing so it could be the bat is too long. 13 oz is very light, even for a 4 year old.
I enjoyed reading this article. My son is 10 years old. He is 5′ tall weighing around 90 lbs. He has been swinging an Easton S1 Model YB14S1 (30″ 18 oz) 2 1/4″ Barrel. Because of the new USA Bat rules we bought him a Easton S750c from Dick’s Sporting Goods. The S750c a bat Easton makes exclusively for Dick’s Sporting Goods. This bat is 30″ 20 oz. with a 2 5/8″ Barrel. The bat actually weighs 22 oz. I checked because of some reviews I read. I am concerned this is going to be to big of a jump in weight. Do you think over time he will adjust to the bat weight or should I look at other options? The heaviest bat anyone on his team has is 19 oz. He swung that the other night and did fine with it.
Joshua – At 5′ tall and 90 pounds, it’s definitely possible to swing a drop 8 2 5/8″ bat (which is what the S750c really is, based on the actual weight). Your son needs to be strong to be able to control this weight of bat. The test I outlined in this article should be good enough to tell if he’s ready – if he can hit line drives into a net with soft toss most of the time, he’ll probably also do well in games with it.
My own son is nearly 13 but not quite 5′ tall and 86 pounds. He has a drop 8 Axe bat Element 31″ which is still slightly too big for him, but hopefully in a month or two he’ll be able to swing it better.
Thank you for the reply. If the bat ends up being to heavy is there anything I can do to help him adjust to it? Would it hurt him if he has to Choke up on the bat until he adjust? Without having any 22 oz. bats to swing we will not be able to return this one once we start hitting with it.
It’s fine to have a too-heavy practice bat to use with a tee and net to build muscles. And of course he’ll then be big enough to swing it in the not too distant future. But I would not recommend using it in a game against fast pitching. It could work to choke up against the faster pitchers but switching back and forth between choking up and not choking up is not something I’ve seen too many kids do successfully.
I have seen many many instances of kids who couldn’t control their heavy bat too well suddenly hit way better when they switch to a slightly lighter bat. And then the following year they do fine with the heavier bat.
Thank you for the information. I am reading some of your other articles now. I am glad I found your site.
My 10-year old son is short and stocky for his age, about 4’5” and 80 pounds now. He has a 27” 15 oz Catalyst that he used last year. We took some swings today both off the tee and soft toss into the net and although he already good bat speed with it last year it looks even faster now. How do I know if I should move to a bigger bat, and then if I do, what direction would you go? Thanks!
Hi Bing – 15oz is almost certainly too light for an 80 pound kid, and 27″ is too short. Have him try heavier and longer bats from teammates, hitting soft toss into a net as described above. Keep going up in weight until he can no longer hit line drives – and then you’ll know it’s too heavy. My first guess for a kid that size would be something along the lines of 29″ drop 10.
If your son is playing rec league, understand that he’ll have to get a USAbat model this year. USAbat is a new standard so it’s not yet really well known which bats are best, but I did write about some of the early models and which ones are performing better so far, here:
Note that many USAbat models, especially Easton, are running much heavier than advertised. So getting a drop 12 will actually be more like a drop 10.
Ok great, thank you! We will start trying different sizes out.
7 year old 60 pounds. He doesn’t follow thru with the ball and it’s always to first base. We have bought a ducks S750C 29” 19 oz which ends up weighing 22oz, then we purchased a 28” 18oz ghost x it seems lighter for him but my husband hates the composite and the sound. Bat charts seem to say he needs a 29” he is 49” tall. But a travel ball coach and baseball trainer told us he needed a 26 or 27 drop 12? He has to use a USA bat so I’m wondering how the demarni sabatoge would be in a 27” 15 oz Drop 12. Any ideas ??
Hi Bridgette – Those bat charts work okay (not great, but okay) for USSSA BPF 1.15 bats. But they don’t work well at all for USAbat. As you’re finding out, most of the USAbat models are not only heavier than stated, but also feel heavier than they actually are because they are end-weighted. So you really want to get smaller than what those charts say.
The 2018 composite models for USAbat were all pretty bad despite the hefty price tags on many of them – at least all the ones I’m familiar with. I can name a few one-piece aluminum bats that are your best bet because they are lighter swinging:
Axe bat (the drop 10 model) 2 1/4″
DeMarini Uprising 2 1/2″
Louisville Slugger Solo 618 2 5/8″
The Axe might be a particularly good model given that it’s a 2 1/4″ bat.
I’m not familiar with the Sabatoge – that is a recent release and I haven’t seen it or heard anyone talk about it yet.
I would not go higher than 28″ on a USAbat for a 60 pound 7-year-old, and a 27″ size would probably be the best bet, even with the 3 lighter swinging bats I mentioned here.
Note that I have reviewed a few Axe bats on this site as my son loves them. FilterJoe readers who purchase Axe bats can get a 10% discount by using the code JGOL10.
But that is not the only bat to consider – not everyone likes the axe-like ergonomic knob. The Solo 618 was probably the most popular of the first year USAbats, and they’ll probably soon be coming out with next year’s model – but unfortunately it’s quite expensive.
Ok the sabatoge is 27” 15 oz but after I weighed it when it got here it’s a little over 18 ounces. I guess that’s ok or still a little heavy for him ? We thought since it was 2 and 3/8 barrel it may feel easier for him to swing. We still actually have the plastic on the demarni gonna let him try it first but it seems so small but I’m guessing his others have just been too big ha and the barrel makes it smaller too. Another kid that’s almost 7 just got a Louisville 618 30” 19oz and honestly it feels very light but I’m almost certain that’s way to big of a bat for a 7 yr old. Does Louisville brands seem to be more close to their actual bat weights cause I know the Easton’s aren’t !?
Bridgette – The Solo is a good bat but unless the 7-year-old is extremely big for his age (i.e. over 4′ 6″ tall and over 80 pounds), 30″ is going to be a struggle, even with the Solo.
2 3/8″ barrel is a good idea so maybe the Sabotage will be even better than the Uprising. A 27/18 is doable for a 17-year-old. A little heavy, but with the bat so short, it should be doable. Bat length matters more than weight, generally speaking, though high tech tricks (like those employed in the Solo or the Axe bats) can make a bat that is an inch longer seem just as easy to swing.
Well we tried out the sabatoge he’s other two he’s been swinging is a 28 and 29. The 27 was short it almost was like a teeball bat my husband said he kept hitting the bottom tip of the bat. This seems not normal from everything I’ve read . Then his dad says he was ripping several with the heavier and longer bat after trying the shorter one I’m really confused now ha
Switching back and forth between two very different lengths of bat is not easy. He can get used to a shorter bat with enough swings, especially if the first 100 or so swings are off a tee.
A source of confusion I’ve seen numerous times is that a kid tries a longer and/or heavier bat off a tee or at the cages where it’s very easy to hit the ball. Even hitting off dad can be really easy because he’s seen thousands of pitches from Dad. Sees strong hits off the bat, but then does terrible in games. Why? Because the bat is too long/heavy to control for mid-swing adjustments. In a real game, where the ball goes is far less predictable and requires mid-swing adjustment, which is much easier when the bat is small and light.
My son is 9 and has been swinging an Easton Mako Big barrel for 2 years. He’s 4’6″ and weighs about 95 pounds. I want to have him try a Demarini bat at 29-19.
My soon to be 8 year old son has been swinging a Rawlings Prodigy 27 drop 11. For most of the year he has been crushing the ball vs coach pitch and holding his own vs kids pitch as this is his first season facing kids pitch. About 4 weeks ago he struck out 3 times vs coach pitch in a doubleheader and is afraid to strike out. Ever since he has been hitting the ball weakly to the opposite side. I don’t know if it’s the bat size, confidence or mechanics.
Lance – Given that neither the bat nor the coach changed, it’s likely something emotional. When someone changes their outlook emotionally, they will typically unconsciously change mechanics. The worst I’ve seen is what happens when a kid gets hit by a pitch really badly, especially when hit in the face. One thing that can be helpful is to build their confidence back up in stress-free hitting situations. Start with for example hitting off a Tee, and then maybe soft toss or front toss.
Is a 26′ 15oz bat a decent option for my 7year old 39lb son,this is his first season of baseball I was thinking a light bat could be good for him since he’s light weight thanks
Noah – That sounds about right. But don’t take my word for it – if you have access to a baseball coach for advice, ask the coach if the bat seems like about the right weight for him when he watches him swing.