Astros Win 2017 World Series: Springer Dingers and the Axe Bat

None of the teams I normally root for were in the World Series this year. Yet, it was one of the more interesting World Series I’ve watched. We saw some terrific fielding. There were a few steals and bunts to add a little spice to the games. We got to watch Kershaw and Verlander put on good pitching shows. Yes, I know, the Astros did manage to get to Kershaw in the 4th inning of the 5th game . . .

But what will probably be remembered most about this World Series were the record 25 home runs, 15 hit by the Astros, and 10 hit by the Dodgers. The MVP was awarded to George Springer on account of his 5 Springer Dingers.

George Springer, courtesy Wikipedia

Curiously, I never heard any of the World Series broadcasters discuss Springer’s bat.

It’s an Axe bat.

The fact that his bat was never discussed suggests to me that Axe bats are no longer curiosities used by some college teams and a few well known major league players (Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, etc.). Axe bats, while not quite mainstream, are common enough to no longer merit special mention.

And yet, I’m still not seeing too many Axe bats used in youth baseball. I think that’s going to change over the next few years, and not just because of Springer’s Dingers. Here’s why:

The Axe Handle Offers Benefits Beyond the Wrist

Baden Sports has been making Axe bats since 2010. The most obvious difference is the Axe-like knob which is ergonomically more comfortable and helps better position the wrists correctly when contacting the ball. But that’s just the beginning of the benefits.

I went into technical detail about all the other benefits in prior articles on this site, especially the first one:

Axe Bat Review: In the Hands of a 10-year old

Axe Bat Origin 2016 Review: A sub $100 bat for youth baseball that is awesome

Axe Bat Review: MB50 Big Barrel in the Hands of an 11-year old

To briefly summarize:

  • Hitters can practice much longer before experiencing hand and wrist fatigue
  • While no bat can magically turn an average hitter into a great hitter, the knob does force some aspects of hitting mechanics to improve, especially related to positioning of the wrists. There is even science to back up this claim.
  • Bats can be designed to be stronger and/or more durable on the surfaces where the ball is going to hit. Baden calls this one-sided hitting though really it’s two sides, because the bat can be used by right-handed or left-handed hitters. But regardless of handedness, no hitter will hit the ball on the bottom of the bat.
  • One-sided hitting provides an opportunity to remove an unnecessary portion of the end of the bat. Baden introduced this asymmetric barrel as a high-end bat feature in 2016 and rolled it out to the complete line in 2017.

If you read through the Axe bat articles on this site you’ll see that youth Axe bats have steadily improved over the past 3 years. While the first Axe bats my son tested were pretty good, the MB50 he used this past season is by far the best bat he’s ever used. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to claim that, since 2017, the best single-piece aluminum bats in baseball are Axe bats.

But what about composite and 2-piece bats?

My son’s only experience with a two-piece Axe bat was the 2015 Axe Bat Elite. While he occasionally hit the ball hard with it, he had trouble controlling it and eventually stopped using it in favor of one-piece aluminum Axe bats. He’s happy with one-piece Axe bats because he gets consistent results which improve when he spends time working on his hitting. He has never tested a pure composite bat from Baden, nor have I ever seen any other player use one.

From what I’ve been able to observe on the youth baseball field, Easton has the best performing composite bat models, while DeMarini generally gets top honors for two-piece bats. Occasionally another company such as Combat comes out with a high-end bat that does really well. I don’t fully know the reasons why, but these companies have invested heavily in R&D for years in perfecting the use of composite material in bats, connecting pieces between the handle and barrel, and high-tech end-cap materials and technology. They recoup R&D investment by charging $250 – $400 for the premium bat models that incorporate all this tech.

But there’s another factor in high tech bat success that just disappeared: a subpar methodology for bat testing.

USAbat

Composite bats were first used in softball in the 1980’s and within a decade spread to youth baseball and began to be regulated. In recent years, a standard called BPF 1.15 was used. The original intention was for bat barrels to have an approximately wood-like performance but due to flaws in the testing methodology, bat makers learned how to design around the testing procedure to produce bats with much more pop than wood bats. Aluminum alloy bats could do this to some extent, but composite bats even more.

This began to change in 2011 when bats used by college and high school players had to follow a new, stricter standard, called BBCOR. The improved testing procedure caused the performance of high-end bats (and therefore home run rates) to decrease, while the performance gap narrowed between the most and least expensive bats.

A standard similar to BBCOR for youth baseball called USAbat is going into effect for most recreation baseball leagues in 2018, which you can read about in New USABat Standard Coming in 2018 for Youth Baseball Bats.

So what does all this have to do with the Axe bat brand?

I’m expecting that, as with BBCOR, the USAbat performance difference between the most and least expensive bats will narrow, as manufacturers will no longer be able to work around the BPF 1.15 standard to produce barrels with much more pop than wood (actually they will still be able to do this for USSSA travel ball for the time being, but that’s a separate story).

This USAbat standard does not hinder the use of the knob on Axe bats, one-sided hitting design, or the asymmetric end-cap. In other words, some of the advantage of high-tech barrels has been taken away, but none of Baden’s advantages have been removed. My guess is that the high-end Easton and DeMarini USAbat models are not going to be anywhere near as good as the BPF 1.15 models, which provides an opening for Baden Sports to develop high-end composite or two-piece models that perform as well or possibly even better than those from Easton or DeMarini.

Baden is definitely investing in USAbat models. Axe was one of the only four brands to have USAbat models ready when USAbat models first rolled out on September 1 of this year. More USAbat Axe models are coming in December, so clearly Baden is attempting to compete for the hearts and minds of recreation league baseball players buying bats with the new USAbat standard.

So Will Axe Bats Become Super Popular?

USAbat models are only starting to get into the hands of ball players so it’s still too early to tell if any of my speculations about Axe bat will prove out. I’ll have more to say next spring when I see many players swinging the new models. I’ll also have more to say about the new Axe USAbat model my 12 1/2 year old son has recently started swinging, a 31″, 23 oz 2018 Element USAbat.

Of course, I could be missing the forest for the trees. Maybe nobody cares about all these technical details, and it will be all the home runs Springer hit in the World Series that inspires young ballplayers to try using an Axe bat.

Congratulations to Springer and the Astros, as well as the runner up Dodgers. Both teams played very well in the regular season, the playoffs, and the World Series. It was fun to watch two really terrific teams battle in an exciting 7-game series. Despite Verlander starting game 6, I was so sure the Dodgers were going to force a game 7, because it was just that kind of a series.

 

Author: Joe Golton

I’m a dad with a son who loves baseball. Professionally, I’ve been a software developer, investor, controller, and logistics manager. I now make my living from this blog, supplemented with occasional consulting gigs.

5 thoughts on “Astros Win 2017 World Series: Springer Dingers and the Axe Bat”

  1. Hi Joe, So I noticed the USA Axe bats (Origin and Element) are -8. This is a huge change from the -13 to -11 many kids were using in rec ball last year. This weight difference really makes me hesitant in purchasing an Axe bat, but I’ve read reviews that indicate the Axe bats tend to swing lighter than the -8 would indicate. [I recognize bats manufacturers have different MOIs which makes different bats swing easier or harder]. Has your son tried out his new Element in games? And does he have an opinion as to whether it does swing lighter or not?

  2. Hi Roy – Baden is coming out with the 7-12 year old portion of their Axe bat lineup in December, a few weeks from now. I don’t know what the precise drops of those bats will be but for anyone under 5′ 0″ and under 90 lbs, I would wait for these models to come out. There have been some comments on one of my MB50 Axe bat reviews from a couple parents with kids smaller than this using a drop 8, but they were compensating by using a shorter length.

    My son has only tried the 31″ Element model once last weekend hitting easy batting practice pitches from me. It was clear to me that it’s still a little too heavy for him, but just a little – he wasn’t controlling the bat as well as his drop 10 model and therefore getting too many lower quality hits. The drop 10 is still much easier for him to handle – he consistently hits my BP over 150′ with the drop 10. I think he should be fine with the drop 8 by spring, when he’ll be likely be 5′ 0″ and 95 lbs or so.

  3. Roy – Just had 2 more thoughts related to your question:

    1) The knob shape pushes hands slightly up the handle, as if you’re choking up. So a 30″ bat for example is effectively something like a 29.75 inch bat in actual use. So an Axe bat compared to another bat of identical length that weighs the same on a scale will feel lighter to swing because it’s not as long.

    2) Bat weights are often NOT what is printed. Easton is particularly bad I’ve found in misstating the actual bat weight but some other bat makers state the weight imprecisely as well. I have seen anywhere from just about exactly what is printed on the bat to literally 3 oz overweight. I’ve weighed a number of bats (mostly Easton) that are 2-3 ounces overweight. The Axe bats my son have used have been pretty close to exactly 1 ounce overweight for the most part. His element USAbat is 0.8 ounces overweight. So if you compare that to an Easton drop 8 bat that is 2 ounces overweight, you’ll get the 1.2 ounce difference from that, plus automatic chocking up from the knob that I just mentioned in point 1.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Thanks for the post. I’ve read in a few places that the Axe swings light, but I wonder how much lighter you think, based on your experience. Worth an extra oz. off? Two? It sounds like their speed line will include a -10–which would normally be too heavy for my kid (8 year old, turning 9 in the spring, who used a -13 last spring)–so I wonder if that might actually be an option. What do you think? Would a kid who used a -13 last year be able to use their -10 this coming season, assuming he stays with the same length?

  5. Hi JM – Depends on the size/weight of your son. My son is typically the smallest player on the field. For my son, a 30″ Drop 10, even an Axe bat drop 10, was not feasible for him until he was just a couple months shy of turning 12. At that time, he was 4′ 9″, 77 lbs, so if your son is close to that height/weight, a 30″ drop 10 Axe is reasonable. If he’s a little smaller/lighter than that, a 29″ inch drop 10 could work but I personally think it’s easier to hit live kid pitch with a drop 12 rather than go below 29″ long, due to the extra plate coverage.

    However, I have seen a couple comments beneath my MB50 review from parents who noted that their small 10 year old was successful with a drop 10, 28″ long model.

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