Axe Bat Review: Element Drop 8 USAbat vs Prior USSSA Youth Axe Offerings

Last year I reviewed the Axe bat MB50, the best single-piece Aluminum USSSA BPF 1.15 bat my son had ever used. It was not just a good Axe bat. It was as good as or better than any single-piece aluminum bat I have ever seen used on a youth baseball field.

My son would still be using it if he could, but due to the new bat standard which went into effect January 2018, USSSA BPF 1.15 bats are no longer legal for use in recreation leagues. The new USAbat standard attempts to bring bat barrel performance in line with wood barrels. Bat makers selling into the recreation league youth baseball market therefore introduced many new bats to conform with the new USAbat standard.

Even without the new bat standard, it was time for my son to move from a drop 10 to a drop 8 bat. He’s 13 now, which means it’s a good idea to get used to swinging heavier bats before BBCOR is required in high school . . . or sooner (see 13u Player Bat Needs).

So how well did Baden’s first USAbat Axe bat offerings perform in comparison to last year’s BPF 1.15 models? I can’t speak for all of them, but I can speak to the 2018 drop 10 Element 2 5/8″ bat which my son began using just before he turned 13. Baden Sports was kind of enough to provide me a sample for review.

30″ and 31″ models of the 2018 USAbat Axe Bat Element

To buy the Element or other 2018 USAbat models of Axe:

Axe Bat USAbat lineup

For a 10% discount off the Element or any other Axe bat at the manufacturer’s site, FilterJoe readers may use code JGOL10 when checking out.

So how well did my son do with the Element Drop 8 USAbat?

As expected, this USAbat model performed worse for him than last year’s USSSA bat.

But how much worse?

Read on to find out what my son and I thought of this bat and the impact of the USAbat standard on the Axe bat line.

A Few Words About the Impact of the New USAbat Rules

Given that this is the first year for USAbat models, any review of one of these new bats is to a large extent also a review of the impact of this new standard on performance of youth bats in general.

I’m going to assume FilterJoe readers are already familiar with the USAbat standard. If you want to brush up on the details of the USAbat standard, you can start with this site’s USAbat article.

The point of this new standard is to reduce youth bat barrel performance to be in line with wood barrel performance. In actual practice, it worked. Therefore, there is no such thing as a “hot” USAbat model.

What I am seeing in our league across the board is that players can’t hit the ball as hard or as far as they did last year when using a new USAbat. What was very clear from this year’s Gamechanger stats was that hitting was much worse for both our team and opposing teams than I’ve ever seen before, while pitching results were much better.

A few of the biggest kids in each division still hit many balls to the outfield. Most smaller players do not. I’ve heard of only one over-the-fence home run in our rec league this year in any division, compared to a typical rate of around a dozen per year across the league in recent years.

However, it’s not just about the “pop.” It’s also about the weight and balance of the bats and how well they can be controlled. Did that change too?

Yes. The weight, balance, and controllability of USAbats has changed.

My overall impression is that, compared to their predecessor models, all USAbat models I have seen used in play feel heavier to swing and are more difficult to control. The result is fewer quality line drives and/or deep fly balls. Here’s an anecdote to illustrate.

My son has a friend about 6 months younger than him in the 12u division with league-leading hitting mechanics, or close to it. Last year, I saw him hit well during games with his Combat Vigor 2 5/8″ bat. He is even more impressive with the Combat Vigor in batting practice, line driving over 2/3 of hittable pitches to deep center field. He likes composite bats so he obtained the Rawlings Quatro, which had impressed early adopters relative to other composite USAbat models. I saw him swing with both of these bats doing batting practice off his dad’s BP pitching. The difference was dramatic, despite both being 30″ drop 10 bats. His swing speed was visibly slower with the Quatro and his normally beautiful swing mechanics did not look so beautiful. In his own words, “This bat feels heavy and I’m lugging it through to the ball.” The Quatro hit quality was much worse, with most hits being grounders, popups, fly balls, and foul balls. He did hit a few line drives, but not quite as far. In short, he had a much harder time controlling the bat.

Bottom line is that all USAbat models are harder to swing, have less pop, and are not as easy to control as their USSSA counterpart bats of yesteryear. This was certainly the case for the Element Axe bat as well, as I explain in detail below.

A Few Words about What 13u Players Need in a Bat

No age is more complicated than 13u when it comes to getting the right bat. For details on that and to get better context for this article, see my recent piece on bat needs for 13u players. A very big consideration for 13u players is the fact that heavy drop 3 BBCOR bats are just around the corner. Some players may already be required to use BBCOR for middle school teams. But even for the majority who aren’t yet required to use BBCOR, many will be on a 14u travel ball team come August 1, and will therefore be swinging BBCOR.

Many coaches therefore believe that 13u is a year to get ready for BBCOR by ramping up bat weight. It’s helpful to consider what kind of BBCOR bat the 13u player will be using in a few months.

It can be a challenge for players of average size and ability to swing a heavy 31″, 28oz ounce bat. For small, light, pre-pubescent players like my son, the challenge is nearly insurmountable. The advice I’m receiving is that he should use a 30″ bat when he first swings BBCOR. So it makes sense for him to continue using 30″ bats in his 13u year, ramping up weight as fast as he is able.

A Few Words about my Son

My son was 5′ 0″, 88 pounds throughout the Spring season. Last year (2017) was his best year of hitting thanks in part due to practicing more, but also because the Axe bat he used worked very well for him. He didn’t strike out much, and the majority of hits were hard hits to the outfield. Hitting is not the strongest part of his game, but it looked like he was starting to emerge as a solid 12u hitter.

However 13u is the age our league starts using the big field (we go from 50/70 field to 60/90). Hitting it to the outfield takes more strength, and when making this transition, he had to use a bat conforming to the new USAbat standard.

So how did he do with his new Axe bat?

So How Good (or Bad) is the Drop 8 Element?

The first drop 8 Element he tried was 31″ long. I received it in October and figured that he would grow a bit, and be able to handle it by the Spring season. His first swings with it were noticeably slower than with his existing 30″ bats. In every way we tested the bat, he performed worse than with his other bats, ranging all the way from the batting tee to live pitching. Quite telling was that when I pitched easy batting practice to him, he could rarely hit the ball well, and when he did, it usually didn’t go as far as with last year’s drop 10 Axe.

In the end, I had to conclude that I made a mistake in getting a 31″ drop 8 bat for a 5′ 0″ 88 pound player. He never did gain weight because he slacked off on workouts, and he didn’t grow much either. As I explained in the 13u bat needs article, it’s not a great move to increase bat length as a 13u anyway. Increasing bat weight is the way to go, to get ready for BBCOR. He abandoned using the 31″ Element mid-season.

He does like Axe bats though so he then tried the 30″ drop 8 Element. This was more like it. His swing looked good off the tee, and while he was not as good at first with batting practice pitches, he got pretty good with it after a few sessions, nearly matching his performance with the drop 10 Axe bat from last year in terms of consistency and how hard/far he could hit the ball.

However, his game performance remained poor, and never really picked up. Gamechanger doesn’t track whiff rate (number of swinging strikes), but his strikeout rate was the highest it’s ever been (32% of plate appearances), and the quality of his hits was low, certainly lower on average than all prior seasons.

Simply put, my son has always had good bat control with prior one-piece Axe bats. He had terrible control with the 31″ Axe Element USAbat, and while his bat control with the 30″ Element was better than with the 31″, it was not good enough to translate into good in-game results. What I mean by control is the ability to adjust mid-swing in order to square up the sweet spot well with the ball.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, though, this wasn’t just about an Axe bat that missed the mark. I saw this throughout our rec league—hit quality with the new USAbat models was down across the board, and I can’t say I really saw any player control a USAbat model really well this year, regardless of model.

Also—a number of FilterJoe readers have left comments or sent me private emails expressing satisfaction with the drop 8 Axe Bat Element, especially models that were 29″ or less in length. This makes sense. If the bats are more end-weighted and difficult to control than in prior years, a way to make it easier to control is to go down in length.

On the bright side, this bat is probably closer to what he’s going to experience with BBCOR than a USSSA bat would have been. My son has realized (belatedly) that it’s going to take a lot of work for a smaller guy like him to be able to swing a BBCOR bat. If he can’t even hit well with a drop 8 USAbat, it’s going to be all the harder with drop 3 BBCOR.

I normally report on the actual versus stated weights for all bats I review. In the past, Axe bats have consistently weighed approximately 1 ounce or so heavier than the weight specified on the bat. That is approximately what I found with these two 2 5/8″ bats:

Year Model Length Printed Weight Actual Weight
2018 Element USAbat L139F 31″ 23.0 oz 23.8 oz
2018 Element USAbat L139F 30″ 22.0 oz 23.3oz

I do wonder if he would have been more successful with the 30″ if it were only 1.0 ounces over, as opposed to 1.3 ounces.

Who Should Use this Bat?

I’m guessing that part of what’s going on here is that bat makers can no longer make aluminum barrels that are super thin as in prior years, because that would cause the barrels to have too much pop, failing testing for the USAbat standard. Therefore, with thicker barrel walls, USAbat models are more end weighted and therefore difficult to swing with good control than in prior years. It sure looks like it when I watch my son and many other players swinging these bats.

Therefore, many of the old weight/length charts for bats may be out of date. For example, were my son swinging a 30″ drop 8 USSSA Axe Bat, he might be doing fine. But at 88 pounds and 5′ 0″ tall, he is not quite big/strong enough to swing a 30″ drop 8 Axe USAbat very well. To regain control of his bat, he probably would have been better off swinging a USAbat model that was either 29″ drop 8, or 30″ drop 10.

So who should use this bat? If your player likes the Axe knob design, this bat is worth looking into if you size it correctly. If your player weighs over 95 pounds, the 30″ Axe Element USAbat model should work well, and I’m guessing something like 110 pounds for the 31″ model. The 30″ is already working well for my 88-pound son in batting practice so it seems plausible that he’ll start hitting well with it in games when he gains just a few more pounds.

The Axe bat knob has multiple benefits (which I described in my first Axe bat article) and there have been many reports of the Element working well for players who use a length matched reasonably well to their body weight. Don’t make the mistake I made of thinking your player may be able to soon “grow into” an Axe USAbat model, or any other USAbat model for that matter.

Concluding Remarks

My son has used several Axe bats over the last few years. He much prefers the Axe knob design over standard knob design, and he’s really liked being able to control the one-piece Axe bats he’s used in the past. The Drop 8 Element has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for the Axe bat knob and one-sided hitting. However . . .

The 2018 Drop 8 Axe Element USAbat model is the first single piece Axe bat model he’s found difficult to control. It’s a big step down from the amazing USSSA 2 5/8″ drop 10 Axe bats he used last year. My son would obviously prefer to use a USSSA single-piece aluminum Axe bat anywhere it’s legal for use.

In fact, the other day he did get to use last year’s drop 10 USSSA Axe bat in a scrimmage, and while his hitting wasn’t spectacular, it was good enough—for the first time all season he reached 1st base with each plate appearance during a game. He will be allowed to use the USSSA Axe bat for a few games prior to August 1 this summer and is looking forward to having a few last games of hitting success before the BBCOR struggle begins this August.

The big question is how does the Axe Bat Element USAbat model compare with other USAbat models. After seeing a bunch of these USAbats in action, I’m not seeing any of them that stand out significantly above the rest. I have seen a few that seem especially bad. The Element does not seem to be among the particularly bad USAbat models, but I hope that next year’s model is easier to control than this year’s model. Until then, my advice is:

If you have to use a USAbat model, and you like the Axe knob, consider what length and weight you need. Then get a bat that is not as long or as heavy as what you thought you needed. From what I’ve observed so far, all USAbat models are more difficult to control than their equivalent weight/length counterparts in USSSA models, so only by reducing length or weight will players be able to regain control of their bats.

Note that when BBCOR first came out, the first year models did not impress. After several years of innovation, there are many BBCOR models that hitters far prefer over wood bats, despite the barrel itself having no more pop than that of a wood barrel. My expectation is that that, within few years or possibly as early as next year, there will be some USAbat models that are much easier to control than any of this year’s models.

This article may have come off as critical of the USAbat standard. Personally, I think it’s a good thing long run. Obviously USAbat models aren’t as easy to get hits with as prior year models. After all, that’s the point! And it worked. My son had his worst hitting results ever at the plate with his USAbat, with a .129 batting average. But he also had his best year as a pitcher. He did not even give up a run (earned or otherwise) in his first 13 1/3 innings of pitching.

Hitters’ losses are pitchers’ gains.

My son still loves the Axe bat design and is more eager to do batting practice with an Axe bat and its ergonomic knob than the alternatives. He didn’t hit all that well with one of Baden’s first USAbat offerings, the Element. But it did wake him up to the following reality: if he’s going to be swinging a heavy BBCOR bat a couple months from now, he’d better start practicing hitting a lot more than he ever has before.

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.

14 thoughts on “Axe Bat Review: Element Drop 8 USAbat vs Prior USSSA Youth Axe Offerings”

  1. I agree that the hitting this year with the USAbats is down significantly. What I see is that the bigger kids with good mechanics are still hitting it to the outfield (or over the fence), but the smaller kids with good mechanics are striking out or aren’t making it out of the infield. The smaller kids with poor mechanics are either striking out, or hitting what could best be described as a swinging bunt that barely makes it past the pitcher’s mound.

    The USAbats have definitely slowed the exit velocity, which I think is a good thing. Earlier this season an opposing batter hit a line drive into our pitchers mid-section. Luckily it hit him in the stomach, and just knocked the wind out of him, but it could have been much worse, especially if the batter had been using one of the old bats. I am all for making the game safer, but I do wonder what impact the standard will have on smaller or less talented kids. I see a lot of kids getting frustrated with their weak hits or strikeouts when they were used to be a decent hitter in previous years.

    My son is 5’3” and 110 lbs at 11. He’s swinging a 31” Axe Element drop 8 this year, and doing well with it. His hitting is down a bit from last year, but I don’t attribute that to the bat. He’s been messing around with his stance, which has had the biggest negative impact on his hitting. In addition, the pitching is much better than in years past. My son moved up an age division this year (into 11 – 12u), and the size difference in the players this year is amazing. There are kids well under 5’, and others, like a kid my son played against last night, that are 5’10” and about 150 lbs.

    On a positive note for Axe, I’ve seen a lot more Axe bats this year than in years past. Before this year I think I’ve only seen one or two Axe bats used in games in a season. This year, every team has an Axe bat, and usually more than one. My son likes his, and we’ll be sticking with the same length / weight for another year before we have to start thinking about the transition to BBCOR.

  2. Thank you for another great posting. Before I comment on the USA Axe bats, I figured I’d give some of my experience with the USA bats used by my Major (10-12) and Farm (6-9) teams. From what I could see, the USA bats certainly had less “pop”, and I would agree, there were less variation in perceived quality as to the various USA bats. With the old 1.15 bpf bats, there were certainly benefits from some of the composite or half and half bats, and there was a lot of performance variations among all of the different all metal bats.

    Although I did not coach in the majors last year, I know the home run totals were down significantly with the USA bats. However, I still saw a fair share of decent line drives…just less to the fence. Our league also had breakage issues with the USA Quatro. The Ghost X hit most all the home runs, but in defense of DeMarini, its composite did not hit the stores in Santa Clarita Valley until the season had begun.

    Now to the Axe Bats. After last season’s fall ball, I knew it was time to get USA bats for my boys to practice with. My 10 year old son, who is 4’6” and 82 lbs, handled an Axe Origin at Dicks Sporting Goods and said he wanted an Axe bat. He had no interest in any other bat. As such, because he will also play on a club team, I bought him a drop 8 Axe USA Element, and a used drop 9 Axe Elite 1.15 bpf bat for club (thanks Ebay).

    Prior to the Axe USA bat, my son (as a Little League 9 year old) was using a 31” drop 13 Combat composite, and a 30” drop 12 Demarini Vexxum half and half (he used this 90% of the time). Switching to a 2 5/8” barrel, and moving up a division to majors, we decided to keep him at a 30” bat. I was worried with the drop 8, but my son claims the Axe Element USA drop 8 is easier to swing than any of the “regular” handled drop 10 USA bats.

    We received the used Axe Elite first, and in his first practice session he hit it well. Then, over the next few practices, he seemed to miss some 50 pitches in a row getting used to the new handle. However, when he got used to it, he became a better hitter (he has been a good hitter in the farm and minor leagues since he was 6). With the Axe, he stopped being an opposite field hitter and began to pull the ball and hit with more power. In fact, when Spring season began, we had to move him up six inches towards the pitcher to keep him from fouling off too many pitches out of play to the left. I truly believe the Axe handle leads to quicker hands.

    For Little League, he used the Axe USA Element (30”, 22 oz.). For certain, the older 1.15 bpf model allowed him to hit the ball further. In fact, when a used Axe Elite USA (30”, 35 oz.) finally came up for sale used on Ebay, I bought it. Despite the drop 5, and although he could hit the slower pitchers (and coach BP) better with the drop 5 Axe Elite USA, it still did not hit as well as the 1.15 bpf drop 9 Axe Elite.

    All in all, as a 10 year old in the majors, he hit well with the Axe USA bats. Many of the other players wanted to use it, but my son, and others I’ve read about, had a learning curve to get used to the unique bat handle. In fact, my co-coach, who favors traditional bats, is now coming around on the idea of the Axe bat, and believes more and more will keep using it. I suspect he would push the Axe Bat if they only had a USA compliant all composite (we have not yet hit with the 1.15 bpf all composite Axe).

    Unfortunately, the USA compliant half and half Elite only comes in drop 5 and there is no USA all composite at this time. (Come on Axe….give us another choice or two.)

    Based on last season, our current All-Stars and the beginning of club ball, I am a big fan of the Axe bats. However, I do urge anyone wanting to try it to give it a week of practice and hit a few hundred balls. The handle certainly quickens the swing, and it takes a bit to get used to. However, I believe it is a bat worth trying. I love the Elite, but the USA version is end-loaded heavy. The Element USA was, in my opinion, the best all metal bat out there last season. I have no experience with the Origin.

  3. Both Ron and Mark – Thanks for sharing your experiences/perspective. I only saw one other player besides my son swinging Axe in our rec league this year (he also struggled with the 31″ which was was too big for his size), so I didn’t get to see a few success stories besides my son like in prior years. In theory, the single-piece aluminum Axe bats should have a big advantage over the competition, because they are not quite as end-weighed thanks to slanted end of the barrel (which is only possible with one-sided hitting). I suspect that if my son had been just a few pounds heavier – like 95 pounds or so, he would have done much better with the 30″ bat.

    In Axe-related news, I noticed today on the official USAbat site that two drop 10 Axe models have been approved (Avenge 2 5/8″, Origins 2 1/4″). This means they will likely make them available for purchase soon. I suspect that this is the part of the market where Axe is really going to shine – especially any 2 1/4″ models they come out with. Why?

    If a 12 year old finds a drop 10 or drop 8 too heavy, they can move down in weight. However, for 7 to 10–year-olds, there is really no such thing as a light-swinging USAbat. Maybe the Easton Beast X Hyperlite as I saw some decent swing speed on that one for a couple 10-year-olds this year. But every other USAbat in the hands of 9 or 10 year olds was so slow, it was painful to watch. Most of the actual weights are 2 to 3 ounces over the spec weight for these nonAxe USAbat models. Will be interesting to see if these drop 10 Axe models are as good as I think (versus the USAbat competition) and take off as quickly as I expect them too.

  4. I also coached a team with six to eight year olds. You are correct in that the swings were worse with the USA bats. Only the bigger than average kids maintained a proper swing. Since my 7 year old wanted a Beast X, I purchased it too big so he can use it the next two seasons. He hit OK, but his swing was not what is should have been.

  5. I also purchased my son an Easton Beast x last year, thinking he would grow into it (and not wanting to shell out $200 for a bat he would only use one year). I got him a 30/20 big barrel Beast. He’s 8, and 4-6, 62 lbs. So he’s tall but skinny, and he was able to handle the bat well enough to hit the ball reasonably well – a lot of grounders and opposite field hits. But it was too big for him, and I now realize next year it would be too big too…took him to the batting cage recently and he was consistently getting solid contact off 54 mph with an 18 oz bat, which he would have no chance of with his beast. So based on that and this blog I just purchased him a 29/19 axe origin. He’s a contact hitter (somehow never struck out all season with a bat way too big for him) so I’m interested to see how he does with a smaller, lighter, thinner axe bat. I haven’t seen any reviews yet of this new origin bat, so I will let you know how it goes.

  6. Thanks Joecancer – Would love to hear a report back on the 29/19 Origin. I can’t imagine a 62 pound 8-year-old having great success with a 30/20 USAbat model of any kind, let alone an overweighted Easton. A 28″ or 29″ drop 10 Axe would be what I would recommend for someone that size so I’m really looking forward to you reporting back to see the 29″ length turns out to work out well for him.

  7. Will do. He was still one of the better hitters in his league with the huge beast (I realize it sounds like I’m bragging here but I’m just being honest). I assume the big barrel helped compensate for the reduction in swing speed to help him make contact. I just hope I didn’t screw up his swing by having him use such a big bat. I don’t see why that would be the case, but that seems to be a common concern with swinging a too-heavy bat. I guess we’ll see.

  8. So we got the Axe Origin (ordered direct from the company). The boy was eagerly awaiting its arrival, and we finally got out to test drive it yesterday. I told him we could try it for 30 days and if he didn’t like it, we could return it free of charge…

    Well, that won’t be necessary. After two swings (two long line drives over my head) he announced that we are keeping it. After some initial concerns about holding it correctly, it really didn’t take him long to get used to the grip. We ended up doing a test of the 29/19 Origin against his other bats, a 30/20 Beast X big barrel and a 29/17 Easton S300. The S300 is an older USSSA bat, about the same size as the small barrel Origin.

    After a bunch of hitting off my pitching, as well as some soft toss, the Origin clearly outperformed the Beast. The Beast is heavier, but he’s used to it at this point after about 6 months. Solid hits with the Origin consistently went harder and farther than solid hits with the Beast (nothing drastic, but definitely noticeable). Overall, I would say the Origin performed more in line with the 29/17 Easton USSSA bat, which is saying something considering the weight difference and that the Origin is a USA version and therefore supposedly weaker. He was able to pull the ball with the Origin, which is something he just can’t do with the Beast. So the 19 oz Origin seemed to play more like a 18 or 17 oz bat.

    I compared the bats by tossing myself some tennis balls. Again, the Origin and Easton 29/17 USSSA bat hit the tennis balls about just as far, but both outperformed the Beast X by about 5-10 feet (mind you these were tennis balls, so not sure it was too scientific of a test).

    Overall, very pleased with our first experience with the bat. It’s a sleek nice looking bat, but I think we may replace the thin grip with a thicker Lizard Skin grip because he did get a bit of stinging. The hyper whip end cap on the bat we got is slightly off line from the rest of the bat, but it’s very slight and probably won’t make a difference, so I’m not going to exchange it. Plus, he’s already basically in love with the one we have. For only $70 (and with the free 30 day trial), I definitely recommend giving it a try.

  9. JoeCancer – Thanks very much for reporting in! The end results you’re describing is in line with what I was expecting from the Axe Origin: greater swing speed and better bat control (due to Hyperwhip, and to a lesser extent the knob design). The USAbat standard means it has less pop than the USSSA 29/17 so it is the greater swing speed that causes the ball to travel as far.

  10. Hi Joe,

    I’m about to pull the trigger on the new Axe Avenge One bat, but the JGOL10 code isn’t working. It says my order doesn’t meet the requirements for the code. Am I doing something wrong or is the code dead? Thanks!

  11. Hi Matt – I know in the past that the code has stopped working for a day or two a couple times when Axe had a big sitewide sale or did a big site upgrade. I just emailed my contact and will let you know what I find out from him, probably by end of day today but certainly no later than end of day Monday. Thanks for letting me know about the glitch.

  12. Matt – I did communicate to company. Did not receive a response yet so I don’t really know if I had anything to do with it – but sounds like it was a temporary glitch that was fixed. Thanks for letting me know!

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