Why is Bat Speed so confusing?Nov 28, 2023
Read time: 3 minutes
Watch or listen to the episode on our website: patrickjonesbaseball.com
The Pros and Cons of Bat Speed Training
This week, we’re talking about everything related to bat speed.
I see people arguing online about the importance of bat speed, and you HAVE to have a higher bat speed to compete at the highest level.
The other side seems to say it’s unimportant, and some of the best hitters don’t have a high bat speed.
I decided to dive in and do some research, and the short answer is both.
Here’s the layout of today’s newsletter
- The definition of bat speed
- How is it measured?
- What impacts bat speed?
Let’s dive in.
Bat Speed (Definition)
The definition of bat speed is more complicated than it might seem.
The generic answer might be, “The speed of the bat at impact with the ball.”
Well, that depends on how you’re measuring bat speed. Are you measuring the entire bat? Or are you measuring a specific part of the bat?
Picture via @tangotiger on Twitter.
Most technology companies like Blast Motion measure bat speed 6 inches from the tip of the bat, with the knob being the rotational point.
This makes the calculations more straightforward to understand. If we were to measure a different part of the bat and not have the knob be the rotational point, the calculations would get pretty messy.
So, the definition we’re going with is bat speed, defined as the speed of the bat's barrel, measured 6 inches from the tip (end) of the bat.
Okay, now we have the definition figured out, let’s talk about how bat speed is measured. What is the formula?
This might get a little complicated (fair warning!)
Since we are using the knob as the rotational point on the bat, we’re measuring angular speed.
Angular speed is used to measure how fast something is rotating.
• Angular Speed Basics: Angular speed measures how fast an object rotates or revolves relative to another point, here being the knob of the bat. It's like how quickly a point on a bicycle wheel's rim moves compared to its center.
• Formula Simplified:
Bat speed = Angular speed × Radius × Conversion factor.
• Angular speed is how quickly the bat rotates, measured in radians per second (rad/s).
• Radius is the distance from the bat’s knob (rotation point) to the point of impact, measured in feet.
• Conversion factor (3600/2π) changes the angular speed from radians per second to miles per hour, making it easier to understand and compare.
Bat speed (mph) = Angular speed (rad/s) * Radius (ft) * Conversation factor (3600/2π)
Here is an example:
If a bat is rotating at 52 rad/s and the sweet spot is 27 inches (2.25 ft) from the knob, the bat speed can be calculated as follows:
Bat speed (mph) = 52 rad/s * 2.25 ft * (3600/2π)
Bat speed (mph) ≈ 81.9 mph
Do you need to know the exact formula above?
Of course not; I like to know myself and thought someone else might as well.
Okay, so we now know the definition of bat speed and how it’s measured.
Let’s now talk about what impacts bat speed.
This might seem obvious, but it’s still important to note. Here is an example of why you need context when evaluating a player's bat speed.
I started working with a player not long ago, and before he came in for his assessment, I looked up some of his measurables at a showcase event. His bat speed was over 80 mph.
That is very impressive. However, when I had him for an assessment, his bat speed was between 60 and 65 mph.
A 15 mph difference?! What was the difference?
Contact point. Since it was a showcase, like most kids, he pulled every ball and made contact way out in front of the plate.
It’s always important to pair video with swing metrics.
Gripping the bat deep in your hands and squeezing it tight = less bat speed.
If you don’t believe me, grip a bat as hard as you can and try to swing fast.
A study compared hitters who choked up on the bat and those who didn’t.
As you would expect, the time to contact decreased with hitters who choked up on the bat, and their bat speed decreased (10%).
Can you imagine Barry Bonds getting an extra 10% bat speed by not choking up? Yikes!
Like any study, there will be some flaws you must consider, including how skilled the hitters were, sample size, environment, etc. Here is the study if you want to check it out.
Does muscle thickness contribute to bat speed? A study was done with 24 college baseball players. The study aimed to find out if there was a correlation between bat speed and muscle thickness.
The researchers measured the thickness of the following muscles:
• Upper abdominal rectus
• Central abdominal rectus
• Lower abdominal rectus
• Abdominal wall
• Multifidus lumborum
Upper limb muscles:
• Elbow extensors
• Elbow flexors
• Forearm muscles
Lower limb muscles:
• Knee extensors
• Knee flexors
• Ankle dorsiflexion
• Ankle plantar flexors
The study found no significant relationship between lateral asymmetry of trunk muscle thickness and bat speed.
This means that having larger muscles on one side of the body than the other does not appear to affect bat speed.
So swinging your nondominant side in the hope that it will increase bat speed is not a good use of your time; it’s not likely to make any impact.
This study also found that bat speed is correlated with muscle thickness in the abdomen and lower back on the dominant side.
This means that players with thicker muscles in these areas tend to have higher bat speeds.
On deck routine
Way back in the day. ESPN had that sports science show where they did a study with a hitter who warmed up with a donut on their bat and then took a swing, and then they had him warm up without a donut and take several swings; they found that the donut caused a decrease in bat speed.
This is one of those ‘hitting is an art’ debates. I know I had more confidence when I went to the plate with the bat, feeling like a toothpick.
So even if my bat speed was slightly lower, my confidence was higher, which was more important then.
Ideally, we want to prime the body for speed on the on-deck circle.
In a perfect world, you could have a player do a few heavy trap bar deadlifts and then swing a lighter bat that would get their motor units firing.
Here is a study done with hitters on the on-deck circle if you want to dig deeper.
A firm grip is essential in hitting. However, it doesn't have a massive impact on bat speed.
Think about how small your wrists are. You’re telling me those small things are responsible for hitting a ball 450 feet?
Think of your wrists as the steering wheel of a car. Is it important? Yes, you could have the engine of a Ferrari, but if the steering wheel doesn’t work, it’s useless.
It's the same thing in hitting; having a solid grip is essential, but don’t spend too much time obsessing over it; you need to focus more on the engine.
Bat Speed Training
Overload/underload bat speed training has been around for a long time.
Overload is referred to as swinging a bat heavier than your game-weight bat, and underload is referred to as swinging something lighter than your game-weight bat.
From what I’ve seen, swinging a bat 10-20% overload and underload from your game bat is the range that I would recommend. You can see results with significant percentages, but then you start to run the risk of getting hitters into bad habits, depending on their age.
I don’t particularly like doing a lot of overload/underload training with young kids, as I’ve seen it make some of their flaws even worse.
Bat speed is overrated because you can still be a good hitter and not have a high bat speed.
Bat speed is underrated because if you want to hit for power, you need to be able to swing the bat fast.
Solely selling out to swing the bat quicker and ignoring the other parts of your game isn’t wise.
Here are the top MLB bat speeds for 2023 via Baseball America.
Notice that only some of the best hitters are at the top.
Is bat speed critical, yes?
Is it everything? Heck no.
Whenever you're ready, there's 1 way I can help you:
I'm currently working with hitters in Cincinnati, Ohio.
If you have a hitter who wants to reach their potential and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there, please email me: