Check out this video of baseball’s hottest prospect – Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals – using a 36-inch, 47-ounce bat during an indoor batting practice at Bat-R-Up in Las Vegas back in December. Thanks to Hardball Talk for posting this video and making it easy for me to find it.
The comment chain of this blog post on HBT starts getting into the specific benefits/detriments of having players use an oversized bat during batting practice. One commenter compares this BP strategy to “swinging with a donut on the bat.”
According to some of the other commenters, sport scientists who have studied bat speed much more scientifically than I have found that those that warm up with a heavier bat actually wind up swinging more slowly. So while swinging a big stick might be good for building strength, doing BP to improve bat speed requires using a lighter bat.
Harper doesn’t seem to have any issues swinging the bigger stick, which to me indicates he swings it pretty often. Word from the comment chain is that the bigger bat training method is fairly common one at higher levels for players that can do it while maintaining their normal swing.
Is swinging an oversized stick better than swinging a donut right before your AB? Sounds like it to me. If a player can work towards improving their bat speed while also working every muscle they need to make their swing quicker while also hitting against live pitching (even if it’s just BP) – the sounds like a good thing.
For what it’s worth, according to the last commenter in the chain… Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bat stood 36-inches and weighed in at 48-ounces. He called her Black Betsy.
What’s your recommended approach to improving bat speed? Using a donut outside of the batter’s box, a big stick to improve muscle strength, or a smaller stick to improve twitch muscle response? Let me know in the comments below.