Every hitter in the world has felt that painful sting in their hand after a poor hit with the bat. Maybe you hit the ball with the barrel end instead of the center. Or maybe the ball swerved, and you connected inside the barrel.
In either case, the ball will send vibrations down the bat, which will make its way to your hands.
The vibration is quite intense, and some hitters even have to drop the bat as it becomes extremely difficult to hold on to it. But what exactly causes this vibration? And exactly how can you make sure that does not happen to your bat when you swing?
While there is a lot of science behind why the bat vibrates relating to frequency and what-not, not everyone, myself included, wants to bother with that.
What you need to know is that if you do not hit the ball with the sweet spot of the bat, it will vibrate and rattle uncontrollably. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let me give you a thorough rundown of why a softball bat vibrates and what you can do to reduce it.
Why Does the Softball Bat Rattle or Vibrate?
Simply put, the impact of the ball on the softball bat causes it to rattle and vibrate. But you may have noticed that when you get a good hit on the ball, you feel practically no vibration in the bat. That is because you managed to hit the ball with the “sweet spot” of the bat.
Now, what does the sweet spot mean? The sweet spot is the term that softball players and coaches use to refer to the dead center of the bat. When you strike the ball with the sweet spot of the bat, the ball flies further, and the vibration is eliminated almost entirely.
The reason behind it is that as you swing, you generate a lot of kinetic energy. And when you hit the ball with the sweet spot, all of that stored energy gets transferred to the softball allowing it to drive down the field without leaving any opposing impact or rattling on the bat.
Let’s talk about three scenarios where you hit the ball with three different parts of the bat, center of the barrel (sweet spot), near the barrel (outside the sweet spot), and near the handle (inside the sweet spot).
1. Center of The Barrel/ Sweet Spot = No Vibration + No Sting
If you manage to hit the ball with the dead center of the barrel, then you will feel almost nothing. And I am not making that up. Most power hitters, when asked if their hand stings after a perfect shot, say that they do not feel anything.
The reason is that all of the energy stored in the bat gets fully transferred to the ball. In addition, the velocity of the bat gets cut by almost half, allowing you to slow it down without feeling any vibration in your hands.
2 . Near the Barrel/ Outside the Sweet Spot = A Lot of Vibration + Painful Sting
In the next scenario, you managed to hit the ball with the far end of the barrel. This hit will send a lot of vibration throughout the bat causing your hand to sting if you try to hold on to the bat after the shot.
With this type of hit, the ball will not fly as far, and the energy transfer will not be efficient. The residual kinetic energy pent up in the bat when you swing the softball bat gets bounced back and causes the bat to start vibrating.
3. Near the Handle/ Inside the Sweet Spot = A Lot of Vibration + Painful Sting
You can also miss the sweet spot if you hit the ball with the inside end of the barrel. And surprise, this hit too will send vibrations throughout its length, causing a massive sting in your hands.
The reason behind it is the same as scenario two, the energy transfer is not efficient, and the pent-up kinetic energy backfires on the bat. So, holding on to the bat becomes very difficult, and the quality of the hit becomes poor. In the three scenarios I described above, only one gives you a vibration-free experience. And that is the scenario that all hitters should try to replicate.
Other than vibration because of poor hits, there is also another possibility that the bat is dead. When a softball bat nears the end of its lifespan, it can start to rattle or vibrate even when you hit the ball with its sweet spot. So, this can also be a reason why your softball bat is vibrating.
Besides, if you are using an aluminum alloy softball bat, even a high-end one, it will sting your hand. In fact, this is one of the major shortcomings of an aluminum bat.
What Does a Rattle in a Softball Bat Mean?
Your softball bat vibrating can mean only two things; either you missed the sweet spot of the ball when you hit it, or the softball bat is broken. Most aluminum bats are susceptible to vibrating to some extent. Composite bats, on the other hand, typically feature different technologies that can reduce vibration.
If your softball bat started rattling suddenly even when you managed to get a good hit with its sweet spot, then the bat might be nearing the end of its lifespan. In that case, you would be better off investing in a new softball bat, preferably a composite one, if you do not want to deal with the annoying sting.
How Do You Stop a Softball Bat from Vibrating or Rattling?
The first step to stopping the bat from vibrating is to identify the cause. If your softball bat is vibrating because of poor hits, then all I can tell you is to get better. There is no easy way out of it, unfortunately.
To stop the vibration of the bat when you swing, make sure you swing perfectly. That is the only thing that can help you get better at your game. You simply need to practice more and make your swings more consistent, hitting the ball with the sweet spot every hit.
Other options to reduce the vibration are to wear a glove or install a vibration-eliminating bat knob. But even if you decide to go that route, you need to make sure you are hitting the ball perfectly if you truly want to get rid of bat vibrations when you swing.
You can also wrap the handle of your bat with leather or padding to reduce some of the vibrations that you feel. Your bat will, of course, vibrate the same on missed hits, but you will not feel it as intensely.
I would not recommend this route as it can mess with your grip. In the long run, it can also affect your overall performance as a hitter. It is simply not worth the risk.
Do Composite Softball Bats Vibrate or Rattle?
While a good composite softball bat will almost always come with some form of sting-dampening feature, it is not fully free of it. You will still feel some vibration in your bat and hands because of a poor connection. compared to alloy bats, composite bats do not feel as unpleasant when they vibrate.
Wooden bats are also in the same boat offering less vibration compared to their alloy counterparts. Then again, aluminum bats come with a larger sweet spot than composite or wood bats. So even though it vibrates more on missed hits, it is much easier to hit the ball with the bat’s sweet spot if it is made of alloy.
Do Batting Gloves Help with Vibration?
The main purpose of batting gloves is not to eliminate bat vibration but rather to provide safety for your hands. If a rogue softball or baseball pitch flies off and hits your arm, it can hurt a lot. By wearing a pair of batting gloves, you will have some level of protection for your hands.
Reducing the sting and vibration of a bat is a secondary and welcome advantage to wearing it. But not all bats come with a vibration-eliminating feature. Only the ones that come with special padding or those designed to be worn during winter offer good protection against stinging.
A Few Words of Wisdom
The key to eliminating vibration or rattling in your bat is to hit with consistency. I am not saying you need to make every swing count. But the balls that you do manage to hit, make sure you are hitting them with the sweet spot of the bat. Only then can you ensure there is no vibration or rattling in your bat.
The sting you get from a poor connection of the bat does not feel that pleasant. But it can become a learning tool for you. Think of it as negative reinforcement. Keep practicing hard, and you can make all your time spent in the batting cage truly worth it. Cheers!