Bat Barrel Compression

Published by Kyle Hodge, Lead Product & Testing Engineer

Bat Barrel Compression: What is it, and why is it important?

Around the game of baseball and softball today, the concept of “barrel compression” is becoming increasingly more well-known to the average player, coach, or parent.  What is barrel compression, and how might it affect the performance of the bat you are using?

Covered in this post:
  • Barrel Compression Basics
  • Comparing Barrel Compressions from bat to bat
  • Barrel Compression Outliers
  • How Does This Help Me Choose or Care for a Bat?

Barrel Compression Basics

Barrel compression describes the scientific method used to measure the deflection (or flex) of a baseball or softball bat barrel wall, replicating what may happen when the barrel is impacted by a pitched ball. The barrel compression method may be performed in a lab with a high precision barrel compression machine, capable of measuring barrel compressions accurate to the ±0.01lb, or performed on-field using hand-held devices, that while not as accurate, are much more portable.  

In essence, what is being accomplished when completing a barrel compression sequence, is answering the question “How many pounds of force does it take to compress this barrel by “X” distance?”.  For baseball, standard test methods denote a displacement distance (“X”) of 0.04”, for softball the same standard methods denote an “X” value of 0.07”.   More specifics on the science of barrel compression can be read according to the Washington State University Sports Science Lab here. In general, lower barrel compression may coincide with more trampoline affect, and increased barrel performance.

Comparing Barrel Compressions

Q: If lower barrel compression is always better, what more do I need to know?

Comparing barrel compressions of two otherwise identical bats can be a good indicator of how a bat may perform.  It can also be a good indicator of how “broken-in” a composite bat has become, or how much life the bat may still have.

However, comparing bats of two different makeups, constructions, designs, or brands may be tricky. Many design aspects of a composite bat may affect barrel compression, without affecting the barrel performance accordingly.

Barrel Compression Outliers

Due to Axe Bat’s engineered hitting zone, specific barrel compression differences can be seen in the hitting zone versus non hitting zone – however, when barrel compression is measured on any given bat barrel, it will inherently take the average of the two sides of the barrel that are compressed between the two fixtures.

A clear example of this situation can be seen in Axe Bat’s tri-flex barrel technology seen below, in which a thin, stiff non-hitting face is counterbalanced with a thicker, livelier multi-wall hitting face, designed for both performance and durability.

As can be imagined, when a standard barrel compression sequence is enacted on a bat barrel, the output value will be an approximate average of both the livelier, lower compression hitting face, and the stiffer, higher compression non-hitting face. This phenomenon can also be seen in our Power Gap technology, pictured below.

Additionally, bats that use both an inner and outer barrel, such as Axe Bat’s Power Gap technology in some cases, can exhibit lower than expected barrel compressions, dependent on the distance between inner and outer barrels, due to the compression sequence only truly measuring the stiffness of the outer barrel only, without contacting the inner barrel. This drastic difference in barrel compression can also be seen in other bat models in the market.

Despite potential challenges listed above, some Axe Bat models will still feature incredibly low barrel compressions, such as Axe Bat’s 2023 Avenge Pro USSSA [-10] (launching this Spring, 2022), which will feature the lowest barrel compression ever measured in the Axe Bat lab, of any USSSA composite baseball bat (bat market leaders included).

How Does This Help Me Choose or Care for a Bat?

Barrel compression should almost never be the sole reason for purchasing a bat, however, when used in the correct context, can be a useful tool for evaluating a bat’s performance or lifespan.

Additionally, certainly leagues, predominately slowpitch softball, will feature barrel compression limits, in which only bats with certain barrel compressions can be used during tournament play.  This can be seen in Axe Bat’s new Avenge Pro 240 model, which meets the new USSSA standard for slowpitch tournament play, in which bats must meet a minimum barrel compression of 240lb (often times, barrel compression will be tested prior to games, utilizing a portable fixture on-field). Such a fixture can be seen in the photo below:

When barrel compression drops to a level that is close to the barrel compression minimum (for example, 240lb for USSSA softball), it is a good practice to reserve your bat for game swings only from that point forward. This will give your bat the maximum game lifespan with maximum performance.

With a proper understanding of the barrel compression process, and what it may mean for you or your player – you can be confident you’re making the correct decision when purchasing or monitoring a new bat.