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Friday, March 16, 2007

Pings vs. Cracks: should metal bats be banned?

Here's a topic for discussion: should little leagues and high school teams allow metal bats?

Over on Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered (no subscription required), there have been a pair of posts (3/14 & 3/15) by Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein about a bill approved by the NYC legislature banning metal bats from New York high school teams. The argument is that metal bats cause balls to be hit harder, and therefore are more likely to cause life-threatening injuries. While largely backed up by anecdotal evidence, there have apparently been cases in which kids have been killed by being hit in the chest by a batted ball off of an aluminum bat.

Carroll argues that this bill is just common sense, and that wooden bat manufacture has been improved to such a degree that they are no longer significantly less durable and cost-effective than metal bats. Goldstein argues that cost may still be a factor, but that metal bat manufacturers could address the safety issue by producing bats that are less potent.

Admittedly it's going to be a while yet before my kid is playing little league, but since I'm sure many of you have children in little league, I wanted to ask you folks your take on this issue:
  1. Are you worried about the use of metal bats in little league?
  2. Is there any discussion in your local little leagues about the possibility of eliminating metal bats?
  3. Do you think that wooden bats can still be cost effective (e.g. compare wooden bat cost vs. cost for metal bats used in little league--do kids actually use the $500 whip-handled, carbon fiber bats?)?
  4. How would you compare this controversy to other safety-related controversies, such as the use of face guards on batting helmets? Is the concern more or less real? How much would the use of wooden bats change the game?