What is cupping?
Cupping is the act of carving out some of the wood in the end of the barrel of your bat. Interestingly enough, there is a fair amount of disagreement in the industry on the purpose of cupping and what it does. Some argue that it is wholly unnecessary while others believe it is a critical component of the manufacturing process. Moreover, just about every manufacturer uses a different method for how they cup their bats from various methods of machining to different bits used to remove the wood.
The primary rationale for cupping is to shave weight off to get the bat maker closer to their customer’s desired drop as typically you can shed a half an ounce or so with a healthy cup. That said, cupping has another, often underemphasized effect: pulling the bat’s center of gravity toward your hands. We at Meridian don’t believe that one argument in isolation is more prominent than the other. Rather it is our position that taken together the effects of cupping can and do help player performance.
Some argue against cupping altogether, saying that the lost density reduces structural integrity. We understand this argument, to a point, but we wonder if it isn’t a cop-out for an inability to appropriately cup a bat. I mean we get it, its physics, right? Force = Mass * Acceleration, so if you reduce mass you reduce force. But all else equal, a lighter bat leads to better acceleration, thus offsetting the lost mass and leading to equivalent force. Ok, we digress, that’s probably more science than we need…baseball is a game of instinct and gut feelings, anyway…
At Meridian, the old saying “everything in moderation” shapes our cupping philosophy. All our bats receive at least a modest cup, but our cups never go beyond 1” in depth – even though MLB regulations will allow up to 1.25”. Trust us, a cup 1.25” deep just looks flat out goofy and moreover, it starts to flirt with the sweet spot in the barrel which is exactly where you do want meat in the bat.
To us, the structural integrity argument is more relevant with respect to the type of cup. Some folks use a core-box bit to carve out their barrel – basically leaving a big bowl and a thin outer wall at the perimeter where the cup meets the barrel. We can’t count the number of times we’ve seen this type of cup backfire when someone takes one off the end of the bat and the thin perimeter essentially caves in. This is why we employ a specially machined bit to ensure thick walls and maximum strength at the end of our barrels – so even if we do use that 1” cup, your barrel will be safe from cratering.
One final thing we’d note on cupping, as if everything above wasn’t enough. Make sure your cup is sealed. Wood equalizes through the ends and bats are no exception. Seal it off, and you should have a bat that over time fluctuates less in moisture content and thus weight. Of course, with a Meridian stick, you don’t need to worry about it…we got you covered!
What’s that light colored circle on the bat handle you in MLB games?
Fellow ballplayers, meet the ink-dot. The ink-dot is the final recommendation of a study commenced by MLB with the aid of the US Forestry Service back in 2008-2009. Too many maple bats were breaking in two pieces jeopardizing the safety of players and fans at Major League games. The study concluded that these were taking place because the slope of grain on these bats was far too severe. So, as a means of policing grain quality, the ink-dot was introduced to measure whether or not the grain structure was within +/- 3 degrees. Please note that it doesn’t measure the grain you see with the naked eye, as deviations here are common, but rather deviations in the underlying grain structure. In layman’s terms, you want the ink to bleed exactly vertical in-line with the bat.
To make matters more confusing, the test is required only of diffuse-porous woods – or for practical purposes, Birch and Maple. As a maple bat provider, all Meridian Bats receive the ink-dot test, whether or not they are going to the professional ranks or not. A lot of bat makers out there will pawn off their “pro-grade” maple to the amateur and yet not include an ink-dot. We’ve seen a lot of these lately when roaming batting practice at townball fields across the state. “Pro Grade” prominently displayed on the barrel, yet no ink-dot on the handle. Make sure the bat maker proves to you that it is a pro-grade stick – with the ink-dot. There’s a better than even chance that if you don’t see an ink-dot, it is sawn lumber. And when it’s sawn, you’re introducing greater human error and more severe grain deviations, which brings us to…
…the benefit of splits. You can saw your lumber, or split it. Long story short, when you split it, you virtually guarantee straighter grain than sawn lumber as the wood breaks naturally where it is supposed to, not where some slacker running a saw thinks it should. As such, with splits, you have a dramatically lower likelihood of producing a bat with a slope of grain in excess of 3 degrees. What’s the catch? Well, splits are considerably more expensive than sawn lumber…
Once again though, at Meridian, these are not things you have to worry about. We don’t cut corners. We use only hand splits and we ink-dot all of our bats. Every. Single. One. AND, we produce them at an extremely competitive price for all our customers whether you’re an amateur, or a professional.
Baseball is an egalitarian game, and our bats are no different!
Thanks for taking a look!