Understanding why the Gattaca launches well hit balls with more consistency takes a decent understanding of how bats and balls interact. It is more complicated than most appreciate---or care to appreciate.
How does it work?
To gain a cursory understanding of how the bat claims to improve performance, know this much:
- The 2020 Gattaca uses multiple angled grooves--roughly 1/4 inch thick--on the inside of the barrel. These angles move lengthwise (from knob to end cap).
- These grooves are angled such that, at impact, the angles are parallel to the ground.
- Since optimal bat paths tend to be slightly upwards the grooves are angled based on the bat's path. This is why the left and right handed bats are different---since the swing plane of a left handed hitter is the opposite of a right handed hitter--the grooves in the right (blue) and left (red) bats are angled opposite of each other.
- DeMarini's data claims that, when compared to a non-grooved bat, hitters get more consistently optimal ball flight on well hit balls when inner-barrel grooved angles are parallel to the ground at impact.
- The claim is not that balls will now fly further than they ever have---DeMarini has not broken the BBCOR barrier with the Gattaca. Instead, the claim is that optimally hit balls (good launch angle, contact and swing plane) will produce more consistently optimal hits because parallel grooves in the barrel at impact optimize the impedance matching.
- As a fictitious example, if a given player hits six home runs in a year and flies out eight times to the warning track, the idea is they'll now hit ten home runs in a year with four fly outs to the warning track.
- It follows, then, that if you're not hitting some balls out and some balls to the warning track then the Gattaca might not be for you. If you are a smaller hitter, without home run or gap type power, parallel grooves on the inner barrel won't improve your OPS. (Neither will it hurt your OPS).
- Power type hitter who miss out on a few extra base hits and a couple dingers a year might find a huge benefit in the Gattaca.
- This benefit mostly to power hitters is why the bat does not come in smaller sizes (like a 32 or 31). That is, because smaller hitters won't necessarily appreciate the added optimization a grooved barrel brings to their non-existent long ball.
Impedance Matching: What you Should Know
is a term the bat industry uses to describe how a bat and a ball interact with each other. The general sentiment is simple enough even if the physics behind it is more complicated than is useful for us here. As a bat and a ball collide, the way in which they squish and rebound matters, a lot. That concept determines, in large measure, how bats vibrate to your hands, how much energy is transferred to the ball and how the ball's spin, trajectory and exit speed are affected.
All other things equal (speed, collision force, mass, etc.), the characteristics of the material that make up the barrel of a bat measurably affect ball flight BECAUSE the material and its structure determine how it squishes and rebounds when colliding with a ball. We call that give and take, or how a bat and ball squish and rebound simultaneously to create flight, impedance matching.
Does the 2020 Gattaca Improve Impedance Matching?
We can't find anything self-evident as to how inner-barrel parallel grooves at impact improve the impedance matching of well struck balls. But, the lack of obviousness doesn't mean it isn't true. Outside of a million dollar lab we aren't sure how we could objectively check such a claim---as much as we like our Rapsodo
We have enough experience with DeMarini and their well performing bats to give them the benefit of the doubt---the market and time usually do a good job of fleshing out performance claims. And considering their claim sounds reasonable---that a change in barrel structure improves the ball's rebound effect on SOME hits---our general gut feel is that it is true.
But, how true is it? We mean, how noticeable will such an improvement be to the average big hitter? DeMarini's test showed that a power hitter put 10% more of their hits into their maximum range. So, 5 or 6 more hits going a few feet further on any given BP session is likely not readily apparent. But, over the course of the season, might make all the difference.
If the bat performs as well as the Voodoo, and all signs point to the fact that it does, then for many power hitters the $50 increase for the Gattaca will likely be worth the bet.