We have yet to hear anyone claim they purchased such a bat because they love the end cap. It’s the least sexy part of any bat. While the end cap gets put in the crapper, things like barrel size, brand name, and grip-feel are the features that get noticed. Some bat connoisseurs might notice the knob taper and have commentary on the handle-to-barrel transition. But, end cap importance?
Not a soul seems to care.
In truth, however, the end cap plays a vital role in productive hitting. In fact, we often see the redesign of an end cap on a bat as a key piece of a bat’s year over year upgrade. Here is how an end cap might affect performance.
Reason 1: Barrel Flex
It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see why the end cap’s strength is directly correlated to how much the end of the barrel compresses. A stiffer end cap allows less compression, and in theory, at least, less trampoline effect.
A performance bat will have a finely tuned end cap that allows for optimum performance at the end of the bat. It is, in some measure, how performance bats differ from run-of-the-mill big box store bats.
Bats like the Solo and VELO, which have extended composite end caps and have gone through several iterations, are how many manufacturers justify the price difference.
Reason 2: Bat Sound
Reasonable people can tell themselves that the bat’s sound isn’t important—only the distance the ball carries matters. However, and this is no joke, bats that sound better sell better. The reason is simple enough: hitters and parents of those hitters don’t measure every ball hit from the bat.
Rarely do parents and players have even the capability to measure batted ball speed. The only real measure they take from a batted ball is from their eyes and, yes, their ears. It tends to follow that hits that sound more solid are believed to have flown farther. Yet, a time-out in the game and a tape measure might prove otherwise.
Industry Experts Chime In
Our position here at DeMarini has always been that the end cap is an integral part of our performance bat designs. We engineer our endcaps with a specific handle/barrel design in mind, as well as a player or performance range that we are designing a bat model for. The sound, feel, and swing weight of a bat are all important aspects of a player, and we can achieve the desired effect in part by way of our end cap design methodology.
We (Marucci) have moved to a “rolled-end” barrel design to help eliminate as much stiffness towards the end of the barrel as possible. This “rolled-end” design allows us to make adjustments to the interior barrel walls and lengthen the performance zone closer to the barrel end, creating a wider sweet spot and more forgiveness on impacts closer to the endcap. In the older style “flat barrel end” with a pressed-in endcap, the endcap could actually extend into the barrel by as much as .5”, which basically acted as a ring within the barrel walls creating lots of stiffness, therefore, decreasing the trampoline effect and performance. Marucci has implemented the “rolled-end” design on all new senior league and adult models in both aluminum and composite barrels.
Interesting that you posed that question today as we have been recently testing this and have determined that the end cap definitely changes the flex response and trampoline effect of the barrel area that is impacted. The cap thickness, hardness, and weight all change the way the barrel responds to the ball’s impact.
Permission Not Given To Attribute
[An end cap] material that is too soft or hard will…make the bat sound dead or have too much of a ping that players think sounds cheap—like a rec league bat…We were able to tune the sound with the material and structure to get a sound similar to previous BESR bats. It sounds much more lively, and even though it still meets the 0.5 BBCOR limits, the feedback has been that [it] is has way more pop.
Does Better Bat Sound Mean Better Distance?
A manufacturer once told us that a quieter sound means a better hit. The idea is, sound waves are ultimately energy, and if the energy translated to a louder sound, then it wasn’t translating into a longer hit. As such, they tried to make their bat as quiet as possible at contact. We thought the idea was interesting but find it unlikely—-although we’ve never seen anyone try and prove otherwise.
We know the sound a bat makes is greatly determined by the material from which the end cap is made. Different materials make different sounds on contact. It follows, cheaper mass-production type bats tend to sound the same. Performance bat makers tend to focus on an end cap composition that doesn’t give the ‘cheap bat’ sound.
Reason 3: End Cap and Swing Weight
As the end cap is the farthest from the bat’s pivot point during the swing, the end cap determines swing weight more than any other feature on the bat. Many bat manufacturers attempting to lower the bat’s swing immediately redesign the end cap with a lighter material. We’d argue that the end cap adjustment is likely the most important function the end cap plays. Performance bat companies design advanced end caps that contribute to localized balanced points and pinpoint accuracy on their swing weight.
Next time you peruse the aisles of your local sporting good store, we suggest you pay serious attention to the end cap. Not only will it determine the bat’s general sound and the trampoline effect of the barrel end, but it also establishes the swing weight. That boring old end cap may be the most important piece of any bat.