|MadSci Network: Physics|
The short answer is yes, material and weight to affect the a balls response to a bat. Let me just give you a few properties to think about.
First, and probably most importantly with all other things being equal is the coefficient of restitution (COR) of the bat-ball. COR is a measure of how much energy goes into propelling the ball at collision. Improving the COR of the bat, or creating a trampoline effect, has been a huge push in metal softball bats over the last decade. Many manufactures of metal bats, such ad DeMarini, Worth, Easton, Louisville Slugger, and Mizuno, now makes bats that have been deemed unsafe by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) because the ball jumps off the bat so quickly, or in other words, retains so much kinetic energy from the collision, that pitchers and infielders cannot react fast enough to the ball.
There are many web sites out there that discuss softball bats and testing. However, many are sales sites with little information other than composition and certification.
Check out one of the following:
In general, a player can swing a lighter bat faster than a heavier bat. And, it turns out that the bat speed at impact is a bigger contribution than bat mass. The physics of collision is a good place to start if you want more information here, but in real life it can be quite complicated. One of my favorite books, The Physics of Baseball by Robert K. Adair is a great read for baseball fans who are interested in the engineering and science behind the game. Too bad, nothing more recent has been done.
I hope this helps.
Tom "Softball Shorts" Cull
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