Ted Williams looked for bats with knots in the barrel because, he thought, the compressed wood within the gnarls would return more energy upon impact with a pitched baseball. It’s the same reason that, dating back generations, players have worked over their bats by rubbing an animal bone lengthwise across the barrel, packing the raised grains of the wood and create a tight, level hitting surface.
It’s an ongoing quest for impermeability, which over recent years has led to the widespread use of maple bats — which are harder than traditional ash bats — and a variety of finishes. Never mind that testing has yet to draw conclusive results that this actually helps; the fact is Barry Bonds used a maple bat to swat 73 home runs in 2001, and a cavalcade of copycats quickly followed.
Now, Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of the famed Louisville Slugger, has upped the ante with its MLB Prime line, hitting stores Oct. 1. It called the Prime the hardest bat ever. In so doing, the company achieved two goals: It improved a product it provides to some 400 major leaguers, and it found a way to replicate the process en masse to make the bats commercially available.
It will be interesting to see what the effects (if any) of these bats are in in-game performance. There isn’t be anything in the article referencing any comparisions of exit speeds of balls off bats.