Maple is a very hard, dense wood. The surface hardness is about 20% greater than ash. The harder the surface, the faster the ball will jump off the bat. This is one of the reasons maple has become so popular - that and the fact that Barry Bonds and other big league sluggers swing maple. Maple is a closer grained hard wood than ash. The grain is not as easy to see as it is with ash. The straightness of the grain does not matter as it does with ash. Maple will not splinter. The grain will not separate. The hardness of maple makes a bat with less flex.
Ash on the other hand does flex. When a ball is hit with an ash bat, there is a trampoline effect. The ball doesn't just jump off; it first compresses the wood, then like a spring board it leaves with much more force than maple. This spring board effect is one of ash's greatest strengths and weaknesses. The spring board and compression traits of an ash bat will cause the grains to separate over time. The flex of an ash bat will appear to have a larger sweet spot. Ash bats do not snap the way a maple bat does. Ash bats will break just as easy, but usually they just wear out. The grain of an ash bat will delaminate over many uses.
Birch is tougher than ash, and more flexible than maple. This hard hitting imported wood does not flake like ash and out-performs maple. A lighter wood, birch allows athletes to swing larger barreled bats through the hitting zone. After two seasons of extensive game play testing in the Cape Cod Baseball Summer League and the Alaskan League, a player is quoted as saying, "Maple is a thing of the past." Birch bats have become a viable choice. However, many of our customers own bats of all three types of wood so they can see which wood they prefer, and select the right bats for their practice and gameday needs.
Bamboo is also a newer choice on the market. Many companies have recently introduced bamboo models. Some bamboo models are used in conjunction with maple (see Composites below). Since bamboo chutes are hollow, they are made by pressing bamboo "strips" into billets, and then the billets are combined and made into bats. Bamboo is an extremely strong wood, with tension strength greater than steel.
Composite wood bats are typically some combination of different wood types that have been fused together to make a more durable bat. For this reason composite bats will last the longest, and will also be among the most expensive wood bats. Because these bats are engineered specifically to be long lasting, many composite bats will come with some type of warranty against breakage, which is rare for wood bats. Composites also make great practice bats.
This article courtesy of Viper Bats.