A few days ago we brought you our cleat report, which was highlighted by a significant shake-up at the top. In MLB cleats, Adidas blew past Under Armour and New Balance to take the second most market share among MLB starters behind Nike. In the 2018 MLB bat report that follows, you’ll find much more stability to the “bat market.”
Bats are a complicated thing to track because players switch more often than any other product on the field. Some players switch every game depending on how they feel. Others, like JD Martinez, use the same bat model (Martinez swings the Old Hickory J143M) for years.
In these reports, WPW polls MLB starters only (important to note that this excludes pitchers), based on Baseball-Reference.com’s team pages with a few additions. We look for and reward regular usage, or loyalty. By that, we mean that we look for the bat (or bats) that a player uses most. We count up to two bat brands per player, so if a player swung a bat brand for one game only, it isn’t counted. The best way to view this data is to think of it as a measure of loyalty. There are most certainly some bats that weren’t counted because, based on our observations, they weren’t used as much as a player’s other bats. Its not a perfect science. Lets take a look at the results and some insights that we gathered.
What Wood Bat Brand Do You Swing?
For the wood swingers out there, what do you swing?
What Do the Pros Swing?
First lets re-establish what bat brands were swung in 2017. Our 2017 report is here if you want to dive in there first.
Marucci and Marucci-owned Victus ate up 39% of the league in 2017. Marucci has taken an undisputed position at the helm. Louisville Slugger, founded in 1884, fell behind Victus in 2017, which first hit the Big Leagues in 2012. Old Hickory won the hearts of 10% of MLB starters, while Chandler (8%), Rawlings (7%), Sam Bat, and Tucci (4% each) took most of the remaining pie.
2018 MLB Starters Bat Usage
In 2018, the top six bat companies by usage were nearly identical to the previous year. Old Hickory dropped 2%, while Rawlings climbed slightly to create a tie for the fourth most used bat brand among MLB starters. Chandler lost a percentage point and boasts 7% of MLB starters.
Bat Market Share (Yearly Change)
1. Marucci | 24% (<-1%)
Marucci can still field eight teams. Marucci can have a final four of just players swinging their bats. Rooks like Gleyber and legends like Pujols. Marucci is the new standard. Giancarlo, Bregman, Lindor, Baez, Jose Ramirez; the list of Marucci superstars is longer than any other brand.
2. Victus | 15% (+1%)
Victus continues to establish itself as the #2 to Marucci. Could they pass their parent company? Would Marucci “let” them? It’ll be interesting to watch over the next few years.
Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, and Jose Altuve are a few MVPs who trust Victus wood. Victus also offers the Axe handled bat, a novelty just a few seasons ago, which has grown to retain a modest lineup of regular MLB users. There were six regular Axe users among 2018 starters, including Jake Lamb, David Peralta, Kurt Suzuki, Mark Canha, 2017 World Series MVP George Springer and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts (who’s bat is pictured above). That gives Axe handled bats 2.3% of starters polled. Betts’ MB50, a 33.5″ inch, 31 or 30.5 ounce bat, is end loaded with a sharp taper into a long sweet spot. It is offered as the X50 by Victus, while Baseball Express and JustBats.com offer Mookie Betts signature bats that are built for a wider range of hitters (more balanced than Mookie’s true cut).
3. Louisville Slugger | 14% (+1%)
With the help of NL MVP Christian Yelich and NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna, Louisville Slugger climbed to 14% share of MLB starters. Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson swung Slugger in the World Series.
Slugger did a nice job with Players’ Weekend, too (before Grandyman got to Milwaukee).
4. Old Hickory | 8% (-2%)
Old Hickory continues to rake. Bruisers seem to gravitate to Old Hickory, and they have earned 100% loyalty from names like Trout, Goldschmidt, Arenado, Story, JD Martinez, and 19 year old freak Juan Soto.
In our (mostly for fun) “bat stats,” we took the final season averages and slugging percentages of all MLB starters, mashed them together, and came up with a batting average and slugging percentage for each of the top six bat companies. Old Hickory’s “batting average” was .272, 18 points higher than Marucci’s .254, which was second best among the top six companies. Old Hick’s slug % was .473, 40 points higher than Rawlings .433 in second place. Keep in mind, Marucci had 50 more MLB starters than Old Hickory this year. Bottom line, though, Old Hickory has an incredible roster.
4. Rawlings | 8% (+1%)
6. Chandler | 7% (-1%)
Twenty-one brands had at least one loyal MLB starter in 2017. That numbered jumped to 25 in 2018, despite losing Dove Tail and BWP, who did not make the list this year. We found six new brands in MLB starters’ hands in 2018: Homewood, Mark, SR Bats, Birdman, Asics, and Anchor.
Other bat companies that were trusted by MLB starters
- B45 (Inciarte, Cargo, Acuna, Yuli Gurriel) and Tucci (Bogaerts, Lowrie, Longoria) each had 11 hitters
- Sam Bat had 10 hitters (Kipnis, Avisail Garcia)
- MaxBat had seven (Max Muncy, Brandon Crawford)
- Mizuno (Piscotty, Bour), Dinger (Schwarber, Hoskins), Zinger (O. Arcia, Addison Russell) and Warstic (Kemp, Kinsler) all had five
- Tater Bats had three hitters (Yan Gomes, Starling Marte)
- SSK had two hitters (Javy Baez)
- Trinity had one (Trumbo)
Bat Wraps Continue to Rise in Popularity
What was once a metal bat thing has made a full cross-over to the Bigs. The Lizard Skins grip, which showed up in 2013 and quickly spread like wildfire throughout baseball, is now used by at least 38% of the league’s starters. That’s a staggering number for any product. Better yet, the Lizard Skins retail at $10.99, making it the most affordable item you can bring with you to the plate.
Batting gloves are often a package deal with cleats, so when guys sign a cleat deal, you usually see the same brand on their hands. The exception is Franklin Sports. Franklin, the originator of the batting glove, has won the loyalty of more than 1 in 3 MLB starters. Many players who would otherwise just wear Nike, UA, or Adidas, won’t wear anything but Franklin.
What Do You Wear?
Here’s a quick run-down of batting glove usage. 2017’s numbers below:
…and your 2018 numbers:
Franklin Sports | 35% (Unchanged)
Acuna, Lindor, Altuve, are a small sample of the 90 MLB starters that wear Franklin batting gloves. Our favorite is the Powerstrap style (above on Altuve), which just recently hit Franklin’s custom builder.
Nike | 30% (-1%)
Baseball swagger hounds would probably kill for these things, but unfortunately they’re player exclusives.
Under Armour | 14% (-6%)
Under Armour has a knack for making some nice-looking batting gloves, though their usage this year tumbled six points (in line with their cleat market share).
Bryce Harper gets some beautifully crafted batting gloves that Under Armour sells as the “Harper Pro” style, available here.
Adidas | 11% (+5%)
Adidas is a relatively newborn baby when it comes to batting gloves, but they managed to grab 5% of the MLB starter market in 2018. There is some buzz about this style worn by Andrelton Simmons, Aaron Judge, and Trea Turner, the AdiZero 4.0, available here.
Honorable Mentions: Jordan, Asics, Lizard Skins, Easton…
Everybody wants Jordan batting gloves (even though they don’t exist) because they look sick… but how many times do you think Manny wore these before they tore on the index finger?
Lizard Skins is now jumping into the batting glove game, too, after so much success with their bat wraps. In our opinion, these are some of the best-looking gloves on the market. Russell Martin (above), Francisco Cervelli, and Brett Gardner are believers. You can see their retail offerings here.
Shohei Ohtani played so well that it didn’t really matter what he looked like, but he brought the heat, too. His Asics batting gloves actually boatraced Mike Trout’s PEs in a WPW poll earlier this year. It looks like Asics offered 17 sets of Ohtani’s gear for $2,900 in May and they sold out in a day.
Easton showed up on a few players’ hands this year, including 30/100 stud Alex Bregman. They didn’t look too bad either, and Baseball Express offers AB2 Bregman models at this link.
Last but MOST CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, the men’s men, the lumberjacks, the absolute beasts who don’t wear gloves at all. Those men deserve to be recognized:
God bless these mountains of men. Thoughts and prayers for their hands. Let us know what you think about our report in the comments below.