Well, in a word, NO. It makes no difference whatsoever. I fully understand the “first blush” thinking that it would help, but on closer analysis, you can easily see that it is no help at all – regardless of what the companies who make the metal youth bats with the 2-5/8” barrels tell you.
Take a look at the diagram below. (I think it is pretty easy to understand but please tell me if it’s not. Or call me at the office at 541-550-7835. I’m always happy to talk bats and baseball.)
When you swing a bat, you’re really only swinging an area about 1 inch tall on the front of the bat. As you can see in the drawing, the difference in that area between a 2-1/4” barrel and a 2-5/8” barrel is essentially non-existent. If you move the baseball down to the equivalent contact point at the bottom of that “hit zone” on the bat, you’ll find that the centerline of the bat has about a 2 inch tall “slot” on the baseball that the bat has to pass through to have any chance of it being a hit. Above or below those points, on either barrel, and it is either a pop-up or pounded into the ground.
It’s simple actually. It’s just physics. Or geometry. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a FACT. And those companies who make bats and tell you that you’re kid will be able to square up a ball easier are either lying to you or they are ignorant. I don’t know which is worse. If bats are your business, you should understand how they work! If you do know how they work, YOU SHOULD’T LIE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS.
So, this begs the question “Why did they change the rule on barrel size on youth bats??!!”. And THAT is a good question. Kids bats have had a 2-1/4” barrel since the beginning of kids baseball. I’ve never heard any clamoring, EVER, for kids bats to have bigger barrels. This is because they have hit with them just fine since the beginning. But don’t get me wrong. They needed to do the same thing with youth bats that they did with the adult (high school, college) bats with BBCOR. They had to take the “steroids” out of the bats before someone (or more kids) got killed. Before one of those 6 foot tall, 200 lb. 13 years olds drove a ball straight through the pitchers head standing 46 feet away, on national television no less, at the Little League World Series. Hits should be earned by skill, not with the help of a NASA metals engineer.
I do have a theory though, why the rule got changed. USA Baseball worked very closely with companies like Wilson (Louisville Slugger, Demarini) and Rawlings and Easton when they were developing the rule. Since the rule was going to make non-wood bats perform the same as wood bats, my guess is that at some point, someone at one of those companies said “If we have no performance advantage over wood bats, how the heck are we going to be able to convince people to spend $300 for $400 for one of our bats???” Then someone probably thought about making USA Baseball change the rules so they could make bats with a 2-5/8” barrel and have a perceived advantage, even if they didn’t in reality. Kids wood bats can’t be made that big because they would be too heavy. USA Baseball would probably have been happy to comply with this demand as they were going to be receiving a 5% Royalty from the bat companies on each and every bat that carried the USABat stamp on it. Was there a quid pro quo? I don't know. You decide.
Little League and the other organizations under the USA Baseball umbrella would probably have been happy to comply too because the millions of dollars from the royalty windfall was going to get divvied up with them. They didn’t have to pay it, all the parents would have to pay it! And they wouldn’t even know! They’ve tried very hard to keep this all secret, but I’m letting the cat out of the bag. Now keep in mind, the way I’ve suggested that this all may have gone down is purely conjecture on my part. Shoot, I might be completely wrong and the heads of these sports organizations just might have your best interests at heart. The Chinese investor group that owns Wilson probably doesn’t want to take your money unfairly. MLB, the single biggest source of money for USA Baseball and who is also the owner of Rawlings, probably isn’t looking to suck every dime they can out of you. At least, I don’t think so. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I wonder how much money that adds up to - that 5% on each and every youth bat with the USABat stamp sold all over the world?
Wait a minute. MLB owns Rawlings? MLB is the biggest single source of money for USA Baseball AND has a revenue sharing agreement with them? USA Baseball is the regulator for Rawlings youth bats? Does that sound a little swampy? Have I mentioned we make a special all-wood youth bat that has a Lifetime Breakage Warranty to original purchaser? Have I mentioned that USA Baseball put what I call a “poison pill” in the USABat license agreement that keeps small companies like ours out of the youth bat market so that you can’t use our bats if you play in one of their leagues? This is not how America, and true capitalism, is supposed to work. https://macdougallbats.com/products/powerwood-k-3-youth-league