Whether composite or composite with alloy, DeMarini has introduced a new style of construction for its line of 2018 bats dubbed 3-Fusion. The new system builds off the multi-piece bat by adding a third element via the bat's taper.
"We removed weight out of that part of the bat to redistribute weight where we needed it," says Pat Ryan, bat manager for DeMarini. "By removing half an ounce of weight from a very specific part of the bat it gives us the ability to move that weight to hands for balance or to the end cap for end-loaded mass. You think small things don't amount to much, but half an ounce, our guys fight like heck to find weight savings and that half an ounce is often the difference between a bat preferred by players and (bats) ignored."
DeMarini, owned by Wilson, has rolled out its 2018 line that includes a CF Zen and CF Insane, both two-piece composite bats; the Voodoo Balanced and Voodoo Insane, bats with a composite handle and alloy barrel; and the Voodoo One, a one-piece alloy version. The four multi-piece bats all have the 3-Fusion connective transition that creates a visibly different and streamlined look for the DeMarini lines.
In the BBCOR world, where regulation is tight, the changes to bats come in stages, always evolving with new regulations and new materials. "It is a constant evolution in product development," Ryan says. "It never ends in bats."
This year's changes follow that path. DeMarini ensures each year it has a mix of weight distribution within each style of construction. Increasingly the end-loaded bats prove popular at the higher levels—for Wilson's DeMarini that means Clemson, TCU and Vanderbilt—while the more balanced versions have their sweet spot in the junior and high school markets because they tend to move quicker through the zone.
To get that weight distribution just perfect, Ryan says DeMarini engineers work on every element of the bat, whether the knobs, the handles, taper pieces, end caps, barrel, grip. "Breaking things down to the components really fine-tunes the products," he says.
As composites continue to mature in the market, so does the technology as understanding the material grows. "By nature, you can change a lot more with composites," Ryan says. "You can change angles, materials, a lot of things to optimize the designs. It changes every year and we haven't even scratched the surface. With a material like aluminum there is only so much you can do with geometry, wall thickness and stiffness elements. With composites, it is a broader canvas for designers to work with simply because it is a lighter material and you have more possibilities in an increasingly regulated market."
The fifth bat in the lineup, the Voodoo One alloy, serves as DeMarinii's first true performance model in one-piece alloy. The relatively simple design, with an appealing price point, offers a high level of feel in a stiff bat. While it doesn't have the technology to manage vibrations, advanced players enjoy the negative feedback from a lightweight, balanced version, Ryan says.
The bat to take on the most significant change in 2018 comes in the Voodoo Insane, a completely new product end to end. With a different barrel length and barrel shape, new end cap and redesigned knob, the 2018 offering looks much different than the 2017 version. But Ryan says he thinks it won't feel all that much different.
Historically the bat of choice for collegiate players and power hitters with its end-loaded weighting, the new 3-Fusion taper piece also plays into a new Voodoo Insane that Ryan says should swing similarly but sound and look different. "Overall, our intent of the design was to be similar and appeal to the same player," he says. "We wanted an evolution rather than a revolution."
Aesthetically, DeMarini wanted to dip back into the brand's heritage colors of reds, golds and black. "Sometimes you get back to the basics of who you are and the Voodoo reflects that this year," Ryan says.
The 2018 line does offer new colorways, inspired by industries outside of baseball—for performance, DeMarini mines baseball engineering, but for aesthetics they search for trends in the lifestyle and outdoor sports world to appeal to a young demographic—that remains consistent with the DeMarini silhouette.
Along with the DeMarini branding, the brand also wants to play up each sub-brand, giving the CF and Voodoo lines their own logo. For CF that comes in the form of a crown and the Voodoo line has a star that combines Vs into one mark. As the bat lines continue to evolve, Ryan says they hope to rely less on the D logo of DeMarini and more heavily on the sub-brand marks.
Whenever colorways and designs get discussed, though, customization plays a role. As DeMarini offers customization of its bats, designers must take into account how a design will look when they allow a player to pick his or her own colors. With personalization on the minds of designers tinkering with color, always having a well-balanced line of materials and weights also plays heavily in introducing DeMarini's brand-new 2018 line of bats.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.