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Some of the physics of baseball


zlessard

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For anyone that has watched or played baseball, hitting a homerun has to be one of the most exciting plays that can happen. Looking at this play deeper, the physics of hitting a baseball over a fence is very fascinating. One of the things that makes this play so difficult for major league hitters is how quickly the ball is traveling, and how small the area of the bat you have to hit the ball with is in order to make it travel so far. The "sweet spot" on a bat where you will likely have to contact the ball is very small, around 4-6 inches long on the bat. Hitting the ball in this spot will minimize vibrations of the bat and possibly maximize the transfer of energy between the bat and the ball. For a baseball traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour towards the batter, contacting the ball with the sweet spot of a 32-inch bat can allow the ball to leave the bat at speeds exceeding 110 miles per hour, which can cause the ball to travel as far as 475 feet, not accounting for wind and various other factors acting on the ball in flight.

Major League Baseball has begun to realize how fascinating the physics of the sport can be for fans, and has recently started to track many more of the physical measurements that occur during a baseball game, on top of just pitch speed. The league now broadcasts the distance the ball travels, the speed it travels initially after contact, and the apex height of the ball in its flight. They've also started to measure the speed that fielders and base runners run with, and the efficiency of the route that they take to the ball. All of these measurements add to the intrigue of the sport, even for people who do not understand anything about physics. This revelation in baseball shows how fascinating the physics of sports can be, for any sport.

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I am enjoying all the new stats during games.  Having some doubts about the pitch tracker, however.  If it's as accurate as they say it is, why don't they use it to call balls and strikes?  And if it's not, let's make it go away so there's less second-guessing of the umpires.  Personally, I like the variability of umpires and the ability of good pitchers to expand the strike zone, but it just seems so tacky when you see what the umpire is calling coupled with what the computer on every pitch.  Something there must be redundant!

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