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Fastball Physics



I have been wanting to do a post on the physics behind a fastball for a while... and because of the events that transpired early today I think this is a fitting time to do it.  

Today, Yordano Ventura, 25 had his life taken in a car crash in the Dominican Republic.  He was a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and was widely regarded as a pitcher that most announcers describe simply as "electric".  Usually I use physics here to bring to light how truly difficult baseball is and the skill of the players who compete for a living.  But as someone who has watched Yordano, I can say even physics have trouble doing his fastball justice.  With fastballs that easily get up to 100 mph, it can be calculated that in just .41 seconds, his pitch goes from in his hand to into the catcher's glove.  As a comparison... an average blink is anywhere from .3-.4 seconds.  W:hen Yordano pitched you could almost literally say: "don't blink, or you'll miss it".  Added to this is the fact that by using the magnus effect to his advantage, Ventura's fastball moves from left to right and even seems to rise, defying gravity.  Any abover- average major league hitter can destroy a straight, 100 mph fastball, but almost nobody can put that same power on a 100 mph fastball that is moving side to side and seemingly against gravity.  

Here's a video of Yordano Ventura pitching in the biggest game of his career: Game 6 of the World Series.  He said he was pitching this game for his late countryman Oscar Tavares, another young, promising athlete who himself had died in a car crash.


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