Cumberland Times-News

Columns

November 2, 2013

Science has big role in the game of baseball

Baseball is a sport that lends itself to mathematical analysis. The below numbers are from “All the Right Angles,” a comprehensive compilation of studies of athletics (all the classic American sports as well as Cycling, Crickets, Track/Field and Soccer).

The author is Joel Levy and the book is from Firefly publishers with ISBN 13:978-1-77085-196-2.

The Doppler effect (change in waves with motion) allows us to determine the speed of the baseball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. (This same effect allows our state troopers to determine the speed of your car. They use a microwave beam that bounces off your car; its echo is altered by the speed of your car.)

The modern record for the speed of a fastball is 105 miles per hour. The ball is slowed slightly by air resistance, losing 1 mile per hour for each 7 feet travelled. So the ball is slowed by 8 miles per hour by the time the ball passes over home plate. It takes only 0.4 seconds for a 95 mile per hour fastball to reach home plate.

A baseball batter has only 0.05 of a second to decide when to swing. The margin of error is only 0.007 second for batters. If a batter swings 0.007 seconds too early, the ball will go foul to the left. If a batter swings 0.007 seconds too late, the ball will go foul to the right.

As the bat hits the ball, the bat will be moving at 80 miles per hour. The bat to ball contact lasts only 0.001 seconds. The force on the ball by the bat during this short time is about 4 tons (8,000 pounds).

During this huge impact on a 5-ounce ball, the ball’s diameter is flattened to half of its 3-inch width. The bat itself is also distorted by 20 percent during this impact. The ball leaves the bat at 110 miles per hour.

Baseball pitchers use the Magus effect in throwing a curveball. The spinning speed of a typical curveball is 600 rotations per minute. This means that a typical curveball will rotate five times from the pitcher’s release to it’s passage over home plate.

As the curveball flies towards home plate, there are two sides of the ball. On one side, the ball is spinning in the opposite direction to its motion. The other side of the ball spins in the same direction as the ball’s flight.

A curveball will be deflected towards the side where the airflow is opposite to the spin (lower relative air speed). As the batter watches a curveball, the ball will seem to drop about 20 feet from the plate. The chances of a batter missing a well thrown curveball is 66 percent on a 2–2 count.

Here are a few statistics on baseball bats. White ash trees are used for the Major League bats. But the trees harvested for the bats must be 50 years or older. This wood has to dry for 6-8 months. The proportion of wood that makes the grade for Major League bats is only 10 percent.

A modern MLB player will use 6-7 bats each season. The legendary Joe Sewell used 1 bat for 14 seasons (1920-1933). If the Major Leagues ever switch to aluminum bats (as college baseball teams have), expect both higher batting averages and a possible doubling of home runs.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: Since we are now on standard time, the sun will be setting an hour earlier (about 5:10 p.m. in the Cumberland area). The sun this morning rose an hour earlier (6:45 a.m. locally). This morning, the moon swings from the morning side to the evening side of the sun (NEW MOON) and a new lunar cycle begins.

A slender crescent moon may be easily seen (weather permitting) low in the west on Nov. 5 just before 6 p.m. On Nov. 6, the crescent moon will appear above and to the right of the brilliant planet Venus. On Nov. 9, the evening moon will appear half full in the southwestern evening sky.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Peanuts and Cracker Jack beat any foam finger

    Times have changed, and for the better, as this week marks the third year in a row NFL training camps have opened and have not taken center stage in the cities of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington. That, of course, is due to the play of the three baseball teams that inhabit said cities, the Orioles, the Pirates and the Nationals — two of whom hold first place in their respective divisions, with the other one entering play on Wednesday just 2 1/2 games out of first.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big loophole Big loophole

    How ironic — and how sad — that the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority plans a closed executive session to discuss the open meetings law.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014