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Softball Science!


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16 replies to this topic

#1
SpartanIlliniCub

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I was lucky enough to be flipping through the channels the other night and I saw a show on Fox Sports Net about sports science. What caught my eye was that they had Jennie Finch on as a guest to help test out some sports myths.

Have any of you ever heard the saying that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports? This show put that myth to the test. They had on a professional minor league baseball pitcher and Jennie Finch to see if it was harder to hit a baseball from a baseball pitcher or a softball from a softball pitcher.

Exercise #1
They set up this weird piece of thick glass with all sorts of sensors in it. The idea was to measure the amount of force the pitchers could generate throwing their respective balls to see which ball gets thrown harder.

The baseball pitcher wound up and threw a couple 95-mph fastballs at the glass, and his highest reading was 2,411 pounds of force. Then Jennie Finch wound up...and on the first try, she cracked the sensor-glass in half! She said afterward that it was her goal to break it, and by golly she did!

The sports scientists gave the win to Jennie Finch and softball for the hardest thrown ball!

Exercise #2
The next exercise involved timing how long it took the baseball to reach the plate vs. the softball, and used that to measure how much time batters have to react to the pitch.

The baseball pitcher from 66 feet away threw a 95-mph fastball across the plate and it got there in .395 seconds. Jennie Finch from 43 feet away threw a 70-mph fastball across the plate and it got there in .350 seconds.

The sports scientists gave the win to Jennie Finch and softball for lowest batter reaction time.

Exercise #3
The final exercise put a professional minor league batter in the batter's box and made him try and hit balls from the baseball pitcher vs. Jennie Finch.

The hitter was able to pretty consistently hit off of the baseball pitcher. The hitter was confused and ineffective at hitting any of Jennie's pitches. She was blowing them by him like crazy. That .045 of a second really makes a difference!

The scientists explained that it is much easier for hitters to adjust to the downward motion of a baseball—it's easier to move your hands down in the zone to make contact with a baseball; it's harder to move your hands up in the zone to make contact with a softball.

Fox Sports Net's Conclusion? The hardest thing to do in sports is actually to hit a softball! Of course maybe all it proved is that Jennie Finch is amazing!

#2
jlurban

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Great find, Spartan! I'd heard about the show almost a month ago (see my November 2nd post in the Fastest softball pitch thread) but was unsure of the exact date of Jennie's episode or the results. I'm delighted to find out that science confirms what we already knew: Jennie is not just the best softball pitcher in the world, she's the best PITCHER, period. And I love the fact that she broke the sensor glass with her fastball! I guess the old adage is true: softball's are definitely not SOFT!

#3
SpartanIlliniCub

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Holy cow! You got the entire portion of Jennie's appearance from the Sports Science episode from YouTube?!? That's impressive... Though once Sports Science finds out that the video is on youtube they might make them to take it down... networks are jerks like that. I hope everyone gets a chance to watch it while its up though! It's a great episode isn't it?

#4
jlurban

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Definitely! Here's the video, for those who haven't seen it on The Softball Channel:



#5
BretMan

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I saw this program several months ago, and the video has been posted on several other discussion boards.

Don't get me wrong—I love Jennie Finch and the show was quite entertaining. But it was lacking in true "scientific" information.

The amount of force imparted by a moving object (kinetic energy) is a function of the object's mass and velocity. Jennie is a great pitcher, but there is no way in the world that a ball pitched at 70 m.p.h. has the same kinetic energy as a ball pitched at 95 m.p.h., even considering the slight extra mass of a softball versus a baseball.

Watch the video again very closely. Every one of the baseball pitches strikes the plexiglass plate near the center. This allows the plexiglass to bend and absorb the blow. The glass is not being stressed beyond its fatigue point.

Now watch the softball pitch (you can stop the video at various points to get a good view of this). The ball hits the glass right at the edge of a metal support bracket, where the glass attaches to the machine. This would put the plexiglass in a shearing stress, not allowing it bend and flex, but rather creating a high stress shear point.

I have no doubt that is what caused the plexiglass to shatter, not that the force of the pitch was greater than the force of the baseball.

So, the program had a chance to offer some real "science." Instead, they just assumed the softball had more force (a physical impossibility) and moved on. Why not fix the machine and get a real reading—in the interest of "real science"! "Real science" is not, "Oops, our machine broke and the experiment failed, so we'll just take a wild guess and pick any answer we like."

Oh well. Which one is more entertaining? A fluff-piece with Jennie Finch or a gosh darned science lesson! :rolleyes:

#6
wadeintothem

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Oh well. Which one is more entertaining? A fluff-piece with Jennie Finch or a gosh darned science lesson! :rolleyes:

I vote...fluff-piece with Jennie Finch anytime. :blink:
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"I'm one of those umpires that misses 'em every once in a while so if it's close, you'd better hit it." - Cal Hubbard

#7
BretMan

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Yeah, me too!

Hiya, Wade. I'm surprised that when you saw I'd joined this forum, you didn't post something like "There goes the neighborhood." :rolleyes:

#8
wadeintothem

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I more thought "How the heck did you find it?"

I goofed on youtube doing various searches on pitching umpiring...just about anything related to softball or baseball and found this site.

Small but hopefully it grows! Great peeps.

How did you find it?
ASA & NFHS Fast Pitch Umpire
American Legion 18U Baseball Umpire
"I'm one of those umpires that misses 'em every once in a while so if it's close, you'd better hit it." - Cal Hubbard

#9
BretMan

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Somebody posted a link to it on a local (Ohio) fastpitch discussion board I frequent.

Ohio Fastpitch Connection: http://www.game-ex.c...n/yabb2/YaBB.pl

You'll have to drop in from Cali and harass the Mid-Westerners sometime. :rolleyes:

#10
aggiegirl11

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well actually because of the different distances a 70 mph softball travels around the same speed, if not a lil faster, than a 95 mph baseball

#11
SpartanIlliniCub

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The Chicago Bandits recently hosted Chicago Cubs ace major-league pitcher (and excellent hitter) Carlos Zambrano for "Carlos Zambrano Day" during one of the Bandits' recent home games.

I heard a rumor that "Big Z" stepped up to the plate and took swings at a few pitches from Bandits pitcher Jessica Sallinger, and he completely missed 4 times in a row!!

Can anyone verify if this rumor is true?

#12
speedracer

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I was at the game and saw him completely whiff the ball a couple of times. Whether it's because of the decreased reaction time or upward motion of the ball, the point is that major league baseball players have a hard time hitting softballs thrown by pro fastpitch players.

In Big Z's defense, I also heard that he did make contact with one of the pitches (I don't know if it was thrown by Jessica Sallinger or one of the Bandits' assistant coaches) and he knocked it out of the park.

#13
jlurban

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The scientists explained that it is much easier for hitters to adjust to the downward motion of a baseball—it's easier to move your hands down in the zone to make contact with a baseball; it's harder to move your hands up in the zone to make contact with a softball.

Interestingly, there’s no rule in baseball requiring an overhand delivery. In fact, there have been a couple of underhand (submarine) throwers in the major leagues, including Juan Marichal, Dan Quisenberry, Kent Tekulve, and Rolando Arrojo. Both Marichal and Arrojo varied their delivery between overhand, sidearm and underhand. Quisenberry started out throwing sidearm but became more of an underhand pitcher after working with Tekulve.

Posted Image
Major league baseball pitcher Chad Bradford uses an underhand-style delivery. (Photo by John
Iacono, Sports Illustrated Vault)

More recently, you may have seen submarine-style veteran Chad Bradford—now with the Tampa Bay Rays—pitch in games #2 and #3 of the American League Division Series between the Rays and Chicago White Sox. Bradford threw three innings in relief using his distinctive underhand delivery, allowing only 1 hit with two strikeouts.

#14
SpartanIlliniCub

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I forgot about submariners! I think that the motion is pretty unnatural and that submarine pitchers don't last in the majors for too long, but I have seen a few of them be absolutely un-hittable. Unfortunately, I think that this unnatural motion is very hard on the arm; there are no current starting pitchers that use the submarine style—only relievers.

In fact, the only major league pitcher that doesn't utilize the traditional hard-throwing overhand style is "knuckle-ball" pitcher Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. Knuckle-ball pitchers throw the ball softly with NO spin (very difficult to do) and the ball flutters in the air and can move in unpredictable ways. But only one pitcher in the major leagues has mastered this technique enough to play at baseball's highest level.

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#15
speedracer

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More recently, you may have seen submarine-style veteran Chad Bradford—now with the Tampa Bay Rays—pitch in games #2 and #3 of the American League Division Series between the Rays and Chicago White Sox.

Bradford and his underhand pitching style may attract more media attention over the next 1-2 weeks, now that he and his Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the 2008 World Series.

#16
fastpitchfan

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Whether it's because of the decreased reaction time or upward motion of the ball, the point is that major league baseball players have a hard time hitting softballs thrown by pro fastpitch players.

Here’s a video that demonstrates your point perfectly. In the video, Japanese pro baseball players find it almost impossible to hit pitches thrown by USA Olympian Michele Smith:



#17
KCSoftball

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It's the angle of the ball, muscle memory, and the timing of it. Baseballs come at you in a "down" angle (pitcher releases it from above his head) while the softball comes at you from an "up" angle (pitcher releases it at her knee), that and the softball gets there quicker (timing not speed) than the baseball.




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