The Physics of Baseball

March 11, 2013

This MIGHT help!
The Physics of Baseball

Young players are usually unaware of the correct tools to use in playing the game of baseball. Most are obsessed with having the fancy and expensive gloves, the big barrel bats, and the “glitter” of the revered “tools” of the game. It is very important to understand that the game is based on individual skill sets that must be incorporated into a team setting with everyone working towards the same goal…to win the game! The most discouraging reality is the lack of skill development and mastering of the mechanics of the skill sets. If we just visit physics and take the most basic laws and apply these, all will better understand the task and how to complete it efficiently. And, players will choose appropriate “tools” to fulfill their goals and dreams!!

Taking the very basic laws and explaining these to the youngsters will help a great deal.

  1. What goes up, must come down. The law of gravity is universal and a player should understand this and practice catching the “come down”(with both hands).
  2. Ball beat runner, runner out. Pretty simple?
  3. Runner beat ball, runner safe. Another mind-bender?
  4. The longer the ball stays on the bat, the farther it will travel. Hence bat inside ball and do not cast!
  5. The longer the ball stays in the hand, the faster it will travel. Release in front of your eyes.

Some VERY important scientific facts to understand to increase your frame of reference and improve your game:

  1. When 2 bodies interact and place force on each other, these forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction. Ball to bat = motion of ball…somewhere, IF you hit it.
  2. An object at rest will stay at rest, unless an unrelated force acts upon it. Thus, a ball will not grow legs and run to you…you must go get it!
  3. To hit a ball to maximum distance, the trajectory of the bat should be at a 35 degree angle. “The Splinter” said just to have a bit of an arc at contact, but do not swing up.

Some more significant information to help learn the game and make it easier to understand.

  1. The collision of the bat and bat lasts 1/1000th of a second. If you swing 1/100th second too soon, the ball will go foul on the left side(right handed batter, opposite for left) and if you swing 1/100th second too late the ball will go foul on the left side. The “decision to swing” must be made in 400 milli-seconds(4/100th). Simply said: Need fast hand and bat speed; bat speed kills! Use a bat that YOU can control and, can swing in a balanced position.
  2. A line drive travels 110 yards in 4 seconds; a fly ball 98 yards in 4.3 seconds. You do the math!!
  3. The “core of percussion”(essentially the sweet spot) moves up as you choke up, hence, a batter has more control and leverage. Short, quick swing while choking up will move the ball faster and farther. Actually, choking up will have the same effect as corking a bat.
  4. The ball slows down every 7 feet about one(1) mile per hour. It loses 6-8 mph by the time it gets to the batter. Hands back and let it travel to you.
  5. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force. This is kind of the basics of hitting. Get the bat on the ball and drive it somewhere.
  6. Law of inertia: The faster the bat is accelerated, the better the force on the ball and the farther it will go. Again, the challenge is to hit the ball. How to do that? See it and hit it…weight back, hands inside, and attack with quick hand and bat speed. Simple!?!
  7. Helpful hints: A pitcher can NOT throw a fastball that rises. Also, a curve that seems to break 12-14’’ actually only deviates 3 ½” form a straight line. Hence, stay in the box and keep your weight back and then time it. Again, very simple to say but practice will perfect it!

Now, having stated the scientific facts, we can build the proper swing and use this information to become a better hitter. Obviously, it is imperative that each player have two(2) eye exams per year to insure optimum eyesight. It will basically get down to seeing the ball and hitting it. “See it, Hit it!” is the mantra of a proficient hitter. Taking what we have read above can be summarized into four simple Hitting Principles:

  1. Focus on an economy of motion with little or no wasted movement…bat TO ball. Principle: Hands inside the ball with a short and quick swing THROUGH the ball!!
  2. Have a “less is more” swing tempo. Principle: A rhythmic swing directly to contact with the hands “inside” to insure square contact.
  3. Hit the ball to all fields. Principle: Hit the ball where it is pitched. Do not pull an outside pitch and vice versa.
  4. Using a properly weighted bat(one YOU can control) will increase hand/bat speed, and allow maximum impact on the ball. Principle: It all begins with the “tools”. Find a bat that you can swing quickly and keeps you in balance. Balance = Power!

Understanding science/physics will greatly aid young players and coaches in learning how to hit. It is as simple as “see it, hit it”, but with the proper tools and proper practice of hitting mechanics. Moreover, you still need to “get a good pitch to hit” and must swing through the ball. Perfect practice makes perfect!


“Baseball may not change the world, BUT it can change a youngster’s life”