The Physics Of Baseball Pitches


It’s Summer, and you know what that means!
Manipulating the spin and speed of a flying sphere to change its velocity and elude a
Homo sapien swinging a third class lever! Also known as baseball season. Hello fans of sport and physics alike, Julian
here for DNews. Baseball is often called America’s Past Time, and it’s mostly known for being
a relaxed-paced game that goes great with beer and hot dogs. You know what else goes
with baseball? Science, that’s what. Of course any physical activity is going to
have some physics behind it, and one of the more nuanced aspects of baseball to a non-fan
is the physics of different pitches. Justin Allegri, broadcaster for the San Jose
Giants, explains there’s a lot more to a pitch than just rocketing the ball over the
plate. By changing the grip, pressure, and release of the ball, the pitcher can alter
its flight path and make the batter’s life miserable. The most well known pitch is the fastball,
but there are different variations on the theme. The most direct one is a 4 seam fastball,
where the fingers are placed across 4 seams. On release the pitcher imparts backspin on
the ball. The result is the ball doesn’t drop as much as it would otherwise, appearing
to fight gravity and travel in more of a straight line. The pitcher is taking advantage of the Magnus
effect, which is when a spinning sphere affects the air pressure around it, much like an airplane
wing. The side of the ball spinning with the direction of travel is essentially moving
against the air faster, creating more drag, creating more pressure, and causing the air
to push on it. On the opposite side of the ball, air pressure is reduced and the ball
travels more easily in that direction. You see it in other ball sports too like in
Soccer, or yes, Football, I know, rest of the world, you don’t have to keep reminding
us. Curve balls take advantage of the Magnus effect more, but instead of stabilizing the
flight into a straight line the topspin causes is to drop and cut. Different grips and releases
open up more possibilities like sinkers, sliders, screwballs, and changeups, but they’re all
essentially doing the same thing; causing the seams to push air around and change the
pressure on the ball. The exception to the rule is the knuckleball. A Knuckleball is
designed to spin only once on it’s flight, Moving through the air this way causes a Kármán
Vortex Street, which is a string of vortices trailing alternating sides of the ball. The
effect is the ball wobbles from side to side and its flight becomes impossible to predict.
Clearly the seams play a huge role in affecting the flight of the ball. The seams on balls
the pros use are smoother than those used by college players, to give them less of an
advantage and grip. The lowered seams also give the batter an advantage; because of the
reduced drag a batter will hit the smoother baseball farther. You’ll also notice balls
that get hit into the dirt and scuffed are tossed out by the umpires, because a skilled
pitcher can use the scuff to their advantage. Baseball pitches, are great examples of people
innovating and getting creative to elevate their game. Speaking of insane augmentations,
Toyota has been doing some tinkering of their own with the TRD line of Toyota Trucks. Enhanced
to rule the off-road!

100 thoughts on “The Physics Of Baseball Pitches

  1. Next do a video on the chemistry behind that lovely double whopper from burger king. The raw taste of a grilled 100% beef patty, mmmmmmmm!

  2. Amazing how they couldn't provide us with a SINGLE showing of the pitch travelling to the plate during a game. You mean it's all a bunch of baloney and no one can admit it? Try guessing what the pitch is right after it's thrown and then compare what the "broadcasters" have to say. What a load!

  3. Being a baseball fan, I can appreciate this. However, the curveball should have been mentioned. And furthermore, I recommend checking out a video about the gyroball.

  4. A cricket ball can operate much the same way, except with a few more variables thrown in: The ball being strategically scuffed or shined to create movement through the air, the spinning ball interacting with the playing surface and the single circumference seam.

  5. Mentioned are the more well-known pitches. But left out of the discussion were other pitches such as the Screwball, the Forkball, and, yes, the banned Spitball. He did not get into the different variety of Fastball pitches which have different spins & breaks; 2-seam Fastball, 4-seam Fastball (Sinker), Split-Fingered Fastball, and the Cutter. Ditto for the variety of off-speed pitches in the Change-up family; Straight Change, Circle Change, and the Palmball. All different in their own way.

  6. The reason we keep reminding you guys is because the game is called Football. In Britain we don't associate Baseball or American football with the World Series or being world champions…. as we never get invited over there to play in in…. nice video though.

  7. so many variables with baseball. as a catcher you "frame" the ball. so wherever the ball hits his glove he has to be handy (no pun intended) enough to deceive the human eye of the umpire. upon that, a judgement call is made. umpires are often right but pitchers are often aware of the discretion tendencies of how an umpire will call the ball he throws

  8. umm PITCHER NERD ALERT! the images of the grips are inaccurate. I know no one gives a shit about it tho :'(

  9. Uhh the reason for removing a ball when it hits the ground because it killed someone.

    I believe it was the Cleveland Indians player by the name of Chapman, at Yankees stadium in 1920. They played with one ball the whole game. By the end of the day the ball was completely dirt colored and misshapen by the amount of contact during the game. At this time there wasn't anything in the way of safety, including "batters' eye" or the solid usually black background to see it clearly or even batting helmets. It happened because it was the end of the game before stadium lights. The sky was in twilight, the shape of the ball at that point was more of an oval which made it travel in air very differently. Between the movement and the color that matched the sky, Chapman didn't see it, didn't react at all. Without a batting helmet the pitch caught him in the forehead, he poured blood at home plate he died shortly after in a NYC hospital. I guess the blessing was that he never saw it coming, never regained consciousness, and passed away doing what he loved without ever suffering.

    We should all be so lucky.

  10. I was almost about to leave this video because your ugly ass kept poppin up then i see you tryin to plug a car commercial, na dude never again

  11. People say baseball is easy. It's actually the hardest sport in the world. Just one example of that is a major league fastball gets to the plate in about .395 seconds and you have to read the pitch, load, decide if you are going to swing, and swing in the time less than a blink of an eye

  12. How about looking into how the sibling sport to baseball… cricket.

    Similarly when the bowler (like a pitcher) bowls (throws over arm) fast 80-90 mph the ball can move through the air. We call it "swing". Some bowlers can manipulate the ball to swing left and right. The best bowlers for swing are found in my native England where there's more moisture in the air. But tbh, one one really knows how this works. And bare in mind that the global money in cricket is HUGE. So a lot of scientists have been looking into this phenomenon and so far it's a mystery.

    If you are the sort who laugh off the cricket thing then read on…

    The bowler marks out is run up some 50 feet behind where he'll release. As he runs in he'll spring into his bowling action. The arm with the ball at it's highest will be around 10 feet off the ground. From 22 yards away, he'll release the ball.

    The ball will hit the ground in front of you and bounce and then move or swing to your left or right. It might be only by half an inch or by a foot. Depending on where the ball hits the ground in front of you, near your feet or three – five yards in front will determine whether the ball will hit your foot, ankle etc upto four feet above your head.

    The bounce depends on the speed. If you're facing a Fast bowler, you're talking 90+ mph (after the ball has bounced!). From 22 yards away you'll have all of 0.22 seconds to decide whether to duck under it, or try and play a shot. One wrong move, misjudgment or mistake and you're out or be in need of an x-ray or just stitches. Some of the best batsmen can score hundreds of runs (points) in 40° heat against Fast bowling for hours and hours and even days. You might have heard of a variation of the game called "Test Cricket". It tests folks to breaking point.

    So don't dismiss this sport. Embrace it and look for videos of fast bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Curtly Ambrose, Bret Lee, Alan Donald or Dale Steyn.

  13. I've done the fast ball before but my best pitching was the curved ball and sadly sometimes when I was the one holding the bat I would receive the balls to the hip or the ribcage it hurt a lot

  14. america's past time? you mean regieme change and perpetual war? oh. right.. i guess baseball counts too…

  15. Physics behind a proper American football throw (like actually whipping your body instead of just arming it like 80% of the general public)?

  16. This guy only uses gluten free, locally sourced, artisanal baseballs in his Williamsburg old-timey “base ball” team

  17. Sometime tells me this guy would rather throw lattes at starbucks then actually get sweaty playing baseball.

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