Baseball Swing, Blink Of An Eye or Google Search: What’s Quicker?


PITTSBURGH – Numbers on their own can mean very little. But when correlated to other events that take similar amounts of time, a greater perspective can be put into the numbers.

Take the chart above.

We can see other ‘real-life’ events that take similar amounts of time as a baseball swing.

When looking at this data, it is almost mind-boggling to think that the best MLB players swing the bat almost three times as fast as it takes to blink one’s eye (140 milliseconds compared to 400 milliseconds).

Moreover, the Google search performed to pinpoint exactly how many milliseconds are in the blink of an eye took this user 390 milliseconds (as you are sitting at your computer, blink your eye and then Google the term “how long does it take to blink your eye”. Oddly enough, they both take around the same amount of time, and are at the very least, twice as long as it takes to swing the bat from start until impact).

To put this into an even further perspective, a recent MIT study showed that it takes the brain 13 to 80 milliseconds to “process an image.”

According to the study, “the information only needs to flow in one direction, from the retina to the visual brain areas, in order to identify concepts, without needing feedback from other brain areas. This ability could give the brain the time it needs to decide where to point the eyes, which can take only 100 to 140 milliseconds.”

So to recap…

1) We know that it takes between 100 to 140 milliseconds for the brain to know where to point the eyes after it processes an image.

2) We know a 99 m.p.h pitch takes 417 milliseconds to arrive to the plate.

With this information we can do some simple math and realize that if the brain takes 140 milliseconds to identify the 99 mile per hour pitch (that takes 417 milliseconds to arrive to home plate), you have about 260 milliseconds left.

From there, if your Trigger To Impact time is 160 milliseconds (an elite Trigger To Impact time) then you have 100 milliseconds to decide whether or not to swing at the pitch – or the exact time interval for gear changes on a Ferrari FXX.

This illustration from the Wall Street Journal gives us an excellent breakdown of these numbers: Millisecond Illustration

As we can see, even by cutting just five-hundredths of a second (0.05 seconds) off your Trigger To Impact time (50 milliseconds), you can improve your ability to recognize a pitch by a significant amount and thus wait a little bit longer as to whether or not to swing.

Furthermore, a quicker Trigger To Impact will help you ‘catch up’ to pitches that are thrown with maximum velocity and thus neutralize a pitcher’s strength and go-to or ‘out’ pitch.

While the answer to our headline question is fluid (depending on who is swinging the bat), we can now understand 1) how quick the swing is, 2) how quick a pitch can be and 3) how fast the brain and eye has to react to the pitch and initiate the swing.

We can also see why the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball.