The Physics Behind The Results

PITTSBURGH(5 min. read) As part of their presentation “How Technology Unlocked My True Potential At The Plate” from the 2017 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention, Diamond Kinetics co-founder and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Buddy Clark, in conjunction with Master Hitting Instructor Dan Koosed of Pro Swing Rx in Anaheim, Calif., discussed how and why exit velocity and launch angle are so important, relative to hitting success.

In the clip above (Part 3 of our series), Dr. Clark tells us the physics behind the results and why physics dictate that certain launch angles allow for a certain amount of ball travel distance, relative to exit velocity.

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How A Ball That Traveled 323 Feet Could Have Traveled 353 Feet

PITTSBURGH – In the third inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 6-5 extra-innings win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Andrew McCutchen connected on a 2-2 fastball from Michael Wacha that resulted in a RBI-double, scoring John Jaso from first base.

According to Baseball Savant data, McCutchen’s hit traveled 323 feet in the air with a launch angle of 22 degrees after leaving the bat with an exit velocity of 95.9 mph. The pitch he received from Wacha was a four-seam fastball that came in at 92.5 mph with a spin rate of 2,064 rpm’s.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the temperature at the time of the hit, was at or slightly below 40 degrees.

Taking all these factors into account and digesting them down one-by-one, let’s see what could have been with McCutchen’s hit if the game had been played in June instead of April.

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The Anatomy of Jordy Mercer’s RBI Double

PITTSBURGH – Last week, as a guest on The Blue Dot Report podcast, Dr. Alan Nathan was posed the question, “Does understanding concepts about physics help one understand or enjoy the game more?”

Dr. Nathan’s response was:

“I really do look for things that are indicative of phenomena that I’ve studied, or I try to find new, interesting phenomena based on what I observe.”

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Dr. Nathan was able to offer the following insight relative to Jordy Mercer’s RBI double (seen in the video above) in the 8th-inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The funny thing is Mercer’s hit wasn’t even supposed to happen (if the Pirates’ plans had worked out). A failed suicide squeeze attempt earlier in the at-bat forced the Pirates to change their strategy, which allowed Mercer to swing the bat and bring home Gregory Polanco for an added eighth-inning insurance run.

Let’s take a look at how it happened…

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How Much Effect Does Temperature Have On Home Runs


Data plot from Dr. Alan Nathan’s article entitled “Global Warming and Home Runs: Is There a Connection?” showing the extra distance the ball travels at a specific temperature, relative to how far it would have traveled had the temperature been 72.7F

PITTSBURGHAccording to the Washington Post, the average global temperature in 2015 shattered 2014’s record-setting heat to become the hottest year since reliable record-keeping began.

While our current political climate (pardon the pun) has focused on this issue and its significance for many reasons, today we will look at it from a baseball perspective.

As everyone has come to understand, baseballs travel further in warmer weather. So it would stand to reason as the global temperature increases, so will the amount of runs/home runs in baseball.

Lets take a look…

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Scoring Is On The Rise (Again) In College Baseball


“The NCAA baseball has higher seams, and the higher seams certainly affect the aerodynamic properties of a ball. Laboratory experiments have been done where you set the two balls spinning at the same rate and look at how much movement there is. The data show that there’s more movement with the high-seam ball. Moreover, a pitcher can get a different grip on the high-seam ball. I think you can grip the ball better and probably put more spin on it as a result. For both these reasons, there will be more movement with a high-seam ball. It is also true is that there is less air resistance on the flat-seam ball, on the major-league ball. That is fairly well known, but it’s only been well know recently, at least from laboratory experiments. Straying a little bit from your question, there is a move afoot among NCAA coaches who are lobbying to change the NCAA baseball from a raised-seam to a flat-seam ball in order to get back some of the home runs that were lost when they went to the BBCOR bats.” – Alan Nathan, Nov. 5 2013, speaking on flat-seamed baseballs 

PITTSBURGH – Near the end of the 2015 season, the American Baseball Coaches Association conducted a survey of member head coaches in NCAA Div. I, II and III as well as the NAIA regarding the coaches’ opinions about the “flat-seam” baseball used in 2015.

The survey received 456 total responses from the four divisions.

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