Dispelling The Mystery of Pitch Speed

PITTSBURGH – In the midst of our Science of Baseball conversation with Dr. Alan Nathan during the Home Run Derby, a simple but astute question was posed.

“How much does pitch speed effect the distance a ball travels?” 

The thought behind the question being, “If MLB players are hitting the ball 440 feet during the Home Run Derby with grooved batting practice pitches going roughly 70 mph or so, how far could they hit the ball if they had a grooved 90 mph pitch?”

After some clarification, Dr. Nathan responded with the Tweet you see at the top of this post.

Case seemingly closed.

But last week, in response to Dr. William Clark’s article on Momentum in Baseball, a reader made a remark that velocity of a pitched ball and rotation has a lot to do with exit velocity, and then later referenced Newton’s Third Law.

This reader seemingly could not grasp the science involved in the ball to bat collision, so we are here – with the help of Dr. Nathan – to dispel the mystery of pitch speed, relative to exit velocity and distance a ball travels.

Dr. Nathan also explained during our Science of Baseball conversation that while each mph of pitch speed adds 1 ft. to the distance, each mph of bat speed adds 1.2 mph of exit speed.

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced that pitch speed isn’t a huge factor in exit velocity, we have this Giancarlo Stanton home run from 2012 in which Stanton hit the scoreboard at Marlins Park after annihilating a pitch from Jamie Moyer.

Stanton’s exit velocity on this home run was 122.4 mph on a pitch from Moyer that was 66.4 mph.

Still think pitch speed matters that much?


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