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Attacking Bat Path Angle with John Peabody

We recently sat down with  John Peabody to talk about bat path angle, its importance to successful hitting, and much more.

As a former minor league baseball player and the current director of Peabody Baseball, John Peabody is a highly respected and sought-after hitting coach. Peabody works with hitters of all ages and levels – from youth baseball to the college ranks, all the way up to the top pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak.

Bat path angle
BlastMotion recently sat down with John Peabody to talk about bat path angle, its importance to successful hitting, and much more.

The San Diego-based Peabody has also teamed up with Blast to serve as a Baseball 360 Ambassador. Peabody is a big believer in Blast’s technology and regularly utilizes Baseball 360 in his training sessions.

Getting on Plane.

Baseball today is awash in statistics and metrics. But there’s one metric that Peabody believes is more important than the others. That metric? Bat path angle – also known as “attack angle.”

“Bat path angle is the angle that you’re attacking the ball at with your barrel, pre-contact,” explained Peabody. “For me, when it comes to Blast Motion, it’s ultimately the most important metric that they measure. I want to know if my guys are swinging up, because I know if I can get a guy to hit the middle of the ball – that he’s going to give himself a chance to hit something hard in the air; hit a line drive.”

“When you’re swinging down on the ball, you’re only on the plane of the pitch for so long. Beside the fact that you’re swinging down on it, the time that you’re in the zone isn’t long. So, your timing has to be that much better (to make up for it). You have to be that much better at hitting the perfect part of the ball with that kind of downward swing. Working slightly up promotes all those things, and gives yourself more opportunity for successful contact.”

Peabody is quick to stress that bat path angle is not “the end all-be all” when it comes to hitting success, but was equally eager to emphasize its importance.

“Making contact with the right part of the bat on the right part of the ball is the other main aspect of it, but the attack angle is huge,” said Peabody. “Being able to be in the zone a little bit longer, whether that be earlier in the swing or later in the swing – makes it so you don’t have to be perfect. You can be a little off, but make contact because you’re still on plane and you’re still in the zone.”

Simple Fixes.

So how exactly does a hitter create a better bat path angle?

“It’s not always that easy,” explained Peabody.

“Sometimes it’s a simple fix, just tell a guy to try to hit a ball a little bit higher than what he’s trying to do. And to do that, most of the time, they’re going to figure out how to get the barrel working slightly up, to make the ball go a little bit higher. There are things that we try to do, as far as getting your top hand under the bat, or getting your elbow under the barrel. Mechanics that we talk about to help get behind the ball or to get on the plane a little bit early – so we can make sure that we’re giving ourselves a chance to work level to slightly up, depending on the pitch location.”

Mechanics and Metrics.

In addition to making adjustments to hitting mechanics, cutting-edge technology is an invaluable tool. By recording and clipping video and measuring metrics like swing speed, time to contact, power and bat path angle, Baseball 360 helps hitters train smarter and get better. It also empowers their coaches, like Peabody, to make changes to attack angles that are less than ideal.

“It helps players and coaches, because a lot of the times, we can’t see that part of the swing,” explained Peabody. “When I’m throwing live to my hitters or I’m working in front of them, I know I can’t see that – especially when you’re working with guys that are swinging the bat from 80-85 miles an hour.

Baseball 360 also helps hitters themselves understand what, where and how they can make improvements to their swing.

“It gives them factual data to whether they are doing what they want to do,” said Peabody. “And I think that’s the bottom line. We talk about wanting to swing slightly up. Well, now you have something that tells you whether you are doing it or not. So gauging the metrics of what’s happening, I think is a good thing. It can be taken too far, but in Blast’s case, to be able to have the sensor tell you whether you are doing it or not, to me, only makes sense to use as a player or to train your players with if you’re a coach or a parent.”

Think Positive.

In addition to utilizing Baseball 360, Peabody runs his players through a variety of drills and exercises during his training sessions.

“Sometimes it takes some time to do these things, but I’ll do anything from high-tee drills to low-tee drills, use pads to squeeze between your bicep and your forearm to help the barrel get flat and get in the zone earlier and stay through the zone a little bit longer.”

Peabody does his best to tailor each set of drills to specific hitters, including when it comes to bat path angle.

“There are some big leaguers that I’m sure have negative attack angles that are successful, but I know the majority of guys don’t. I think when you look at the group of guys that are really the most consistent hitters – and ultimately the best hitters in the world – they’re using their swing to get on base, and you’re going to see those guys with positive attack angles.”

“Most of the guys that I run into that are “negative” guys are trying to figure out how to make it positive,” said Peabody. “You should be swinging slightly up, but swinging slightly up is not the end-all, be-all to a line drive. There’s an art to being on time. There’s an art to hitting the bottom middle of the ball with the middle top of the bat. All those things combined with working slightly up will equal a good hitter.”

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Building Efficient Swings with Time to Contact

Time to contact
When coaching and developing young baseball players, metrics like time to contact can play a prominent role in improving a player’s swing efficiency.

To discuss the ins and outs of an efficient baseball swing, we sat down with veteran coach and hitting instructor Rick Strickland. In addition to overseeing Sandlot Elite Baseball in St. Louis, Missouri, Strickland also serves as a pro scout and Blast Baseball Ambassador.

As the director of the most tech-prominent and progressive baseball academy in the Midwest, Rick has accumulated a wealth of knowledge, insight and experience – while helping pro players and young hitters refine and enhance their approach and execution at the plate.

We already know the value of swing speed when it comes to hitting for power and average – as well as building overall confidence as a hitter. But what about the aspect of timing and efficiency?

We’re talking about time to contact. With Rick Strickland.

Part of the Puzzle

Just what is time to contact? We asked Strickland this question, and his answer was equally informative and interesting.

“Everybody’s looking at swing speed and efficiency,” Strickland told us. “One of the big things that we see is that most kids are in a race to see how quickly they can get to the ball – but one of the things we saw right off the bat is that they weren’t very efficient with their swing. They were getting to the ball quickly, but they weren’t in the zone long enough with their swing. They basically went with the bat down directly at the ball. Yes, we want to be quick to the ball, but we want to be quick in a fashion where the bat’s traveling through the zone the longest.”

Strickland says that at Sandlot Elite Baseball, this balance of speed and efficiency is vital to developing smart, successful hitters.

“We want to make sure the time to contact is paired to what your efficiency index is,” explained Strickland. “And all those things tie together. If time to contact is too slow or too fast, we start to look at the video and see if there are some things on the video that tell us what could be affecting that number. That’s how we look at time to contact. It’s a part of that big giant puzzle. It’s a metric that, once we figure out what that range of that player is, we’re always trying to move that needle forward and make them better and improve that number.”

Every Moment Matters

So just why is time to contact so important for hitters?

“It’s a measurement of how fast they can move some mass,” said Strickland. “You’ve got a situation where you want the ability to wait and process information as long as you can, but to also have the ability to take the bat and be able to move it in a correct path through the strike zone – as fast as you possibly can.”

According to Strickland, time to contact can be a misleading metric at times. Because it’s not just about how fast you get there – but the route you take to get there.

“It’s a race, of course, to see how fast you can move the bat through (the strike zone), with the longest possible distance you can move it through. But sometimes, you may see a good hitter who has a little bit slower time to contact – because of how long the bat stays in the strike zone. You may see a slower time to contact, but that means that bat’s traveling through the zone longer.”

Drill, Drill, Drill…

When it comes to looking closer at a hitter’s swing path – and identifying an ideal swing path – Strickland uses an analogy related to another physical activity.

“When your path with the barrel of your bat is not very efficient, it’s almost like instead of walking around the sidewalk, you’re cutting across the grass to get there. What we try to do is we try to get them to stay on the sidewalk as fast as they possibly can to get to the other side.”

When it comes to improving time to contact – and taking the right route to the other side – Strickland says that certain drills can add great value and accelerate development.

“You’ve got to focus on the bat path. The bat path is critical,” says Strickland. “If you put these guys in a contest to be quick to the ball, they’re going to competitively try to win that race every single time – but they’re probably not going to do it very efficiently. So you’ve got to attack it both ways. You’ve got to attack it by path, and you’ve got to attack it by quickness.”

In addition, Strickland believes good old-fashioned strength training must also always remain a top priority.

“The other thing is kids have to have strength,” said Strickland. “We do a lot of overload, underload type of activities with the swing, so we can build some strength, and the ability to move that bat as quick as they can.”

Ongoing Evolution

Developing a deeper understanding and “awareness” of metrics like time to contact is doing more than helping hitters raise their games – it’s also forcing the game of baseball to evolve and grow in new directions.

Strickland sees this as a positive development for hitters, coaches and instructors, because the more you know, the less you have to guess.

“We all played somewhere where people thought that you should hold your hands in this position or that position,” said Strickland. “All of that, the ‘guessing’, put us further away from what the truth was about the swing.”

Just the Facts
To really understand the swing, a developing hitter can use a variety of tips, tactics, training and tools. Few training tools available on the market today are as versatile and valuable as Blast’s Baseball 360.

By automatically clipping video in slow-motion, and overlaying the applicable metrics, the sensor and app help hitters analyze and improve upon key hitting metrics like time to contact.

“It takes the guessing out of it,” said Strickland. “Being able to know your time to contact, bat path, efficiency index – all the things that Blast puts into the sensor are extremely important. It really takes the guesswork out of it, and it becomes more fact-based teaching.”

To Strickland, you can’t beat objective metrics, evaluation and insight. Once you absorb the information, you can fine-tune the mechanics, efficiency and timing of your mechanics and swing. When all these pieces begin to fall into place, you start building a better hitter.

“The sensors actually tell us exactly what your body’s supposed to be doing. And when you know what the body’s capable of doing and what it should be doing, it’s easy to teach a kid or a player to swing the bat the way that he needs to swing it to be successful.”

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Blast Baseball 360 Is The Most Accurate Baseball Sensor On The Market

Blast Motion recently took part in a third-party validation test to verify its accuracy against the top two baseball swing sensor competitors on the market: Diamond Kinetics and Zepp. The results from The Center for Human Performance are in. And they confirm the earlier findings:

• Blast’s swing sensor is the most accurate baseball sensor on the market.
• Dynamic calibration makes the Blast sensor much easier to use in an athlete’s natural environment than any available alternative.

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Blast Motion is the most accurate sensor on the market.
Blast Motion is the most accurate sensor on the market.

About the Center for Human Performance

The Center for Human Performance is a state-of-the-art motion analysis institution based in San Diego, CA. With expertise in kinesiology, biomechanics, engineering, athletic training, and orthopedics, the Center offers a comprehensive suite of sports science and motion-capture services – all backed by extensive experience and clinical research. Center Director Arnel Aguinaldo also serves as Assistant Professor, Kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University and VP of Applications Development for Motion Analysis Corporation.

An Accurate Baseball Sensor? The Swing Sensor Comparison Study

Led by Aguinaldo, the study compared the baseball swing sensor and analyzer of Blast to those manufactured by chief competitors Diamond Kinetics and Zepp. Fifteen male college and minor league baseball players over the age of 17 swung a 33-inch, 30-ounce baseball bat equipped with four reflective markers, allowing for 3D motion analysis of the bat during each swing at a sampling rate of 300 Hz. Each of the three swing sensors was attached to the bat in random order and the 15 subjects all hit a baseball off a tee 10 times with each sensor – while marker locations were captured from the motion-capture system.

All trials were performed inside a 100-by-15-foot enclosed batting cage. Baseball swing data was recorded from each sensor using each respective sensor’s mobile apps – then compared to Motion Analysis MoCap camera 3D motion-capture data to measure the error in swing speed (i.e. degree of accuracy).

Baseball Bat Swing Sensor Validation

An Accurate Baseball Sensor Defined: About the Test Results

Blast consistently outperformed its competition in several areas of the swing sensor study the most important being accuracy and ease of use.

Accuracy: When it comes to swing sensors, accuracy is the name of the game. It’s the key metric in play, and was the main focus of this study. Blast’s swing sensor exhibited the lowest margin of error – and was significantly more accurate than Zepp’s sensor. Blast’s standard deviation was 3 mph, compared to 5 mph for Diamond Kinetics and 7 mph for Zepp.

Setup time: Setup time for Blast’s sensor was a mere 90 seconds, on average. Diamond Kinetics’ sensor setup, on the other hand, took anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, due to more involved calibration procedures. Talk about a big difference.

Blast Technology Key Differentiators accurate baseball sensor

Conclusion

Leading-edge accuracy, paired with the invaluable ability to not disrupt the natural routine of athletes and coaches, makes Blast the best swing sensor solution available to hitters on the market today.

Learn more about Blast Baseball 360 today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Source: The Center for Human Performance, August 2016.

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Baseball Swing Speed

September's theme for baseball is Swing Speed. We will be breaking down what swing speed is and the importance in this blog post.
We recently sat down with Blast Baseball Manager Justin Goltz and Blast Motion Lead Biomechanist/Algorithm Developer Patrick Cherveny to take an illuminating and in-depth look at a valuable and often misunderstood metric – softball and baseball bat swing speed.

As softball and baseball organizations of all levels continue to dive deeper into data analysis, swing speed stands out as one that many organizations and clubs have yet to truly tap into and benefit from.

Swing speed also happens to be a metric that Blast Motion is uniquely qualified to analyze. In addition to our standing as the official swing sensor of Major League Baseball, our top-performing technology was recently used to measure and display swing speed of players in the 2016 MLB All-Star Futures Game. During that game, won 11-3 by the World Futures Team, the swing speed of hitters from both teams was continuously displayed on the state-of-the-art video boards at PETCO Park in downtown San Diego.

THE VALUE OF SWING SPEED

Fans of baseball and attendees at MLB games are no doubt quite familiar with the pitch speed metric, which is frequently and prominently displayed both on stadiums’ video boards and during television broadcasts. Exit velocity (also known as batted ball speed) is also becoming a more commonly cited and displayed metric, especially since these speeds at which baseballs leave the hitters’ bats can exceed 100 miles per hour – always a captivating and almost “magic” number for sports fans.

But what about swing speed? Just how much value does it hold – and how does it correlate with more established “speed metrics” in baseball?

“The baseball world has gone to more relevant metrics,” said Cherveny. “It used to simply be batting average, now it’s more about exit velocity, because it takes some of the randomness out of it. If you hit a ball softly and it’s hit away from a player, you may get a hit. In another at bat you may hit it hard but right at a player resulting in an out. The reality is that the more frequently you hit the ball hard, the higher the probability of a successful outcome.”

In a way, it’s really rather simple. The harder you hit the ball, the more likely your chances of getting on base. And the faster you swing the bat, the quicker the ball will leave the bat upon contact.

“Swing speed’s a very important metric, because it ultimately determines how fast the ball’s going to come off the bat,” said Cherveny. “The faster that you swing, the more likely that you will achieve a higher exit velocity, which will more often result in successful outcomes. Major League Baseball has put an increased emphasis on exit velocity and launch angle as two primary metrics for assessing players, and that’s already filtered down to hitting coaches who work with younger players. There’s a big emphasis on trying to maximize exit velocity and launch angle. If you don’t have a high swing speed, you’re going to limit your ability to have a high exit velocity.”

JUST HOW FAST IS FAST?

Unlike exit velocity or pitch speed, swing speeds of elite baseball players don’t approach or exceed triple digits. In fact, truly superior swing speeds don’t even come close to reaching 100 miles per hour – at least not if you’re measuring them the “right” way.

“We can confidently say that in-game swing speeds in the 90s or 100s aren’t really humanly possible,” said Goltz. “With some of the data we collected, we see in-game swing speeds in the 65- to 85-miles-per-hour speeds for some of the top professionals in baseball.”

According to Cherveny, the average swing speed in Major League Baseball games is around 70 miles per hour. That might not sound like a lot, but once you understand more about the dynamics behind the metrics, it starts to become pretty impressive.

“We see some swing speeds where people claim that you get into the 90s,” added Cherveny. “That would make sense if it’s at the end of the bat, but if you hit it at the end of the bat, it’s not going to travel as far because some of the energy is lost in the bat’s vibration. So that kind of a swing speed is essentially ‘false.’ Swing speed it dependent on where you’re measuring on the bat. In order to maximize quality of contact, the best hitters want to hit the ball in the “sweet spot” of the bat.

HITTING THE SWEET SPOT

Just as the casual sports fan may be misled about the nature and rate of swing speed, there is likely a good bit of confusion and illusion when it comes to the exact nature of the infamous “sweet spot” on a softball or baseball bat. Cherveny shared more fascinating and illuminating details regarding this renowned but misunderstood sporting hot spot. You might call it the “sweet science” of the swing.

“As a player swings the bat in a rotational arc, the further that you get down the radial length of the bat, the higher the swing speed,” said Cherveny. “So the speed at the hands will be much slower than the speed at the tip of the bat – and where you’re actually measuring is important in terms of what the measurable swing speed is.

“We measure at what’s called the ‘sweet spot.’ We define this is as a point six inches from the end of the bat. The sweet spot is actually defined as the point where the ball will release with the maximum amount of energy to the ball. Scientifically, this is the region in the bat between the first and second bending modes of vibration, which results in very small vibrational modes on impact in this region.

In truth, said Cherveny, the “sweet spot” on your bat isn’t really a spot at all.

“That’s where the best hitters want to make contact, that “sweet spot,” but in reality, it’s not a spot,” said Cherveny. “It’s actually an area along the bat that’s approximately
two inches in length. You can make contact anywhere along that area, and the ball will rebound and come off as fast as possible.”

Even along that “hit zone,” however, every inch matters. In fact, you might be surprised just how much an inch or two can mean, speed-wise.

“Let’s say that at an average Major League Baseball swing is 70 miles per hour, if you hit an inch further towards the hands from that sweet spot, you could lose 2.5
miles per hour,” explained Cherveny. “If you hit an inch further down the bat, it could be an additional 2.5 miles per hour. So you’re looking at around a 5 mile per hour
difference in the sweet spot or sweet zone of the bat, depending on where you hit it.”

MOVING ON UP…

It’s one thing for a young MLB star like Carlos Correa or Mike Trout to whip his bat through the hitting zone with a 75- or 80-mile-per-hour swing speed. But what about even younger, lower-level players?

“At the Little League level, the average swing speed is around 45 to 55 miles per hour,” said Goltz. “For senior league, we’re talking high 40s to maybe low 60s. High school, mid-50s to mid 70s. College and pro, mid-60s to maybe mid-80s. Those are the ranges and averages, but there are a few factors, including the bat size and age, that would affect swing speed.”

“There’s a lot of variables, but the biggest one is just the strength of the athlete,” added Cherveny. “With a more rotational swing, you could have a younger player that could actually move up into a higher swing speed class, but that gets down to the efficiency of the swing. Somebody who has a very rotationally efficient swing can generally produce higher swing speeds than somebody who doesn’t. So you can easily see kids in travel or high school baseball, 15 to 18 years old, who have swing speeds approaching the 80s. We see it all the time, especially working with trainers in batting cages where kids are developing the intent to hit the ball as hard as possible. This is especially true in use cases of tee and drill work where players don’t have to worry about pitch speed and movement.”

One might wonder if swing speed is a metric that’s really even that important for a college, high school or youth travel baseball player. According to Cherveny, swing speed is a very important metric in today’s baseball world. It’s also one that stands to become even more vital (and valued) as the game continues to advance.

“There’s a big emphasis on exit velocity,” added Cherveny. “And as you move up the baseball ladder, swing speed will always be important – not only from how far you can ultimately hit it, but to get playing time at the high school level, to getting recognized and identified for scholarships, and to move up through the minor league system. It’s always going to be a swing-speed dependent game.

“The intent to be able to swing fast is something that young hitters need to have, so that the motor skills become ingrained and they can do it repeatedly. So that when they get to the game situation, they have the ability to actually produce a high swing speed.”

WHAT BLAST DOES BEST

Baseball and softball are difficult and challenging sports. They are also games where mere inches frequently mean the difference between success and failure; hits and outs; wins and losses. Just as it’s important for a hitter to constantly practice and fine-tune his or her swing, it’s vital for Goltz, Cherveny and the entire Blast Baseball team to continually test, tinker, experiment, evolve and practice.

Practice makes perfect. Or something close to it.

“We do a lot of work on accuracy testing, because of the importance of it to today’s game,” said Cherveny. “When you’re trying to actually fuse player input data such as swing speed with ball output system technologies, you have to have confidence in the accuracy of the underlying data. So we do a lot of internal accuracy testing.”

Cherveny explained that a lot of that internal work and testing for maximizing accuracy involves motion-capture technology tools – using reflective markers that are placed on the bat, much as the Blast swing sensor itself is.

“We can then compare directly between our sensor and the motion-capture data for a particular swing for any type of swing across different levels,” said Cherveny. “But we go beyond that in our internal testing for checking the accuracy of our algorithms. We not only look at the speed at impact, but we also look at the build-up of speed throughout the swing too.”

It’s not just internal testing and evaluation that helps the Blast Baseball team fine-tune its swing sensor and out-hit the competition. In fact, a recent external, third-party validation test verified the rarified and repeated level of excellence achieved by the Blast swing sensor.

The test compared the swing sensors of Blast with those of competitors Diamond Kinetics and Zepp. It was conducted by the Center of Human Performance in San Diego, and was overseen by the center’s director, Arnel Aguinaldo. Blast came out on top in several categories, including lowest margin of error (a swing speed average deviation of 3 mph, compared to 5 mph for Diamond Kinetics and 7 mph for Zepp).

“They used our sensor, the Zepp sensor and the Diamond Kinetics sensor, and had players swing in the batting cage to compare it to motion-capture data,” explained Cherveny. “And what they found verified what we have found in our internal testing, that we are the most accurate – 95 percent of our swings fall within plus or minus three miles per hour. We’ve heard from other external parties that have done their own testing and they have also validated these results.”

The test not only showed that the Diamond Kinetics app was not as consistent as Blast in detecting swing readings, but setup time for Diamond Kinetics took between five and 10 minutes – compared to an average setup time of just 90 seconds for the Blast swing sensor and companion app. More importantly, Blast implements a dynamic calibration that allows the hitter to just grab the bat and swing away with no laboratory-like static calibrations prior to each swing. Thus, the batter can use their natural swing style to produce the highest swing speeds possible, which is important for both player assessment and development.

“Blast’s accuracy and ability to not disrupt an athlete’s or coach’s natural routine gives us the best swing sensor solution available on the market,” said Goltz. “We take great pride in the accuracy of the information and data we provide to teams and their players – including MLB clubs.”

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How a Little Science Goes a Long Way in Baseball

baseball

Barry Bonds’ 71 home runs in a single season or Clayton Kershaw’s ability to strike out 301 batters in one year may seem like magic to most of us.

While we enjoy the sense of wonder we feel witnessing these talents, not everyone is satisfied to simply sit back in astonishment. Understanding the science behind baseball’s greatest players and their feats adds to our enjoyment of the game. Read through these points to gain a deeper appreciation of how players leverage the laws of physics to optimize their performance and wow fans.

Baseball & the Science Behind Energy Transfer

Each spring when training begins, reporters across the country ask University of Illinois physics professor Dr. Nathan to discuss the science of baseball. The most common questions include: How can a ball duck or swerve so dramatically at the last minute? How do batters choose where to put the ball?

But is Dr. Nathan a sports physicist? Not by a long shot.

Dr. Nathan has spent his career studying the collision of sub-atomic particles. Like baseballs, these particles rotate on an axis at varying speeds and with varying rotations. Interestingly enough, his findings about sub-atomic particles relate directly to the science of baseball. His answers to the following questions make sense and make baseball far more calculated and complex than it can appear.

Why Is the Bat’s Sweet Spot So Important?

Players share that when the ball hits the sweet spot on the bat, it feels awesome, powerful, even “true.” From their experience and from their physical sensations in their hands, they know a ball hit on the sweet spot has the greatest chance of going far and in the intended direction.

Physics makes the thrill of the sweet spot clear. First, understand that the bat is not a rigid object. Watch any slow-motion replay of a great hit. If the ball connects on the sweet spot there isn’t much bat movement. If the ball hits above or below the sweet spot, the bat vibrates, even to the point of hurting the player’s hands.

The energy and momentum of the ball transfers to the bat, causing a violent collision. If it hits where the bat can best deflect the energy, that energy transfers back to the ball, sending it in the opposite direction with the most force. If the ball hits higher or lower than the sweet spot, much of its energy transfers to the bat. This is what makes the bat vibrate. Therefore, at the sweet spot, you get the most pop.

How Do Pitches Change Course at the Last Minute?

The goal of the batter is to estimate where the ball will be when it crosses home plate. He does this by watching the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hands, but at about twenty feet away the batter can no longer process the movement of the ball. His vision and decision-making capacities cannot keep up with the ball’s speed. Therefore, it’s critical for the pitcher to throw the ball in a way that makes it change course in those last twenty feet.

Pitchers can make the ball drop, rise, and veer left or right by manipulating speed, rotation (spin), and the axis around which the ball spins. Dr. Nathan has determined that, due to the laws of movement and momentum, a small motion put on the ball at the beginning of the throw continues to build throughout the ball’s trajectory. This small movement can be nearly undetectable to the batter. And the more unpredictable a pitcher you are, the more strikes you achieve.

How Do Batters Direct Balls to an Intended Spot on the Field?

It’s not only the pitcher that puts spin on a ball. The batter, too, can make a ball harder to catch. Excellent batters can determine whether to put top spin or bottom spin on a ball, depending on the goal they want to achieve that inning. They put top spin on a ball by hitting it with the top of the bat so that it torques downward. The long grounder causes the infielders and outfielders both to scramble. The batter may choose to put a bottom spin on a ball to force the ball upward for a pop fly or even a foul. The energy from the ball hitting the bat off-center creates friction which can even lead to burning the ball. Even though the ball maintains contains contact with the bat for only one-thousandths of a second, it’s a violent energy transfer.

Why Do Bats Break in the Middle Rather Than Where the Ball Makes Contact?

When the ball hits the bat outside of the sweet spot, the bat bows or vibrates drastically. The outside wood fibers stretch, feeling the most stress where the most dramatic arc occurs — in the middle of the bat. The ball may have initiated the bend, but it didn’t cause the wood fibers to break. It’s the bend, not the ball itself that breaks the bat.

Scientists reverse engineer what baseball players learn from muscle memory and experience. Still, knowing some science of baseball could help both players and fans respect the game and its intricacy.