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Essay on The Physics of Pitching

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The Physics of Pitching


I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson. He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was it was hard to hit. ... Tim McCarver, St. Louis Cardinals catcher, 1972. Most people do not understand pitching, the mechanics, the situations and the how’s and why’s. Today we are going to talk about a few of these.

When most people think of pitching they think of a person hurling a 5 oz. ball with 216 red stitches as hard as they can from 60’6”. Well they are right, but there is so much more to it. When I looked at pitching I saw situations, fastballs, curveballs, and change-ups. When physics was introduced to me I saw much more to baseball. I see forces generated and at work against each other, I see the Magnus effect functioning most of the time. Let’s look at how force is generated through a pitcher.

Every pitcher has mechanics; mechanics is a good name for it for the mechanical motion which is gone through generates force. “The pitcher’s arm acts as a lever which gives him mechanical advantage, increasing the force.”(1) Let’s look at the transfer of force through the wind-up. A good pitcher hits what is known as the power triangle, this power triangle looks like this: “The lead or glove arm is up at shoulder height and the shoulder is closed. The lead foot has landed on or slightly across the mid-line, the throwing arm is in the high cocked or L-position with the ball facing back toward the shortstop and the head is level and in the top center of the triangle formed by the two feet.”(2)

By getting to this power point it leaves the maximum potential energy. That potential energy is put into kinetic energy and the ball is thrown, ...


... middle of paper ...


...the knuckle ball will go the direction of least resistance. This makes the pitch very unpredictable and hard to control.

In conclusion, we have seen how different forces act upon a ball that is thrown. Enough that it will slow a ball up to 7 mph after the ball leaves the hand of the pitcher who throws it. Forces such as Magnus effect, gravity, air resistance, drag and seam use play factors in the trajectory and velocity of a pitch. If used correctly they can be very effective in getting the batter out.

Works Cited:

#1 http://www.kent.wednet.edu/staff/trobinso/physicspages/Phys Of1998A/Baseball-WooR/ryanwoo2.html

#2 http://www.pitching.com/pitching_mechanics.php

#3 http://library.thinkquest.org/11902/physics/pitching.html

#4 http://www.prism.gatech.edu/~gte603f/me2202/me2202.html Other Sources
Adair, Robert K. The physics of baseball. January,1994


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