Nathan: Optimizing the swing

From SABR member Alan Nathan at The Hardball Times on November 11, 2015:

When I first started writing this article a few weeks ago, the focus was very simple. It was motivated when someone posted a link to a 2004 Wall Street Journal article, “Why Hitting Curveballs Scores More Runs; How Pedro Proves Rule,” in which it was claimed that an optimally hit curveball can be hit farther than an optimally hit fastball.

The article was based on an interview with Professor Mont Hubbard of UC Davis, who earlier had published an article in the American Journal of Physics, “How to hit home runs: Optimum baseball bat swing parameters for maximum range trajectories,” which directly addressed this topic. Some discussion ensued on Twitter, concluding with a question posed to me: Is the claim fact, theory, or nonsense?

The essential idea behind the claim is quite easy to state. On the one hand, a faster pitch can be hit harder and, therefore, can travel farther than a slower pitch. That would seem to give the edge to a fastball over a curveball. On the other hand, a curveball can be hit with greater backspin than a fastball. Greater backspin means more lift, which leads to a longer distance on a fly ball.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: November 11, 2015. Last Updated: November 11, 2015.