Monday, May 09, 2022

Hitting a Baseball is the Hardest Skill to Pull Off in Sports. Here’s Why

.. For one, the physics are extreme. The velocity of the average fastball in the Major Leagues is more than 90 miles per hour. When the ball whizzes in at that speed from less than 60 feet away, the hitter has about 150 milliseconds to decide whether they want to swing. That’s literally the blink of an eye.

And even though a hitter has that 150 milliseconds to decide whether to swing, the ball is only in the hitting zone for less than 10 milliseconds, according to David Kagan, a physics professor at California State University, Chico, and the self-proclaimed “Einstein of the National Pastime.” Essentially, the amount of time the ball is in a spot where the batter can make contact and keep it in fair territory equates to the time separating a photo finish at the Kentucky Derby.

Plus, hitting a round baseball with a round bat squarely is an additional piece to this complicated puzzle. Getting those two curvy objects to connect in just the right way is extremely difficult—if you’re off by just a smidge, the ball could hook foul or make for an easy out instead of sailing over the wall.

...What’s more, the incredible hand-eye coordination of baseball players transfers well to other sports—but excelling at other sports doesn’t mean you’ll be able to hit a baseball. An athlete could look competent on the soccer field or the basketball court. But take a soccer or basketball player and get them to try to hit a baseball? That won’t work out so well, he says.

That’s because successful hitters are exceptional in two areas, Sajda’s lab hypothesizes. First, hitting a baseball is not about how fast a batter can swing, but rather how fast they can stop themselves from swinging at pitches they aren’t likely to get hits on—preventing more strikeouts and creating more opportunities to get a hit. The ability to determine in 150 milliseconds whether to swing matters more than the batter just being able to swing quickly.

The second important area is a hitter’s ability to identify pitches, he says



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