Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Science of Baseball

Single A baseball is about to end for the Grasshoppers this season.  To celebrate the awesomeness of minor league baseball, lets do a baseball related story.

All sports generally involve nothing more the physics.  For most sports, an athlete's job is simply to excel at physically using the laws of physics to control the motion of two simple things:  their bodies, and some sort of ball.  Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer...they all fall under this definition.  Even NASCAR meets this definition if you consider the "car" as being a "ball" that the athlete is still physically manipulating.

Some sports are simpler:  the basic sports.  Running and swimming are two examples of the simplest of these cases there is no ball for them to manipulate at all...they entirely revolve around the use of the athlete's body and nothing more.

Baseball and Cricket are different.  In a real, scientific sense, these two sports are simply more advanced than the others.  Why?  Contact between the bat and the ball.  The pitcher does his best to manipulate the ball, but he doesn't score any points by this act.  The batter is doing his best to manipulate his bat in order to hit the ball in the best way possible.  The skill or craft of the pitcher is entirely different than the skill or craft of the batter.  Where they meet is pure physics.

There are two things all baseball managers have a to be good at, statistics and physics.  Most managers probably need a masters level knowledge of statistics to maximize his team's change of winning an entirely different, and extremely complex situation every game played.

For the fun of it...lets look at an article in Discover about what science can absolutely tell us about Baseball:

1.  Most base-runners continue to take the wrong path running from home to first.
2.  Statistically, little brothers are strongly shown to take bigger risks than their older brothers.
3.  When home town advantage matters, it tends to matter due to jet lag.
4.  Being a night-owl or early riser can make a big impact on a pitcher's EPA depending on city.
5.  At the MLB level, its physically impossible for anyone to "see the pitch"...its really a guessing game.
6.  Batters may actually see a bigger ball (mentally, not physically) when on a streak.
7.  Want to see the benches emptied?  Go to a game on the hottest day of the year.
8.  Baseball favors lefties over righties overall.
9.  Conventional wisdom that youth pitchers shouldn't throw curve balls is wrong.

Check out the article here.

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