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# Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

Posted April 30, 2017 5:01 PM
Pathfinder Tags: baseball challenge question

This month's Challenge Question: Specs & Techs from GlobalSpec:

Once in a while you may hear a baseball player describe a pitcher’s pitch as a “rising fastball.” This seems to violate the laws of physics because a baseball is subject to gravity and should immediately have a downward acceleration, in addition to its forward acceleration, when released by a pitcher. Thus a pitch that rises should be impossible. What’s going on?

Batters divide a pitch into thirds. During the first third the batter is picking up the ball after the pitcher releases it. The second third has the batter anticipating the timing and location of the swing needed to hit the ball. Finally the third part is the batter swinging the bat. So when a pitcher throws several 90-mph fastballs in a row, the batter develops a mental model for the trajectory of that pitch. Baseball announcers will often call this “getting the pitcher’s timing down.”

Some pitchers will occasionally throw a faster version of their fastball to throw off the batter’s timing. For example, that pitcher throwing 90-mph might slip in a 95-mph fastball one pitch. The batter picks up the ball but doesn’t notice the 5 mph difference in speed. The batter calculates where the 90-mph fastball would go and swings at that spot. But the 95-mph fastball has a flatter trajectory. It doesn't drop quite as much from the pitcher to plate because it's going faster.

This results in the batter swinging under the pitch. The pitch appears to be higher than the batter expects and to the batter the pitch seems to “rise”. Thus the rising action sometimes described by hitters is actually a result of mental miscalculation. Crafty veteran pitchers will sometimes exploit this effect by subtly varying their pitch speeds by using modified grips.

https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/the-myth-of-the-rising-fastball-and-searching-for-the-ideal-baseball-bat

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#1

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

04/30/2017 5:38 PM

Magnus effect: The ball has a backward spin on it, resulting in lower pressure above, pulling the ball upward.

It works even better with basketballs:

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#2

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

04/30/2017 7:21 PM

By Jove, I think you've got it!

But I doubt it is actually rising, merely not falling as fast as it normally would, under only gravitational influence.

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#4

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

04/30/2017 8:12 PM

If the ball is spinning, there is a force at right angles to the direction of motion. For example, if it is spinning CCW and moving from left to right, there would be an upward force.

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#6

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/01/2017 10:06 AM

It doesn't "fall up".

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#7

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/01/2017 2:30 PM

I agree that a baseball is too small and heavy to actually rise.

Batters are very good at perceiving the trajectory of the pitched ball in the very short time during the pitch. The slight deviation from "normal" trajectory due to the Magnus effect will appear to be a rise to the batter.

If you have a beach ball handy, it is very easy to see the Magnus effect by throwing it with a backspin, and it will have a very definite upward trajectory.

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#5

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/01/2017 7:40 AM

depends on the pitch which would include

• the angle of release of the pitch (trajectory or path) toward home plate,
• Velocity
• spin on the ball
• and the roughness of the ball being pitch, (some pitchers roughen it up)
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#21

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/16/2017 11:04 PM

I am a retired physics teacher and every year would take my classes to the gym and take a ping pong ball and put it in a 3 inch diameter mailing tube and hold it straight up and then swing it down and if you have the correct length tube, the ping pong ball will fly out horizontally and because of the spin imparted to it as it travels down the tube, it will rise about 6 to 10 ft. Try it. The effect is pretty cool.

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#22

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/17/2017 9:04 AM

Interesting!

I might have to try this one at home.

Then there is a second one I want to try:

How far up can I propel a ping pong ball (from a mailer tube of appropriate diameter), by blowing in a hydrogen-oxygen stoichiometric mixture into 1/6 th the length of tube, with the ball resting on a seal stop above the gas?

Probably just blow up the mailer tube, I suspect.

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#18

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/09/2017 11:49 AM

According to Mythbusters, Magnus effect is not sufficient to make the ball actually rise.

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#19

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/09/2017 12:13 PM

Apparently, it would take "super spin" and/or "super speed." No one has that ability, OK. Next time I am at bat in the whirled series, I will remember that.

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#3

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

04/30/2017 7:45 PM

It's an optical illusion....The pitcher's mound is elevated which is not apparent from the batting position, this causes the batter to be looking at the pitcher from a lower angle than would be the case were they at equal elevation, as the ball approaches the angle decreases...

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#8

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/01/2017 11:37 PM

I did actually pitch, albeit at a lower level.. Imagine holding the ball , in a way, that allows your bottom two fingers to upsweep , right handed , hand going clock wise with an upward motion, like swinging your hand under and up. The ball will rise. But also remember, you are only talking about 90 feet, and the velocity overcomes the natural gravitational drop. Also, P 51's and other aircraft, that have more horsepower than wing area, for lift. Drop out the horsepower, and the "Ball" (Plane) drops like a rock. Difficult to gauge velocity with the ball movement, which is why I comment , rather than play at any level..

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#9

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/02/2017 7:17 AM

I also played,... hardball and fast pitch softball.

In softball, there are (3) sizes of ball.

1. 11" Fast Pitch
2. 12" Normal Slow pitch
3. 16" (16" you use without a glove)

If your a batter, like in you watch the spin of the ball and make your adjustments. But in hardball, that's for the younger players, with good eyesight.

A good pitcher you can really see the ball move, I was in a slow pitch tournament were, they used a 12" ball. It really has some movement.

Now, when the pitcher throws a knuckler ball, that's a different story... As the Voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, Bob Uecker (and winner of the world series ring for the Cardinals, not bad for a mediocre player) would say... "the only way to catch a knuckle ball is to wait till it stops rolling and then pick it up."

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#10

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/02/2017 2:03 PM

For the ignorant among us, it would have been handy if you'd mentioned that those dimensions are circumferences.

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#11

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/02/2017 2:14 PM

Thanks for reminding me,.... I was... even though I copy clipped it, I forgot to paste...

11 inches

The 11 inch has a circumference of 11 inches and a diameter of 3.5 inches, is used in fast-pitch softball. It is two inches larger than a baseball. The ball is fairly hard; however, the pitcher has a lot to do with how hard any ball is hit. The fielders wear gloves.

12 inches

The 12 inch has a circumference of 12 inches and a diameter of 3.8 inches12-inch ball is the standard for slow-pitch softball. The ball is a little softer than the 11-inch version. The softness and its size, which makes it slightly harder to throw than a smaller ball, slows the speed of the game just a little bit compared to a game using an 11-inch ball. The fielders wear gloves.

16 inches

The 16-inch softball is used when the game is played without gloves. This style of softball is quite popular in the Chicago and New York metropolitan areas. It is softer than both the 11- and 12-inch balls. Its size limits the distance it can travel compared to the smaller balls, and it tends to put a premium on quickness in the game over power.

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#12

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/02/2017 3:41 PM

In spite of the spin deniers here, I will say that my father used to throw a sinking curve ball that had a speed of near 90 mph. I found it difficult to catch that one.

He did not have the rising fast ball, but there are pitchers in the majors that have mastered the art of this pitch, and it does rise. It is usually thrown right at the batter's head for effect. Move or #\$%^&??

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#13

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/02/2017 3:49 PM

I could never figure out the split fingered fastball, from the likes of Bruce Sutter from the Cards... That knocked the Milwaukee Brewers out of winning the '82 World Series...

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#14

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/03/2017 11:20 AM

thid is called magnus effect.

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#15

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/03/2017 2:04 PM

At the risk of boring everyone to tears because I've posted this before (But then why do people keep asking about the Magnus effect?).

Another easy way to demonstrate the effect is by making this simple toy.

You just need the cardboard tube from the middle of a toilet roll, some tape and an elastic band.

Make a "hook & grip" from the tape by folding it

and cutting a small notch,

and, stick it to the tube: you may need some extra tape to ensure it holds firm.

Launch the thing by holding the grip under the tube and "catapulting" it the way you would "fire" anything else with an elastic band:

Made with a cardboard tube like this they "behave" quite well: normally they'll curve upward 'til they stall then drop, but curve away again so that they "land" fairly flat.

But, if you experiment with longer smaller diameter tubes made from paper they can perform all sorts of acrobatics.

Don't expect any long flights though: I must try out a 2 liter drink bottle some time.

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#16

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/04/2017 12:41 PM

depends on speed, spin and diameter/radius of the ball/cylinder

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#17

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/04/2017 1:56 PM

And the mass density, I guarantee you that if you could throw a neutronium fast ball, it would hit the ground really soon, but you would have to really put forth some effort to propel something the size of a baseball. On the other hand, I would like to see you throw a fast ball where the ball is made of aerogel. The density has to be in the correct range.

Neutronium baseball: Volume is 12.31-13.36 in3 (0.2017-0.2189 L)

density = 4×1017 kg/m3, or 4x1014 Kg/L,

Mass is therefore : 8.068 x 1013 Kg up to 8.756 x 1013 Kg.

The neutronium baseball would pin your hand to the ground until it sheared off your hand, and also drug you down into it by gravity, as the ball fell to the center of the earth, and so on, and so on, and so on.

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#20

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/09/2017 1:45 PM

Sure! Mass/matter is the force to fall!

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#26

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/17/2017 11:05 AM

in a gravitational environment

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#23

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/17/2017 9:40 AM

As a high schooler, I was a baseball pitcher in my junior and senior years ('65 & '66).

Being a very inquisitive person, I surmised that physics class could be applied to my high school baseball and basketball. And it did.

In junior high basketball, I was noted for long shot accuracy and shot "uplift" due to good backspin.

in baseball, I was noted as one of the 2 "fastest fastball" pitchers in our high school league. I was also noted for having some of the best "breaking" pitches.

With excellent grip on a baseball I could get the baseball to literally move (hop, dive, curve left or right, wobble) dependent on a combination of grip, speed, and angle of release.

So yes, a pitcher can definitely affect a baseball's dynamic motion!

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#24

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/17/2017 9:44 AM

a understanding and a little research goes a long way... and doing so in high school gave you the edge... good for you.

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#25

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

05/17/2017 10:27 AM

...but apparently, not even you really have a rising fast ball. Agreed?

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#27

### Re: Frustrating Fastballs: Newsletter Challenge (May 2017)

06/02/2017 5:14 AM

For what it's worth, and, if my calculations are correct.

The official answer completely ignores all aspect of wind resistance and the Magnus effect, so , the following calculations are also done in a vacuum.

Assuming that a 90 mph pitch reaches the batter at exactly the same height as it was released, then a 95 mph pitch will be very slightly more than two inches higher.

I've also assumed that both pitches have exactly the same vertical component of velocity when released.

Do baseball batters have any knowledge of Two Line Element Sets or Bstar resistance?

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