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Re: Pitching Comparison

Posted by: Dave (cdpaetkau@telus.net) on Tue Feb 24 12:56:26 2004

This is off a web site. Hope it helps.

Hitters Reaction Time
Fastpitch vs Baseball
I have read with great interest the banter back and forth about the comparison of baseball and fastpitch reaction times. There have been some overstatements and understating that are both comical and disturbing.

In my younger years I wrote a few papers on the subjects relating to all areas of fastpitch including hitters reaction time, bat speed and hitting efficiency, throwing velocity training and base stealing techniques. In these papers I dealt with the biomechanical principals, the physics of the actions and the mental aspects behind these actions. These papers do not make me an expert but I hope to enlighten, entertain and engage you while you read this. The numbers that I use will be explained and hopefully you will understand why I use them.

The average fastpitch pitcher throws at about 73-76 mph while the top pitchers will throw in excess of 82-85mph but not every time (excluding changeups). The years before my retirement I kept tags on the top pitchers and they were throwing consistently about 78-80mph so I will use 80mph. In the major leagues the top fastballers (Randy Johnson, Clemons) will throw 93-98mph consistently. Now the baseball pitchers speed is not so important for reaction time as it is a comparison for what a fastpitch batter must face when he hits.

The distance for a fastpitch pitcher delivery point will be 40ft due to the fact that the release point is at the hip. Most pitchers hips are at about 6ft in front of the rubber on release, the distance for a baseball pitcher will be at 53ft since the release point is ahead of the front foot. You could argue this with me a bit but I will try to be on the side of caution.

An 80mph pitch is 117.33 ft/second which gives the batter standing 40ft from the release point .341 of a second to hit the ball. A 95mph pitch is 139.33 ft/sec, which gives the batter standing 53ft from the release point .380 of a second to hit the ball. A baseball pitcher would have to throw the ball 155.42 ft/sec to accomplish the .341 reaction time for the baseball batter. This equates to a 106 mph fastball.

These are the pure comparison numbers and do not take in account; the size of the ball, ball movement, etc. Fastpitch batters never have a 6 11" Randy Johnson releasing the ball about 3-4 ft behind a left handed batter and have it curve into the strike zone. The multitude of release points that a baseball pitcher can throw at you (side arm, arm, over the top, etc) or the huge speed changes from one pitch to the next. All these things work into the reaction time formula.

The baseball batter of course very rarely sees a ball rise thru the strike zone. Top pitchers will throw faster than the example given which require even less time to react and the strike zone was, up until this year, quite a bit larger for the fastpitch batter. These are the reasons why batters spend hours trying to "pick a pitcher" since you can eliminate either a direction of movement or speed of pitch so that the batter can focus on a smaller hitting zone.

Of course hitting is not all reaction time and mental aspects of hitting are as important as ones' ability to react to a pitch. I think the comparison of baseball to fastpitch hitting is complex but as a pure degree of difficulty in reacting to a top quality fastpitch pitcher I personally think that us "chest thumping" fastpitch hitters can be proud of our accomplishments. I hope this enlightens and entertains, as it should.

Dave Paetkau
(Dave was a member of the Canadian National team and played for the New West Brewers)


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