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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Breaking Pitches, Corked Bats, Etc

Kind of an interesting article, but what's best about it are these illustrations of the grips for various pitches.

As for corked bats (remember the Sammy Sosa drama a few years ago?), Allen Nathan's Physics of Baseball page points out that a corked bat actually slightly reduces rather than increases the distance that a ball hit with it travels. I'm gonna try to paraphrase something he said:

Okay, so you drill a couple ounces of wood out of the barrel of a bat and fill the hole with cork or whatever. So now you've got a slightly lighter bat, plus its balance has moved closer to the knob, meaning you can swing it slightly faster or you can have more control over the barrel.

So now you're thinking, "more bat speed = more velocity at impact with baseball = more travel distance."

Not so fast, pal.

Problem is, drilling out the bat and moving its centre of gravity closer to the handle means the bat now has less mass (or weight) in the barrel and therefore less energy in the barrel. Where's the impact point? On the barrel. So what you've actually done is reduce the amount of energy that is available to to be transferred to the ball at impact. So what you have is, reduced energy = reduced ball velocity = reduced distance = fly out to the warning track instead of a double off the wall in the gap.

About all a corked bat is good for is to allow you to wait longer on a pitch and/or allow you to choose a particular angle of impact if you want to try to bloop a single over an infielder's head. But weakly hit, shallow fly balls don't win many ball games — they're mostly caught for outs. A corked bat's reduced mass might help deaden a bunt. Corked bats are more likely to help the "small ball" game than the "big fly" game.

A real good (but dry) book that covers these things and more is Robert K. Adair's The Physics of Baseball. I gave my copy away a couple of years ago. I miss it.


Gazetteer said...

So a corked bat favours the slap happy?

Ergo, short odds on charlie hustle's uses thereof?

MackJohnny said...

Yep, short odds.