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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian-O'Neill: Don't blink - the fastball is a game of split seconds

  • When Kelvin Herrera winds up and throws a 100 mph fastball, the hitter has less than 0.25 seconds to decide to swing the bat and less than 0.25 seconds to actually swing. Blink, about 0.40 seconds, and you may miss the pitch.

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  • When Kelvin Herrera winds up and throws a 100 mph fastball, the hitter has less than 0.25 seconds to decide to swing the bat and less than 0.25 seconds to actually swing. Blink, about 0.40 seconds, and you may miss the pitch. Baseball pitches and reaction time, what do you know?
    T or F?
    1. A fastball can actually rise in the strike zone.
    2. The fastest pitch in MLB history was 106 mph.
    3. The four-seam fastball is generally the fastest.
    Pitchers stand on a hill 60 feet, 6 inches from the back of home plate and are about 54 feet from the front of home plate when they release the ball. The ball will lose about 2 to 3 mph in flight. Pitches thrown in the upper 90s and topping 100 mph are almost always four-seam fastballs. It is an "I dare you to hit this" pitch. Within about four- tenths of a second, the batter must determine the type of pitch, location, speed, whether to swing and then swing where the ball will be. If he waits until the ball is less than about 25-30 feet from home plate, he will miss.
    World Series champions are determined by these decisions. Millimeters of contact between the ball and bat are the difference between a grounder and a line drive. Millimeters. Albert Pujols and other great hitters swing the bat ‘where the ball will be.’ And, amazingly, their judgment is right over one-third of the time. For those ‘glass half empty’ types, this also means they are wrong two-thirds of the time — our greatest hitters. In fact, they may make the correct assessment of the pitch and still not be able to catch up to it. Swing and a miss. We see this on the grimaced faces of hitters who would just like that pitch back—ooh, s-o-o close. How quick is your reaction time to a 90 mph pitch? Find out at www.exploratorium.edu/baseball/reactiontime. html.
    I cannot vouch for the accuracy, but it is fun.
    Fastballs are most often thrown with backspin causing them to drop at a slower rate, the so-called Magnus effect. To the batter, it appears the ball is rising. Rather, it is an optical illusion. More pitcher chicanery. A pitcher who throws this ‘rising fastball’ in the 90’s can have a long and lucrative career.
    Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman threw the fastest pitch in history at 105 mph in September 2010. If the speed isn’t scary enough, Mr. Chapman is a lefty and stands at 6-foot-4. He is a monster on the mound and already has 21 strikeouts in the first month of the season. Zack Greinke, on the other hand, throws a 98 mph fastball and can follow with a curve in the 60s. Swing and a miss. Now that’s just showin’ off.
    Answer: 1. F; 2. F; 3. T.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com
     
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