Wandering With Wayne

by Wayne Dodson

Softball Hitting Science - Part 1

In 1687, 60 years before the first recorded reference to “Bass-Ball” in England, Isaac Newton inadvertently revealed the secret of hitting a softball hard and long. His Second Law of Motion is used every time your bat of a certain size (MASS) and your swing (Acceleration) applies a force (F) to a ball that can send it over the fence, line it into the gaps, or blast a grounder past an infielder.

Welcome to a short discussion of F=MA, which mathematically describes how force is applied and measured to of the ball leaving the bat. In softball, the term is called Exit Velocity (EV). 

Looking closer at the formula F=MA. We can see that more bat mass and/or greater swing acceleration will apply a higher force that puts the ball in play. Swinging a 6 foot telephone pole 200 mph will easily send the ball over a 250 foot fence, but is a little impractical. 

So how do we control bat mass and acceleration? Quite simply, we buy mass and we develop acceleration through good bat swing techniques. 

We will tackle (M) mass in this discussion and spend more time on acceleration in part 2. 

First, and briefly, the subject of bat mass. All the bats we buy should be certified by SSUSA, the same organization that determines our game playing rules.

SSUSA attempts to equalize hitting between seniors by establishing bat specifications that manufacturers must meet if they want to sell us bats. There are some basic specs required of all bats and there are ways that small tweaks are allowed for those players who seek either to hit a longer distance ball or a more controlled ball placement.

The basic specs require all bats to be 34 inches long with a barrel diameter of 2 1/4 inches. These are the fixed dimensions of the initial mass you can use to hit a ball.

The authorized spec choices SSUSA allows to tweak bat mass are:

We can see there are ways to increase the mass of a bat by altering barrel lengths and loads but the changes are not earth shattering.

In Part 2, we explore the dramatic ways we can develop the A (acceleration) in Newton's Second Law of Motion, F=MA.

Send all comments to me, at jacway48@gmail.com.

January 11, 2024