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The Force of a Fastball

Saturday, June 25, 2005

If any one ever tells you there is no reason to suppress a memory, I ask you to kindly consider yesterday's ballgame. I'm working hard to forget it, but when the final score is 12-2, and you're on the losing end... thats pain. Well, at least Jason Dubois hit a homerun.

Speaking of pain, I call your attention to the top of the ninth inning. Luiz Vizcaino was pitching and he threw a 94 MPH fastball that barely ticked off AJ Pierzynski's glove and hit home plate umpire Greg Gibson in the face mask. Gibson fell to the ground and got up about three seconds later looking like he thought he was in Never-Never-Land.

The trainers brought out salts to help him wake up, but it took several minutes before he was apparently able to gain his wits. Admirably, he stayed in the game and finished up the last half inning.

When I saw the play, I immediately asked myself: How fast was that ball thrown? (94 MPH) and What must that feel like?

Deciding not to imitate Happy Gilmore, I've decided to call upon my physics class I took a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Velocity = Acceletation * Time
Kinetic Energy = 1/2 * Mass * Velocity^2

A standard baseball, according to the rule book is supposed to weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces (or 142-149 grams.) LINK. For our purposes, I'll assume the fastball yesterday weighed 145 grams (5.125 Ounces).

A 94 MPH fastball is traveling at 42 meters/second.

KE = .5 * M * V^2
KE = .5 * .145 * 42^2 = 127.9 Joules (Units of Energy).

For Comparison, say you had a 20 pound barbell (9.07 kg) and you held it 57 inches above your foot (4'9" or 1.473 M), and then you dropped it. It would take .55 seconds to hit your foot (using acceleration due to gravity of 9.81 m/s^2), and would be travelling at 5.33 Meters per Second (11.93 MPH). Going back to our equation, we get:

KE = .5 * M * V^2
KE = .5 * 9.07 * 5.36^2 = 128.8 Joules (Units of Energy).

So, we could say that getting hit by a 94 MPH fastball is comparable to dropping a 20 pound barbell on your foot from 57 inches. Ouch.

Thus endeth the physics lesson. Disclaimer I am ignorant of a great many things in physics, probably didn't get the equations/math/concepts correct. Please excuse my shortcomings and feel free to be overly zealous in the comments pointing out where I screwed up.

Chicago Cubs Media Guide Trivia Nugget of the Day:
Page 84: "Any game scheduled to start after 5 p.m. is considered a night game. If a game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and is delayed by rain or for any other reason, it is considered a day game. If a game is scheduled to start at 5:01 p.m., it is considered a night game."

Posted by Byron at June 25, 2005 1:30 PM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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Whenever my boss and I talk about car accidents, we always say, "It's the V-squared that gets ya!"

Yeah but he had a mask on and not the old one the new style like a goalie mask. It would not hurt that much. Look at goal keepers in hockey taking 100 mph shots to the head by a puck which weighs more than a baseball.

You should pull out the physics next time you're on a date. Girls totally go crazy for that stuff. BTW, the key quantity you're looking for is the decceleration of the ball and/or mask, which determines the force and impulse on the ump melon. Congrats on being done with college. Don't go to grad school... trust me on this one. Hopefully, I'll be home in August.

Your equations are spot on, but what you're trying to do is a lot more complicated. There are component vectors of velocity involved. Also, Energy doesn't equal Force.

I'm way too far removed from my advanced physics classes to come up with the formulas and results, but there's a lot more force behind the barbell because all of the velocity is in one direction and it's still picking up speed as it makes contact... your foot is absorbing all of the energy just as it's building (turning potential into kinetic).

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