Baseball – Home Run Physics

Chuck Nice, Gary O'Reilly and Geoff Blum in the Playing with Science Studio. Credit: Ben Ratner.
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About This Episode

The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd as the ball soars over the center fielder’s head and into the stands below the scoreboard. The home run: arguably one of the hardest feats in all of sports. This week, in another off-season episode brought to you by our friends at TuneIn, Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice learn why it’s so hard to hit one out of the park. Helping them out with the player’s perspective is Geoff Blum, the former Chicago White Sox infielder who, in 2005, hit the game-deciding home run in the 14th inning of the longest World Series game ever played, and who is now the announcer for the Houston Astros. Bringing the science is Professor Alan M. Nathan, an expert in the physics of the baseball-bat collision and the flight of the baseball. Join us as we investigate the anatomy and aerodynamics of a home run, from the role of spin, drag and the coefficient of restitution of the ball, to point of contact, launch angle and exit velocity off the bat. Explore the chess match between the pitcher and the hitter, the strategy of the count, the psychology of “angry” pitchers like Randy Johnson, and the critical role experience and memory play in the 4/10 of a second a batter has before the ball crosses the plate. Discover why a juiced ball flies further and examine the impact of humidity and moisture on home run production. You’ll also learn all about bats: what makes the sweet spot sweet; which is better, heavy or light; the difference materials like maple, ash and aluminum make to a hitter; why a well-hit ball sounds the way it does, and why that familiar crack is so important to an outfielder. Plus, you’ll hear Chuck’s soon-to-be-famous theory about ball spin and point of contact, and why corking a bat would probably be a bad idea, physics-wise, even if it wasn’t also illegal.

Listen on TuneIn.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Baseball – Home Run Physics.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Gary O'Reilly

    Gary O'Reilly
    Sports Analyst, Broadcaster, Professional Soccer Player
  • Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
  • Guest

    Geoff Blum

    Geoff Blum
    Houston Astros Announcer & Former MLB Baseball Player
  • Guest

    Alan Nathan

    Alan M. Nathan
    Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois

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