Keith Allison’s Photo of Aaron Judge at bat for the New York Yankees.
Keith Allison’s Photo of Aaron Judge at bat for the New York Yankees.

Baseball Physics, with Bill Nye

Aaron Judge bats for the New York Yankees. Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
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About This Episode

“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball,” says Billy Bean in Moneyball. On the other hand, it’s easy to be scientific! On this episode of StarTalk Sports Edition, Neil deGrasse Tyson is exploring the physics of baseball with his old friend Bill Nye the Science Guy, co-host Gary O’Reilly, and DJ Price, assistant baseball coach at Barry University. 

Is baseball a contact sport? You’ll find out why the answer is a resounding yes. We discuss hitting vs. hitting for power. We debate whether or not you have to be a physically big player to hit a lot of home runs. Bill tells us why the mass of the bat is key. DJ explains how different players can be matched to specific bats to maximize performance in today’s game. And you’ll discover why corking a bat doesn’t work.

Bill offers a new rule to deal with broken bats. We investigate the differences between using an aluminum bat and a wooden bat. This leads us into a conversation about cricket: how it’s similar to and different from baseball. Perhaps most important of all, you’ll find out why, when throwing a ball, you want to “throw with your legs.” 

We dive into pitching. Neil tells us why pitching is all about confusing a batter’s Newtonian expectations. DJ explains how individual finger pressure on a ball can drastically change a pitch. We take a look at the genius of Mariano Rivera and his cut fastball. You’ll hear why educated guessing is a big part of the game. 

Lastly, you’ll discover how much the air itself can impact the game, and why humid air is better for baseball. We discuss the difference altitude can make when playing. Neil pitches an idea to have a stadium in Death Valley that would be perfect for throwing curveballs. All that, plus, you’ll learn why baseball players are the smartest physicists that don’t know it.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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