Pitching Physics with Ron Darling

Left to Right: Chuck Nice, Gary O’Reilly, Ron Darling Jr. and Neil deGrasse Tyson on StarTalk Playing with Science.

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About This Episode

There are few plays in sports more defined by physics than throwing a fastball in the Major Leagues. From the height of the pitcher and the pitching mound to release angles, speed of the ball, gravity, the spin you put on the ball, and the aerodynamic forces that influence the ball’s trajectory, the laws of physics are at work. To break down the physics of a pitch, this week Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly welcome former New York Mets starting pitcher and 1986 World Series winner Ron Darling Jr. and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to this special episode, recorded in the Sirius XM studios. You’ll discover why pitches curve less and balls fly farther in humid air, and what impact altitude has on the game. Ron explains finger positions for a breaking ball, why a spitball is so hard to hit, and why he could never throw a rising fastball. You’ll hear how to throw a curveball, and why Ron couldn’t throw one after he broke his thumb in 1987 diving for a bunt. Find out why it’s not about how many types of pitches you can throw (Mariano Rivera threw a single pitch!), but rather the ability to precisely control ball movement. Ron also takes us inside the mind of a pitcher to describe how every sequence of pitches puts you in position to make the correct pitch, and how “double thinking” and too much knowledge can be a pitcher’s enemy. You’ll also learn why Ron remembers every pitch he’s ever thrown, the importance of data and statistics to a pitcher, and how modern training methods and technology impact every aspect of pitching. Plus, Ron talks about why Tony Gwynne was the best batter he ever faced, and how former NY Mets outfielder Billy Beane turned his failure as a player into the “Moneyball” revolution he started as the GM of the Oakland Athletics.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Pitching Physics with Ron Darling.

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