Baseball/Softball: Curve Balls Can
Be Hit Farther Than Fastballs

Dick Moss

 A Curveball Has Topspin on 
the Way to the Batter and 
Backspin After it is Hit
A Curveball Has Topspin on
the Way to the Batter and
Backspin After it is Hit
It has long been thought that fastballs can be hit farther than curve balls because the combined speeds of bat and ball produce a greater collision, allowing for more force to be applied to the flight of the ball.

However research performed at the University of California Davis and reported in the American Journal of Physics, has shown that just the opposite is true. In fact, a perfectly hit curve ball will travel farther then either a fastball or a knuckleball.

Why Curve Balls Can be Hit Farther
Ball spin is the reason curve balls can be hit farther than fastballs. Curve balls are thrown with topspin, which, after contact with the bat, reverses and becomes backspin. Backspin imparts lift to the ball, which allows it to fly farther.

Fastballs, on the other hand, are thrown with backspin, which becomes topspin after contact with the bat. A ball flying with topspin has less left lift and tends to drop more quickly.

A knuckleball has no spin as it approaches the plate and also experiences topspin upon contact with the bat.

The researchers did acknowledge that, while it is possible to hit curve balls farther than other pitches, the probability of achieving optimal hitting conditions for curves are more difficult because of the trajectory of the pitch.

Reference: Gregory Sawicki and Mont Hubbard, (U. of Cal-Davis), "How to hit home runs: Optimum baseball bats wing parameters for maximum range trajectories." American Journal of Physics, November 2003.


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