Baseball/Softball: Pitching Machines Versus Human Pitchers
Baseball/Softball: Pitching Machines Versus Human Pitchers

Baseball/Softball: Pitching Machines Versus Human Pitchers

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update

If you're fortunate enough to have access to a pitching machine for your baseball practices, you should be aware that these machines don't completely simulate live pitching.

In fact, fastballs and curveballs delivered from pitching machines break more than those from live pitchers.

The Study
A study, conducted at Chukyo University in Japan, compared 10 fastballs and curveballs thrown from nine collegiate pitchers, versus those from a Toa Sports pitching machine. The pitchers - four lefthanders and five right-handers - all threw using an over-arm style. A high-speed camera system recorded each pitch, which was then examined using computer software.

Results
It was found that the average break of the curve balls was 1.9 times greater from pitching machines than from live pitchers. Fastballs also broke more. And it was found that balls from pitching machines tended to decelerate faster than those from live pitchers - 2% faster for fastballs and 3% faster for curveballs.

Explanation
Why the difference? Break and deceleration is a factor of the direction and speed of the spin that is placed on the ball at release, which affects lift forces. Pitching machines, which employ spinning wheels to propel balls, are able to apply spin more effectively than human pitchers.

Conclusion
Is this a disadvantage? In fact, not really - being able to handle a higher-than normal break is a good thing - as long as it's not the only pitching your batters face in practice.

If players receive nothing but batting machine practice, they may become so used to a large break that they automatically over-correct on curve balls. However, if they also receive a dose of live pitching, with its inherently smaller break, they will be better able to handle any type of pitcher.


References 1. Tsutomu Jinji and Shinjl Sakurai (School of Health and Sport Sciences. Chukyo University), "Direction of Spin Axis and Spin Rate of the Pitched Baseball." Sports Biomechanics, Volume 5, 2, July 2006. 2. Mike Ryan, Creating the 100 MPH Hitter,Fastball USA, 2015 © 2015, Physical Education Update, www.peUpdate.com


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