Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

How a fastball rises

With all due respect to San Diego native Dave Morehead, who pitched his no-no back in 1965

The backspin would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory. - Image by Rick Geary
The backspin would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory.

Dear Mr. Alice: My friend Jake and I have a controversy we wondered if you could help us settle. Does a rising fastball actually rise or is this term a misnomer? I say the ball doesn’t actually rise from the point it leaves the pitcher’s hand (barring a huge gust of wind), but he vehemently disagrees and cites as authority a fellow law student whose father (Morehead) was the last hurler to pitch a no-hitter in Fenway Park. What’s the real deal? — David Jackowitz, San Diego

The real deal is never get into an argument with a law student. Aggravation City. Can’t tell them a thing. Case in point: rising fastballs. With all due respect to San Diego native Dave Morehead, who, by the way, pitched his no-no back in the late Cretaceous period (1965), a rising fastball does not rise above the point of release. As it passes the batter, it’s heading down, just like every other pitch. I cite as my authority Robert Adair, Yale professor of physics, baseball junkie, and one-time “honorary physicist to the National League,” a wry joke of the late commissioner Bart Giamatti. Adair wrote The Physics of Baseball at Bart’s urging to help settle such off-season arguments as “Does a curve ball really curve?” and “Does a rising fastball really rise?”

Sparing you the details of Magnus coefficients and Reynolds numbers, for an overhand (“rising”) fastball to reach the plate simply at the point of release, the backspin applied to it would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory of the thrown ball (necessary if a six-foot-plus pitcher standing on a ten-inch-high mound has any hope of landing an overhand pitch in the general vicinity of the strike zone once the ball’s traveled nearly 60 feet). To make the ball actually rise above this point would require even more backspin. No matter how fast the ball is thrown and no matter how much action the pitcher can get on it, gravity will cause it to drop around three feet (from the horizontal, at the point of release) between mound and plate. Compared to a relatively spinless split-finger fastball, air pressure differentials created by the rising fastball’s backspin keep it from deviating any more than a few inches from an imaginary straight line drawn between release point and the catcher’s glove. If things go as planned, a rising fastball will whip by the batter about letter-high (still on a downward trajectory) while the split-finger gets him around the knees. So a rising fastball doesn’t rise (nor does any other pitch, except occasionally in softball), it just doesn’t fall as far as the batter anticipates. It’s a perceived thing, not a real thing. One more way to mess up the batter’s timing and aim, which is a pitcher’s basic job.

Adair puts the tag on a few other baseball “truths,” like the idea that a batted ball is slowed down on a humid, ominously stormy day. Because of the lowered barometric pressure, the ball should actually travel farther. And ask that argumentative friend of yours which major league ball park (before the advent of Denver) was located at the highest altitude, thus giving some slight barometric advantage to batters and fastball pitchers. Fulton County Stadium, altitude 1050 feet; a ball hit 400 feet in sea level San Diego would potentially travel 408 feet in Atlanta.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Dex Romweber Livestream from the Cave, Author Livestream: Clare Mackintosh

Events August 16-August 18, 2020
Next Article

The glamour and crime of Tijuana

Club Campestre abduction, cross-border prostitution, Russian-owned gym, TJ's new night scene
The backspin would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory. - Image by Rick Geary
The backspin would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory.

Dear Mr. Alice: My friend Jake and I have a controversy we wondered if you could help us settle. Does a rising fastball actually rise or is this term a misnomer? I say the ball doesn’t actually rise from the point it leaves the pitcher’s hand (barring a huge gust of wind), but he vehemently disagrees and cites as authority a fellow law student whose father (Morehead) was the last hurler to pitch a no-hitter in Fenway Park. What’s the real deal? — David Jackowitz, San Diego

The real deal is never get into an argument with a law student. Aggravation City. Can’t tell them a thing. Case in point: rising fastballs. With all due respect to San Diego native Dave Morehead, who, by the way, pitched his no-no back in the late Cretaceous period (1965), a rising fastball does not rise above the point of release. As it passes the batter, it’s heading down, just like every other pitch. I cite as my authority Robert Adair, Yale professor of physics, baseball junkie, and one-time “honorary physicist to the National League,” a wry joke of the late commissioner Bart Giamatti. Adair wrote The Physics of Baseball at Bart’s urging to help settle such off-season arguments as “Does a curve ball really curve?” and “Does a rising fastball really rise?”

Sparing you the details of Magnus coefficients and Reynolds numbers, for an overhand (“rising”) fastball to reach the plate simply at the point of release, the backspin applied to it would have to counteract the force of gravity plus the initial downward trajectory of the thrown ball (necessary if a six-foot-plus pitcher standing on a ten-inch-high mound has any hope of landing an overhand pitch in the general vicinity of the strike zone once the ball’s traveled nearly 60 feet). To make the ball actually rise above this point would require even more backspin. No matter how fast the ball is thrown and no matter how much action the pitcher can get on it, gravity will cause it to drop around three feet (from the horizontal, at the point of release) between mound and plate. Compared to a relatively spinless split-finger fastball, air pressure differentials created by the rising fastball’s backspin keep it from deviating any more than a few inches from an imaginary straight line drawn between release point and the catcher’s glove. If things go as planned, a rising fastball will whip by the batter about letter-high (still on a downward trajectory) while the split-finger gets him around the knees. So a rising fastball doesn’t rise (nor does any other pitch, except occasionally in softball), it just doesn’t fall as far as the batter anticipates. It’s a perceived thing, not a real thing. One more way to mess up the batter’s timing and aim, which is a pitcher’s basic job.

Adair puts the tag on a few other baseball “truths,” like the idea that a batted ball is slowed down on a humid, ominously stormy day. Because of the lowered barometric pressure, the ball should actually travel farther. And ask that argumentative friend of yours which major league ball park (before the advent of Denver) was located at the highest altitude, thus giving some slight barometric advantage to batters and fastball pitchers. Fulton County Stadium, altitude 1050 feet; a ball hit 400 feet in sea level San Diego would potentially travel 408 feet in Atlanta.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Can You Escape?, Vote Ready Concert, I Love a Clean San Diego

Events August 13-August 15, 2020
Next Article

Wall of Moms MAGA?

Non-profit expands efforts to include stopping flow of drugs to kids
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close