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unknown user
04-06-1998, 02:38 AM
Sorry for the delay in posting this summary.
Thank you to all those who replied to the original posting, your
responses were greatfully recieved.

The original question was:

Dear Readers,
Im a Master Student in PE who is interested in hitting/throwing
mechanics etc. I hope someone can help me with the following question,
or can put me onto someone who can.

When a golfer hits a stationary golf ball they do not take a step.

When a baseball player hits a moving baseball they do take a step.
Surely by taking a step and moving the hitters centre of gravity and the
eyes position the baseball player must make it harder to hit the ball,
compared to if the player did not take a step.

What would the consequences be to the baseball player if they took no
step? Obviously a decrease in bat velocity, but wouldnt that be
countered by more bat contacts.

So my question is, what are the functions of the step when using a wide
stance (increase velocity, timing?) and would the performance
consequences be detrimental if no step was taken?

Thank you
Stephen Woodruffe
@pooka.otago.ac.nz

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From: Gaspar Morey
Reply-to: gm@cartero.com

Hi,

IYenm not familiar with baseball nor softball, but I think the cuestion is
more about general motor control. Now thatYens what I think about it.
Probably
the step is not a disturbing faktor itYens much more like an aditional
adjustment to position the body in a more efficient position for the
subsecuent hit. ItYens very difficult to adjust to a moving object without
moving the own body. Anyway if your idea should be right, high skilled
batters should ever do the step exactly in the same way (if they execute
the
same hit). So you can easily look for it. Maybe you can also find a
relationship between some of the throw caracteristics (velocity, path,
height ...) and the step caracteristics (direction, length, etc.) This
would
confirm the adaptative function of the step.

Hope this helps,

Gaspar.

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From: "Andrew Jameson"

You cannot comapre a stationary ball, as in golf with that of a thrown
(pitched) ball in baseball. The batter is infact moving towatrds the
ball
and has a period of time that they can adjust to the parabolic flight of
the
ball. The golf ball is stationary, and requires more accuracy. if the
sole aim of baseball was to accurately hit the ball as in golf or even
cricket, where the batsman actually takes a step towards the pitch of the
ball then the batsman would remain stationary but baseball necessitates a
BIG hit to reap a home run etc. We are comparing two games that have two
different primary variables.

Cheers Jammo

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From: Ian Munson

The step a baseball player takes when hitting the ball can be miss
leading.
Being an American, I've grown up playing baseball but I have not really
read any studies on it, so I can just give you the point of view of the
player. The step in baseball is more of a timing device than anything
else. When hitting, you start with most of the weight on your back foot
and as the pitch is delivered, you shift your weight forward until, at
the
point of contact, your weight is evenly distributed on both feet, then
you
follow through and unweight the back foot. It seems like a large shift
in
center of mass, but in order to keep the bat following a flat
(horizontal)
path, this weight shifting must be done. The step isn't ususally a step,
it's just picking up the foot when the pitcher begins delivery so that
you
can coordinate the weight shift and the hand motion more accurately.

Most of the power of a hitter comes from twisting the hips and then
breaking your wrists just an instant before you make contact with
baseball.
These two things increase bat speed which gives a great deal of power.
You
will see some big homerun hitters take large steps and really transfer
their weight they may have a little more power from this, but homerun
hitters usually stikeout more than they hit homeruns.

I hope this helps, I wish I could site some references for you, but it's
all from my coaches and watching baseball since I was a child.

Good luck,
ian

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From: "O'toole, Ryan Martin"

Stephen,

I am an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University and have
worked in an Orthopaedic Research Lab the last two summers
studying baseball players and golfers. You are correct in
saying that a golfer does not take a step during a proper
golf swing. The step may increase power, but would move the
center of of gravity and make it more difficult to make
good contact. A golfer, however, doesn't need this extra
power like a baseball player does. The long backswing, club
length and diminished weight of the ball make it much more
important to make solid contact rather than try to kill the
ball. A baseball player, on the other hand, needs this
weight shift to compensate for the shorter backswing and
shorter bat. Many times you will see no step when a player
is trying to hit for contact rather than a long ball. A
wooden bat also contributes to the need for extra power.

Those are my thoughts, but you may be able to get some
articles from the Orthopaedic Research Lab in West Palm
Beach, FL. They have been doing golf and baseball swing
analysis for at least 5 years or so with a high tech
Motion Analysis 6 camera system and forceplates. They also
have some great animations of swings. They were BIOMCH-L
subscribers, so they should have gotten your message. The
director of the Lab is Scott Banks. If they do not respond
e-mail me and I will put you in contact with them.


Best Regards,


Ryan O'Toole

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From: Nelson Salas

To person with the problem of the baseball player swinging mechanics,

According to a colleague of mine who is a current baseball player,
he says that the reason that the baseball player takes a step in
comparison to the golf player who doesn't take a step is because of
weight
transfer. In baseball, it is not really the step that allows good
hitting, but rather it is the picking up of the foot which allows weight
transfer to the back leg. That way when the batter makes contact, the
center of weight goes to the middle of the body again allowing momentum
to
be maximally transferred from the batter to the ball. He says that the
golfer doesn't need that much club speed which is why he doesn't need the
step. Also, the ball is not moving thus not needing the extra momentum
of
the swing for maximum hitting. I hope this helps you.

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From: "Devita, Paul"

Stephen,

The first consequence would be that the ballplayer could no longer
externally rotate his or her rear hip joint resulting in severely
reduced pelvic and trunk rotation.

The second consequence would be that the ballplayer would not be
playing baseball for long.

Paul DeVita

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From: "Dave Cote"

Stephen,

My research is on baseball pitching, but when I played baseball at
university I was a catcher, so I have quite a bit of experience hitting.
Here are my thoughts on your question:

When a hitter swings a bat he must transfer his weight from his back leg
to his front leg. Whether or not he actually takes a stride there will
still be some head movement. I can only think of one major league
player who does not move his front foot: Paul Molitor of the Minnesota
Twins. I think if you examine some video of major league hitters you
will probably notice that most do not take a very pronounced stride.
Many, in fact, lift their front leg and put it down only a few
centimeters in front of its original position. Another observation you
might make from video is that the hitters eye position probably does not
move very much between initiation of the swing and ball/bat impact. I
could be wrong on this point though.

>So my question is, what are the functions of the step when using a wide
>stance (increase velocity, timing?) and would the performance
>consequences be detrimental if no step was taken?

Certainly the step a hitter takes is a timing mechanism. The hitter
wants to stay "back" as long as possible before exploding through the
ball. I think you are correct in assuming that it is possible to make
more contact with a smaller stride, but merely making contact with the
ball won't necessarily result in a hit (which is, afterall, the hitter's
objective).

- Dave

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From: Blake McGowan

Dear Stephen,

I am also a master's student in the field of biomechanics, plus I
play open caliber softball in north america. I have played against some
of
the fine player from new zealand who play for north american teams in
your
winter season. The main reason I take a step after the pitcher has
released the softball is to move my total body center of mass in a
position to optimally hit a certain pitch. If the pitcher throws a low
outside drop, I step towards the plate and lean into the pitch and drive
it into right field. Contrary, for an inside pitch, I take a short step
and focus on turning my hips inorder to turn on the ball and I hope to
elevate the ball over the short stops head. I feel the step in softball
has deeper function rather than just hitting the ball harder. If the
winning run is on second base, you stride into the pitch (I am a right
handed batter) to hit it to right field and score the runner, etc.
By taking a step you also obtain some biomechanical benefits. A
counter movement followed by a step allows momentum in the forward
direction to increase. Potential energy can be transferred into
translational kinetic energy and rotational kinetic energy. I feel that
motor control can overcome some of the shortcomings that occur when your
visual field in moved during the step.
These are just some of my thoughts off the top of my head, I would
really be interested in some of your other response and your own personal
response. So is this your masters thesis? It sounds like a lot of data
collection if you are going to measure full body kinematics and analyze
your model using three dimensional inverse dynamics. Best of luck.

Blake

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From: David Hudgens

Stephen
In golf the ball is stationary therefore there is no timing involved in
a moving object which is in stark contrast the hitting a baseball. That
is the reason for the stride in baseball. Even if a player just picks
his foot up and puts it down, he is timing the pitch. That is why it is
much more difficult to hit a baseball then it is a golf ball. And that
is why pitchers throw off-speed pitches-to disrupt your timing.

Dave Hudgens

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From: Amy Courtney

If you are interested in the "physics" of baseball in
general, you may wish to obtain a copy of the book
titled "The Physics of Baseball" I know it is available
through the MIT Museum Shop (Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA) and perhaps elsewhere.

Regards

Amy Courtney

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From: "Larry Noble"

You make some valid points regarding hitting without taking a stride.
Some baseball players have been successful in the past using the
wide stance and no stride (e.g., Elston Howard, New York Yankess
Catcher who retired fromb baseball over 20 years ago) and I am sure
some good hitters use this style. However, the most preferred
technique by far involves use of the stride. I have played baseball
and softball myself for many years and I used the stride in baseball
and slo-pitch softball, but used no stride in fast pitch softball to
compensate for the shorter time for the ball to reach the plate, but
I was never any good at hitting fast pitch softball. I was a much
better hitter in baseball and slo pitch. It seems that use of the
stride enables you to make a more definite and emphatic weight shift
(and perhaps time the weight shift more precisely), possibly at the
expense of accuracy. Apparently, most successful hitters have found
that this trade-off is overall better with the use of the stride.
You will probably find that a much greater proportion of fast pitch
softball
players do not use the stride than for baseball or slo pitch
softball.

Ihope this helps.
Larry Noble

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From: "Doug McClymont"

Stephen,

there is a good little book in the Canterbury Uni library called
"Physics of Baseball" which I read a couple of years ago and might
help you.

Your basic hypothesis is pretty good but does not include practice
effect or dynamic balance. It would be interesting to talk to a top
softball coach who understands the biomechanics of hitting,
especaiily those who had the women at the South Pacific Classic
swinging from a closeed stance.

I'd be interested in your results!
Regards

Doug McClymont

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From: "Glenn Fleisig"

Dear Stephen:

You raise some interesting questions. To learn more about footwork in
hitting, I'd recommend starting with an article by Chris Welch in the
Journal of Orthop. Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT). I believe the
article came out about 1995. Chris is now at Human Performance
Technologies, in Jupiter, Florida.

You might also want to talk with Dr. Coop DeRenne, who is at the
University of Hawaii at Manoa (Coop@hawaii.edu). He's quite
knowledgeable about batting.

Finally, in regards to your question comparing the baseball and golf
swings, please check out an article by Joe Ward in The New York Times,
July 13, 1997. In this article, Joe did a fine job of translating and
comparing biomechanics data for the two sports, collected at our lab at
ASMI.

I hope this is helpful.

- Glenn

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From: "BLANCHE"

I'm a Prosthetics and Orthotics student in Salford.

One thing pops into mind when you mention that forgoing the step
forward may cause and increased strike rate at the expense of bat
velocity (and supposedly distance hit): These people have trained
their bodies to perform the perfectly coordinated serial muscular
contractions to ensure that the bat is in the right place at the
right time.

I speak as a fairly accomplished ex international karateka, boxer and
rock
climber; in which practiced and perfected repetitive movements lead
to the engraphic programming of the subconscious coordination
centres.

Practice makes permanent (not perfect).

It was just a thought.

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