See the Updated Version of this Tidbit, October 8, 2001
|Science and technology are increasingly being applied to sports,
especially in the United States. As the financial stakes and media
attention grow and many sports become more competitive, researchers, athletes,
trainers, team owners, sportswriters and fans are using the tools of science
and engineering to study the nature of athletic competition as well as
to improve equipment and performance. Among professional sports,
few have been subjected to scientific analysis as intensively and for as
long as American baseball.
Baseball statistics have evolved from relatively simple measures (hits, runs, RBIs, earned run average) to increasingly complex and sometimes arcane metrics (scorability, runs created, seasonal notation) in recent years. They are used by players and teams in negotiating contracts and in arbitration, by writers and sportscasters, and by fans in such pursuits as fantasy baseball.
Mechanical engineering and physics have been applied to explain the aerodynamics of baseballs and the interaction of pitchers and batters. And sports medicine has contributed to understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the human body in baseball and to the avoidance and treatment of injuries.
The major league baseball playoffs start this week. So this week's tidbit is devoted to the science and technology of America's national pastime.
"The Science of Baseball" at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Uses baseball to teach science. Features include Shockwave games, experiments, articles on Japanese baseball, baseball biology, and more.
"Sources: Batter Up," by Ed Shanahan, Brill's Content, March 1999. An excellent review of information sources (books, newsletters, web sites, etc.) on baseball.
Adam Kleinbaum's article on "The Physics of Baseball" in the Harvard Science Review. Devoted mainly to pitching, but also discusses the aerodynamics of fly balls.
SABR: The Society for American Baseball Research. Home of the most serious (some might say obsessed) afficionados of baseball statistics.
Syllabus for Prof. Kenneth Ross's course on the "Statistics and Mathematics of Baseball," to be offered at the U. of Oregon in Spring 2000.
Explanation of the physics behind the "sweet spot" on a bat, by Rod Cross at the U. of Sydney, Australia
Think Quest's "Baseball: The Game and Beyond." Includes sections of varying complexity on calculating how far a batted ball will travel, the physiology of a swing, why a curve ball curves, etc.
Alan Nathan, professor of physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has a number of things related to his research on the physics of baseball on his site. Check out, especially, his February 5, 1999 talk on this subject.
Louisville Slugger. A very commercial site (for late-model browsers only) with demos showing the advantages of the company's latest products, such as the TPX Air3 with 3 air chambers that "triples the incremental pressure at impact" to improve performance.
Baseball at MIT. Everything you always wanted to know about baseball at the Institute. Includes a stats calculation page. Just plug in your statistics and it cranks out your averages.
Baseball in science fiction. A bibliography with links to a few reviews and a bunch of Amazon "buy" buttons.
John Skilton's Baseball Links.com claims nearly 6,000 links to everything about baseball. There are many on statistics, but there's no "science" category and searches on "science," "physics," and "technology" turned up little of interest.