Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How can the spin help?

Using Magnus Force Correctly

Over the many years, college physic departments have studied the effects of the thrown and pitched baseball. One specific study, by the University of Illinois, can shed some light on how Magnus Force can affect a baseball’s outcome. The study concluded that the spin of the ball can greatly affect its distance and speed. When talking about the baseball’s spin, Magnus Force is a key component to how a ball travels through the air. To briefly explain, Magnus Force is the effect that is placed on the ball when it is either struck by a bat or released by a player’s hand. When the ball travels through the air it is constantly spinning. The ball can spin forward, backward, or on it’s side. Whatever side of the baseball is applying the spin, the ball will generally travel in that direction. For instance, when a right-handed pitcher throws a screwball, the ball should start in the middle of the plate and finish on the inside corner. The ball travels that direction because the pitcher applies spin from left to right. This is a simple example of how the Magnus Force effect works on the thrown ball. There have been many studies of the batted ball as well. It has been generally concluded that a bat ball with backside will travel between 7-10 feet further than a batted ball with topspin. Also, with equal force applied to each ball, the study by University of Illinois found that the a ball with backspin has nearly 5 times less drag than other pitches. With less drag placed on the baseball, it has a chance to accelerate to a higher speed.

Looking at the batted ball study’s conclusion, I began to wonder if this hypothesis could be applied to the thrown ball as well. If a batted ball with backspin travels further than a ball with other spins it must have more velocity. If the same principles apply to throwing, could it be concluded that if more backspin is applied to a thrown ball it will improve its velocity upon release? Though, this hypothesis would go into direct disagreement with some pitchers assessment of speed. I remember reading about the pitch that “Rocket” Roger Clemens hit 100 MPH. He mentioned in the story that the ball short hopped the catcher. He said that when a teammate in the dugout told him of the reading he was surprised. With the pitch being low, Clemens had to release the pitch late, making him closer to the plate. The Magnus Effect, with Clemens 100 MPH pitch, might be a littler harder to prove.

If pitchers are going to us the Magnus Force effectively through the application of backspin, they must have strong and properly trained wrist and fingers. The following are three easy exercises pitchers can do to enhance their wrist and finger strength.

1. Basketball Rotations: In a standing position, pitchers will raise their throwing hand with a basketball in it. The pitcher place backspin on the basketball and try and elevate it as high as possible. When trying to elevate the ball, the pitcher should try and snap the wrist straight down. The pitcher should concentrate on the speed of the spin and try to speed up each rotation.

2. Shot Put Rotations: Using 4 lbs. shot put, the pitcher should hold it with their throwing hand and raise it straight up. With the throwing arm extended, the pitcher should try to elevate the shot put just like the basketball. The pitcher’s wrist and fingers should spin the shot put as many times as possible. Using resistance on the wrist and fingers should help pitchers increase the backspin on regular baseballs, which are much, much lighter.

3. Sand Bucket Grips: The pitcher should place their pitching hand in a bucket on fine-grained sand. With the pitcher’s hand covered, they should try and make a fist. Using the sand as resistance to the fingers, the pitcher should feel tension against the index, middle, and ring finger when doing this drill.

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