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I wonder how much time a cricket bowler or a baseball pitcher or a soccer forward puts in calculating the trajectory of the ball he is about to engage?
by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 11:04:05 AM EST

During the entire middle portion of the pitch, the batter must time the ball and decide where to swing. If the batter decides to swing, he must start when the ball is approximately 25 to 30 feet in front of the plate. The ball will arrive at the plate about 250 thousandths of a second later -- about the limit of human reaction time. The bat must make contact with the ball within an even smaller time range: A few thousandths of a second error in timing will result in a foul ball. Position is important, too. Hitting the ball only a few millimeters too high or too low results in a fly ball or a grounder.

Exactly how humans are able to estimate the expected position of a quickly moving ball is unknown. Obviously, this remarkable skill is learned through long practice. Eye-brain-body coordination is acquired only by going through the motions over and over; even so, the batter misses most of the time. Getting a hit three times out of ten at bat is considered an excellent average. It's interesting that George Schaller and other ethologists have observed that lions and cheetahs are also successful only about a third of the time in capturing their prey.

Blitz chess can go pretty fast:



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 11:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The speed in blitz chess is a lot about having the textbook knowledge to know directly which opening the opponent is playing and not wasting time analysing, but committing to a known and good response. End game in blitz can be a lot about just making not to terrible moves in the hope of your opponent running out of time or making a mistake. And at least decent hand-eye coordination so that you don't waste time when moving/punching the clock.

A somewhat interesting strategy for blitz is to play underused openings - not used because they are not that good if met with proper defense - in the hope that the opponent does not know it, and thus has to waste time coming up with a defense.

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 03:41:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think they spend a lot of practice time on spin, speed, trajectory. So the grip and the moves become automatic.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 12:03:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That calculation is flawed because the batter has basically already decided--before the windup even starts--whether or not to swing on a given pitch based on the count, the runner positions, etc. The adjustments during the swing are about making contact, and you can estimate the batter's ability to make those adjustments by looking at the number of strikes. I think there is a bit of "OMG look how insanely awesome these batters are, who can break the laws of physics and/or physiology" about the discussion.

Obviously it is almost impossible to hit a batted ball, but then here is David Ortiz batting 0.733 in the World Series. That's not just ball contact 3/4 of the time he's up, it's getting on base.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/10/29/david-ortiz-leaving-his-teammates-awe/yYm68UXAeCC21RPae IgQ8I/story.html

by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 12:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Completely false that the batter decides to swing or not before the pitch, much less in the windup. (He may decide he wants to swing, if he gets a pitch he can do something with. Or he may be taking a pitch because of the count. The vast majority of times he is reacting to the ball thrown, after analyzing speed, location and spin.)

Missing from this analysis is that the batter is also trying to position the "sweet spot" of the bat with the moment of contact, or about 10cm of the entire 100+cm wood. He's also trying not to roll over his top hand until just after the moment of contact.

The sample size on Ortiz' World Series is damn small, 15 at bats. AND, some of his outs have been very well hit. Most players are "streaky," that is they get hot for a while. Which may be evidence that something happens to body/brain chemistry over short periods making a trained hitter, with a hundred or more swings a day, including practice, more productive.

PS. The "World" Series currently includes amurka and one city in Canada. Heh. (Though many players are from the Caribbean, and some from Japan and Korea, and there are a few from Down Under.)

PPS. Hitters are now stripped to their skivvies and fitted with motion sensor points all over their bodies, to analyze swing force and efficiency.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 03:06:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Additionally, the batter's momentary decisions on speed, location, spin, and game situation are further complicated by his having already built up a precise image of the strike zone, or whether the pitch will be called strike or ball if he doesn't swing. It's a matter of centimeters in the brain's visualization.

Spin is analyzed by noting the movement of the narrow red seams (stitching) on the ball. Good batters can tell if it's a 2-seam or 4-seam fastball, cut fastball, split finger fastball, hard or soft slider (including the back door variety), hard or soft curve, or even a knuckleball, which may or may not be spinning at all, or going backwards. Clear?

Further, the batter must not be impeded in his movements by the hard plastic cup protecting the family jewels, which is why the batter often "adjusts" same. and while it is essential to have a moist mouth, too much moisture can affect the concentration, thus the infamous spitting.

In the old days, getting rid of excess chewing tobacco juice before stepping into the box was essential. It is now absurd to watch grown men, especially with Boston Beards stolen from the Amish, blowing pink bubbles. But that's another story.

Spitting on the catcher's spikes (shoes) was not illegal, although the next pitch was likely to be sent at your head (Chin Music). Thus the catcher's spikes remained free of tobacco juice.

Ummm, almost forgot. The batter also carries images of the particular pitcher's different pitches in his brain... as well as strategic tendencies.

and some players hit better under artificial lighting in night games as opposed to traditional day games, and verse vica.

Also, the batter is blocking out the fans behind the plate yelling, "Swing, rabbit ears!"

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 03:26:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, that's not all. some pitchers throw with the right hand, and some with the left. Changes everything.

Also, some pitchers can throw different pitches from the same arm angle and release point. Or they can vary the arm angle.

I forgot to mention the change-up, which is a ball thrown from the fastball position but isn't fast. In fact, it's 20-40 kmh slower. has been known to upset timing.

Also, fastballs can appear to rise, or hop. they can also tail away. they can also hit you. hard.

Heavy fastballs can sink. There is no evidence that fastballs can violate the laws of physics by increasing speed, but those that do in the batter's eyes, are called "exploding" fastballs.

And for those readers not yet glazed over, don't forget that every swing is not at all the same, as the batter's hands are changing the swing to meet the changing point of impact at some appropriate moment. Pitchers like to get "under" a batter's hands.

Plus the pitcher is sending brain voodoo to the batter up to the release point and beyond, which is hard to study empirically. While the batter is telling the pitcher he's got him, "Bring it, Meat."

Plus the swing and appropriate batted ball trajectory has to impress The Baseball Annie sitting in the 7th row of section 132.

It's all so damn complicated.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:02:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now officially 4 hours until first pitch of Game Six of the World Series including the US and Toronto. Perhaps i should undertake to investigate the number of baseball players who were good at chess.

PS. I have always said that baseball is the supreme mixture of chess and athleticism, with a dollop of ballet thrown in for the graces. Plus, it's played on the perfect diamond sutra.

we'll see if they still pitch to Ortiz tonight.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:12:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The good thing about baseball is there's 100 years of statistics to go back and argue about...
by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:18:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the game is better because of Sabrmetric analysis, fersure. (Like your swing rate analysis, which is partly due to laser positioning and analysis of every single damn pitch.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sailboat racers say the same thing. "Ooh, the rules are so complicated, and you have to have a good strategy." "And the actions of the other boats mean you have to make instantaneous tactical decisions based on many factors." "And you have to be an athlete."

Baseball is mostly about standing around in the summer sun...

by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:22:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Baseball is mostly about standing around in the summer sun..."

so there's time to analyze what you're going to do on the various possibilities with each pitch, at the plate or in the field, fixing the possibilities in your head, and then being ready to explode.

the fielders' short twitch muscles are already moving just before the crack of the bat, after analyzing pitch and swing (and runner's potential speed) from the field.

Plus, that gives one time to mark his/her scorecard, and have another swig.

enjoy the game 6 tonight, asdf. 1:07AM first pitch. wheee.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Maybe it's time for a baseball diary ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:54:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The fielders' short twitch muscles are already moving just before the crack of the bat, after analyzing pitch and swing (and runner's potential speed) from the field."

Well, or they are standing out there lounging around for 15 minutes while the pitcher and batter try to outwit each other...

by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 05:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Haha Red Sox FTW!
by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 11:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the swing rate depends strongly on the count, which suggests that there is a large strategic component that is calculated in advance. ("Never swing on the first pitch.") The differences between the entries in the first two tables here suggests how much evaluation the batter makes of each specific pitch.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17941

by asdf on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:17:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But (key point), swing rate does not imply predetermination. Readiness to swing on different counts is another story, which as the article shows, also depends upon what type of hitter you are.

simply put, there are counts and situations where the batter can be more aggressive, or conversely, more defensive. But the actual swing depends upon the pitch.

complicating matters, professional hitters, particularly the better ones, can spoil pitches, fouling them off if they don't think they're going to get it. In effect, negating a swing, especially with two strikes.

Count (and game situation) is a key factor, but the equation looks like, "I'll swing if i can do something with it."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:37:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Maybe it's time for a baseball diary ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 04:55:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My move?

(Sorry, carried away.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 05:59:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Books like Psycho-cybernetics argue that the subconscious mind is a powerful goal-seeking "engine". Computationally "impossible" tasks are then better left to (mostly) the subconscious mind rather than rational analysis. They even say that rational thinking impedes "creative" brain circuits, or staying in the flow. On the other hand, the goals have to well organized and prepared, skills trained - that is when you use rational thinking and discipline. "Psycho-cybernetics" cites Russel as largely following the routine of intensive analysis and calm "sleeping on it".

And then there are embodied cognition ideas how baseball players (and who not) use simple behavioral heuristics to catch a ball, etc.

Plus, game theory comes in, when say a batter (or a goalkeeper) basically guesses where the ball will come.

by das monde on Thu Oct 31st, 2013 at 12:18:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about a star snooker player?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 30th, 2013 at 12:16:52 PM EST
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