Daily Archives: July 10, 2011

Softball hitting tip – adjusting to speed

As most people know, the game isn’t called fastpitch softball for nothing. Speed kills in our game, especially pitching speed. Faster pitching makes it tougher for hitters to hit.

But not impossible. One of the big keys is getting the front foot down on time. If you do that, the rest gets easier. But getting the front foot down on time varies depending on the pitcher’s speed.

There’s actually a math formula that explains it. I’m no math whiz, believe me, but it makes sense even to me:

time = distance/velocity

In other words, the amount of time you have to swing the bat is a function of how far away the pitcher is divided by the speed of the pitch.

We know that in a tournament or league, the distance is constant. Whether it’s 35, 40 or 43 feet, that will always be the same within that event. But as the speed of the pitch goes up, the amount of time goes down.

For example, let’s say the pitcher is throwing 52 mph from 43 feet. We need to convert mph to feet per second, so we multiply the number by 1.46. (The actual multiplier is a bit longer than that, but 1.46 makes it simpler.) What we wind up with is the ball moving 75.92 feet per second. We’ll assume a constant speed, even though we know the ball actually slows a bit as it travels. We also will assume she has a six foot stride, so will actually deliver the ball from 37 feet away. That means our equation is 37/75.92 = 0.487 seconds reaction time.

Now let’s assume everything else is the same, but she’s throwing 58 mph. That makes our equation  37/84.68 = 0.436 seconds. That a difference of about 5/100ths of a second. Doesn’t seem like much — it’s less than the blink of an eye. Yet in those 5/100ths of a second, if you’re timed for the slower speed the ball will go from the optimum location to hit it to deeper in the zone, likely handcuffing the hitter.

This is what your hitters have to realize. They absolutely must adjust their timing to the pitch speed or they will be late getting the bat through the zone. Not horribly late, necessarily, but just enough to turn a good hit into a weak one.

It also works in reverse, by the way. If you’re timed for a 58 mph pitch and the pitcher is throwing 52 mph, you’ll be too early and will either miss entirely or “pool cue” the ball, resulting in a weak hit.

Again, the adjustment is when the front foot lands. Get it down on time, or even a little early, and you will be better off than being late.

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