The Sweet Spot
Length: 3-6 hours
Discipline: Physics and Astronomy
Level: Introductory (majors and non-majors)
Author: Nowak, Edmund
A frightening incident of a high school baseball pitcher being struck in the temple by a ball sets the context of this problem. Students use two-dimensional kinematics to estimate reaction times for pitchers, distance ranges, and trajectories of baseballs. Graphical data of ball exit speed at various positions on a bat are used to compare the size of the sweep spot for aluminum and wood bats. The properties of these two types of bats are further investigated and the potential impact on player safety, game statistics, and economics if amateur baseball were to switch to wood bats is explored.