Hall of Famer Ted Williams once famously commented that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Although Williams—a .344 career hitter—made it look easy, he had a point. Hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely is difficult. It’s also an excellent example of some very entertaining applied physics.
No surprise then that professional baseball players are turning to science to improve their multimillion-dollar strokes. Some approaches focus on the neuroscience of hitting—the deep internal brain mechanisms behind seeing the pitch and reacting to it. But for more info about the swing itself, a sports tech company called Zepp Labs makes a sensor that can help break down those mechanics.
The sensor sits in the knob of the company’s so-called “Smart Bat” and uses two accelerometers and a three-axis gyroscope to measure bat speed, hand speed, attack angle and other factors. The sensor, which weighs only about eight grams, sends this info to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. The app can then use this data to have an onscreen avatar reenact the swing, in the hope that the batter can pick up some details and make the necessary adjustments. Zepp’s sensors can also be fitted to golf clubs and tennis rackets.
Never one to mince words, Ted Williams also once said that pitchers were “the stupidest people alive.” Hmm, maybe somebody could come up with a smart baseball to help them. Against any Ted Williamses out there, anyway.