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Take me out to the (digitized) ball game

Nathan’s results table

By Hamish Johnston in Portland, Oregon

Although college basketball’s “March madness” is about to start, it’s the physics of baseball that people are talking about here at the APS March Meeting.

Alan Nathan of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign spoke about his analysis of data from the PITCHf/x and HITf/x systems that have been installed in all major-league ballparks by Sport Vision.

These systems track the speed and trajectory of the ball allowing, for example, digital reconstructions of plays for television viewers.

It turns out that all of these data are available to the public – and Nathan has used them to study the flight of the baseball.

One question he addressed is the widely held belief that hit balls travel further in the new Yankee Stadium in New York than in other ballparks.

Nathan defined the “carry” of a hit as the distance the ball actually travelled divided by the distance the ball would have travelled (given its velocity when hit) in a vacuum.

You can see the results above, and there is nothing special about the new Yankee Stadium – denoted “NYC-A” – indeed its carry is a little below average (the red line).

So what’s the story with Denver?

Here’s a hint – Denver’s Colorado Rockies used to play in Mile High Stadium.

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