By now many of you have no doubt read the interview with physicist Alan Nathan in this week’s Schrodinger’s Bat column. After our initial exchange Dr. Nathan provided some additional detail on some of the work coming out of SABR’s Science and Baseball committee that I thought readers might be interested in. A restating of the question and the remainder of his answer appears below.
BP: You’re the chairman of the Science and Baseball committee of SABR. Tell us a little about some of the research coming out of the committee and what your hopes are for it?
Alan Nathan: Dave Baldwin [Note: Baldwin has been active and is a former major league pitcher who recently authored the book Snake Jazz] is a SABR member and also a member of the Science and Baseball committee. He and I are putting the finishing touches on a paper (with two other co-authors) entitled “Paradoxical pop-ups: Why are they so difficult to catch?”. My role was to use my knowledge of baseball aerodynamics to calculate the trajectories of these paradoxical popups. Another co-author, a perceptual psychologist, applied his model for how fielders track and intercept fly balls to these unusual trajectories. Dave’s principal job was to keep the rest of us honest by asking perceptive questions and relying on his close association with the game to make sure our “theoretical” work had some basis in reality. We plan to submit the paper to the American Journal of Physics in another week or so.
Dave and I will also write a paper in the coming months on the gyroball for SABR’s Baseball Research Journal. Last year we co-authored (with Terry Bahill) a paper for BRJ entitled Nickel and Dime Pitches, which mainly talks about the visual cues that a batter picks up about the pitch from the rotation of the seam pattern. Dave is a true renaissance man with diverse interests. It is always a pleasure working with him.