Why Do We Use MPH?

The Hot Stove is still pre-heating, so while we wait on the oven timer, let’s reflect on a topic that we rarely question. Provocative title aside, why do we use miles per hour, more commonly referred to as mph, to talk about velocity in baseball? After all, it’s a game of feet, inches, and seconds.

It’s 60 feet, six inches from the rubber to the back corner of the plate. Home to first is 90 feet. Home to second is 127 feet, three and 3/8′s inches, which can also be expressed as 90 times the square root of two (h/t Pythagoras). The outfield fence is typically somewhere between 310 and 410 feet from home plate. A really long home run will travel 500 feet in about four to six seconds. Billy Hamilton can steal second base in 3.1 seconds. When Jose Fernandez hits a home run, it takes him about 28 seconds to wander around the bases.

In other words, no other single activity in baseball is meaningfully measured using miles or hours.

A simple googling of the topic reveals nothing helpful. In fact, the search phrase “why does baseball use miles per hour?” never appears. Tinkering with that search phrase reveals very little useful information.

We can intuit that the widespread use of mph in baseball has much to do with available technology. Radar guns, which were invented in the late 1940s, are still the primary method for measuring pitch velocity. According to Wikipedia, they were originally invented for military purposes, but the most popular application of the technology is to measure the velocity of cars. You knew that.

Baseball Reference traces the origins of the radar gun in baseball to the 1960s. Danny Litwhiler and John Paulson invented the JUGS gun in 1974, which measures pitch velocity from when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. It is still the gun of choice today.

We can guess why the first guns used mph, but it’s harder to understand why it has remained the unit of measurement for pitch velocity. When Justin Verlander follows a 95 mph fastball with a 98 mph fastball, we know that he’s throwing gas, but it’s not obvious how the hitter’s reaction time is affected. If Verlander were then relieved by Jamie Moyer‘s 78 mph fastball, how much more time would a hitter have to react?

It would seemingly be more intuitive to use feet per second (ft/s) as these are units that translate directly to the activities on a baseball diamond. Below is a conversion from mph to ft/s with time to plate added for fun.

fts

*The time to plate column is based on 60 feet, six inches for simplicity and uniformity. To accurately measure time to plate requires knowledge of the exact release point of each pitch, which is generally between 52 and 55 feet. It’s also worth noting that the velocity diminishes fairly rapidly once the ball is released, so actual pitches will take slightly longer to travel 60 feet.

As you can see, one mph equates to about 1.467 ft/s. Put another way, 15 mph equals 22 ft/s.

Ostensibly, those of you out in Readerland are waiting for an explanation as to why the above chart is groundbreaking. Well, it’s not. In fact, ft/s is scarcely more intuitive than mph. Let’s face it, if ft/s was a groundbreaking change, saberists would have been all over it years ago.

There are, however, a couple simple advantages to ft/s. The relationship between velocity and reaction time is immediately obvious. Anyone can take 60 feet, mentally divide by the observed ft/s, and have a rough estimate of how much time the batter had to hit the pitch.

The measure also allows for slightly greater precision, but that is of dubious value. Besides, anyone analyzing PITCHf/x or Trackman data will have precise information regardless of the unit of measure.

It’s generally accepted that a one mph increase in velocity results in fewer runs allowed. Combining these results with the above chart shows that a hitter’s ability can be strongly disrupted by a pitch that travels only a few thousandths of a second faster than the previous pitch. Hitters are already operating at the extremes of a human’s ability to accurately track and interact with an object in flight, and even the most marginal of changes could tip the scales in favor of the pitcher. For example, the difference between a 98 mph Verlander fastball and Moyer’s 78 mph slowball is just a single tenth of a second.

The chart also tells us why there has never been a groundswell to convert from mph to ft/s. Most baseball fans learn the relationship between an impressive pitch and its velocity pretty quickly. Announcers are usually capable of filling in the gaps for more casual fans. Thinking in thousandths of seconds remains an esoteric concept for most people, so being able to immediately convert velocity to a rough measure of reaction time has no practical purpose.

All told, it’s hard to dispute that ft/s is qualitatively more useful to a baseball fan. You can intuit more information from ft/s, however the value of that information remains limited. The time to make the change was probably back in the 1970′s, shortly after the JUGS gun was invented. Today, a change would require an uphill battle against tradition. Simply put, it is not worth the effort.




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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, MLB Trade Rumors, and The Fake Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.


111 Responses to “Why Do We Use MPH?”

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  1. Monte says:

    We use MPH because we are all not huge freakin nerds

    -54 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Krog says:

      If you’re commenting on Fangraphs, you’re probably a huge freaking nerd. Disclaimer: I’m a huge freaking nerd.

      +83 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Rule of Law says:

      , he typed into the comment box on fangraphs.com.

      +66 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Get Nerdy says:

        Monte I’m no the biggest nerd either (although I do strive and dream of exceeding nerdiness even in my early thirties.) Carson Cistulli is my Mike Trout. Weird posters on the wall and everything (a story for another day.) Posting on fangraphs “because we are not all fraeking nerds” is like G. W. Bush sittng down at the Royal palace with the Queen and other members of the Royal family for breakfast and saying “Eggs benedict and a fruit cup? What about the “freakin grits.” Oh and by the way I’m right comfy and well protected in Mom’s basement.

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        • Mike Axisa says:

          “Carson Cistulli is my Mike Trout.”

          you’re also gay

          -38 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • B N says:

          My mother’s basement is QUITE safe from your pitiful little band of Luddites.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          Do they make Cistulli jugheads? I would totally buy one. If they made them for all of the Fangraphs staff that would be even better. Except Dave… That guy never blinks so it’d be too creepy having him on my wall staring at me all day. It really would be like he’s in the room with me.

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  2. thecodygriffin says:

    I think the most obvious reason for using MPH is that it seems the speed limit of human ability to throw a baseball sits around 100. That is a nice even number that people can comfortably latch on to.

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    • Rule of Law says:

      Is that actually a “reason?”

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Also, 150 ft/s is quite close to 100 mph, so you still have a nice round number to target as “extreme”

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      • John Thacker says:

        Yes, but ft/s is simply not used nearly as commonly in life. (Nor is m/s.) Certainly if we used ft/s exclusively for pitches, we’d easily be able to compare pitches to each other. But we wouldn’t be able to compare them to the speed of other things as easily.

        Now, sometimes adding another unit is justified when the common unit yields strange or inconvenient numbers (such as the use of Celsius over Kelvin for air temperatures even in otherwise SI countries, or even the preference for the non-SI liter, aka cubic decimeter, over multiples of cubic meters.) That leads to the use of all sorts of specialized and customary units (barrels of oil, etc.); using ft/s would be the same sort of special pleading. However, as noted above, that doesn’t apply here– mph gives perfectly normal easy to comprehend numbers that can be compared with the speeds of other objects quite easily.

        The argument is:
        1) Prefer the most commonly used unit.
        2) If the particular use commonly measures magnitudes are are inconvenient in the common unit, consider a specialized unit.

        The argument that ft/s or yd/s has just as convenient numbers is irrelevant since mph (and km/h) are more commonly used. Hence why cricket also uses mph and km/h for bowling.

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        • B N says:

          ft/s is not used in daily life because it’s a ridiculous unit of measure. The whole world* (minus a couple places) uses m/s (or km/h, but don’t get me started on the whole 60s/min, 60min/h stupidity that sweeps the globe).

          The only reason why we use MPH is because we still use it in cars and driving, so we have some frame of reference for it. If we dropped that, how much does anyone in the US use ANY unit of measure for speed? Or distance, for that matter.

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        • MLB Showdown Successor says:

          B N

          Time is based on the idea of splitting up the sphere (which has 360 degrees) equally for ocean travel. So while it would be nice if we would have said a sphere has 100 degrees… they didn’t and thus time still works good for everyone.

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        • B N says:

          “thus time still works good for everyone”

          Unless you went somewhere other than earth where hours are downright useless (e.g., Try to tell an alien how far away you are in light years… might as well say something weighs 10 pounds).

          The fact is, we’re still using a time system that was designed based its ease for making sundials and computing fractions without decimals. While I salute their longevity, that’s a fairly crazy thing.

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        • Abe Simpson says:

          My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it

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  3. And why use “velocity” when we are clearly talking about “speed”?

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    • physics nerd says:

      ha, very true.

      also, the reason we use mph is that viewers of the game have a handle on what mph means in real life whereas we don’t have a handle on what ft/s means in real life. what other things do we use ft/s for in common parlance? I can’t think of any (gravity, maybe but who doesn’t use m/s?))

      But I bet we can all think of stuff we use mph for. It’s all about an ability to contextualize what these numbers mean so they’re not just…numbers.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        It seems a common early response is that ft/s is not nearly as intuitive to everyday americans than I initially assumed. That could make for an interesting experiment.

        I hypothesize that people will find units that they can experience in a short period of time to be easier to work with. What I need for an experiment is at least 30 adults who have no training in units of time or distance. Anyone know anybody like that :) ?

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        • John Thacker says:

          No, we don’t know people like that, and that’s the point.

          Adults, of necessity, get training in units of speed by operating vehicles. In a world where people did not travel distances best measured in miles or kilometers for periods best measured in fractions of an hour, by operating cars, bicycles, motorcycles, or similar, then indeed perhaps ft/s would be more common.

          In the particular world we live in, there’s little reason to add a second optional unit of speed and velocity to the common one that must be used, particularly when the magnitudes involved are similar (and would be the same in both units.)

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        • Careless says:

          Well, there are always the Piraha. But good luck getting them to grasp numbers like 137, let alone decimals.

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        • B N says:

          Feet/second is not very intuitive to me, and I’ve tutored physics. You just don’t actually use it in real life or even in modern problem sets for math/physics. If I want to understand it more intuitively, I’ll mentally convert it to m/s and go from there (ironically, sometimes switching back over to MPH if I want to compare it to particular machine/animal speeds).

          However, I will note that after talking to some teachers, I’m sure they could find you bunches of kids with no grasp on the concept of units at all. Would that help?

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        • josh says:

          “No, we don’t know people like that, and that’s the point.”

          That was the joke.

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      • Jayne says:

        We use it for bullet speed.

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  4. John Beamer says:

    It is a bit of a silly article if I am honest. What else are we supposed to use? When do we ever use ft/s? Never!

    Feet? We use them all the time. Here is an example: Tiger has a 10 foot birdie putt for the lead. There are many others. People know how long a foot is. Yes, they also know how long a yard is, and a metre, and a mile. Sometimes we use yards. We could use yards on a baseball diamond. We don’t. It is because when the game was invented it was decided to keep 90 feet between the basepaths. Feet has stuck ever since – it sounds much better on TV than, say, 34.37 yards – or whatever the number is.

    On MPH – no one has a clue how fast 25 ft/s is. Everyone knows how fast 100MPH is … gee, I don’t even drive that fast down the freeway. That is fast. 50 ft/s? Who knows.

    The only natural alternative to MPH is KPH. But here in America we don’t like using it, so MPH it is.

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    • Rule of Law says:

      Amazingly defensive response.

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    • Persona non grata says:

      90 ft = 30 yards. Equally round.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brad Johnson says:

      I’m not really following this. Why does 100 MPH mean more to you than 50 ft/s? The answer is because you were taught over many many years.

      But think about the units. A second is a very digestible unit of time. I can see 50 ft in front of me now. I can VERY easily picture what something moving 50 ft/s would look like. I know exactly what that looks like.

      Let’s switch to KPH since I have no experience thinking in that unit, I have no idea how fast something has to move over 50 feet to have been going 100 KPH. The time unit of an hour is too long for the distance involved and the distance unit is also much too long. I can only learn to estimate object speed in KPH over a short distance through practice with somebody telling me the speed of each throw.

      And that, in a nutshell, is my point. Anyone who knows what feet and seconds are can use ft/s without training. MPH or KPH can only be taught via longterm exposure, repeated trials, or however you want to describe it.

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      • John Thacker says:

        We think in MPH or KPH because operating transportation machinery is one of the few ways in which we have to frequently precisely control and measure speed (due to legal considerations and others), and view the resultant numbers. In those situations MPH and KPH are the natural units to use, considering the distances traveled and time consumed. MPH and KPH are inescapable parts of everyday life for most people.

        In situations where ft and seconds are important, measurement is a lot more uncommon for most people (compared to simply “running as fast as you can.”)

        Thus, most of our experience with precise measurement of speed is in MPH or KPH. The use of them with baseball allows comparisons to other frames of references where people do most of their measurement and control of speed.

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      • John Beamer says:

        Mph means more because I look at my speedo every day, multiple times. For me kph and ft per s is the same. Yeah I could work it out but it takes effort. Kph=1000 m per hour.

        Out of interest is there any sport that measures speed in anything other than mph or kph?

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        • Brad Johnson says:

          Water polo uses knots.

          (not really)

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        • Terrible Ted says:

          RPM is sometimes used in conjunction with MPH (car racing, golf).

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        • Benjamin says:

          Really, I think it would be best for everyone if you stopped wearing a speedo every day. And looking at it all the time is just creepy. The unit of measurement you need for what’s going on down there is inches, or cm. There’s no sustained motion requiring a time denominator (at least, that’s what she said).

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        • Sailor says:

          Sailing uses knots, and it’s in the Olympics!

          And that is based off the nautical mile, which actually makes sense in that it’s based off something in the world, rather than just a convenient length we made up.

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    • Eric says:

      You don’t have a clue how fast 25 f/s is…? It’s 25 feet… in 1 second. Just think about it.

      Honestly, I can’t tell when a car goes by if it’s going 80 MPH or 60 MPH

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    • B N says:

      Indeed. I know how far 10 ft is. It’s about 3m. I also know that 1000m is 1km. And 1km ~ 0.62mi. So 10ft ~ 0.002mi

      How many people do you think still remember that there’s 5,280 ft/mi and can do that calculation even for regular numbers? I long for the day when we can stop crashing multi-billion dollar Mars surveyors because we’re throwing around units that don’t even make much sense to the people who use them.

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  5. Drew C says:

    I assume we use it because that’s our reference point as Americans. I’ve never driven as fast as Justin Verlander’s fastball, but I know I’ve been pulled over driving as fast as Jamie Moyer’s. “But officer, Jamie Moyer barely throws that hard,” doesn’t work, and I live in the Philadelphia area. We know what moving 65mph looks and feels like.

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  6. Hurtlockertwo says:

    To me the time difference is remarkable. If you are not an elite athlete and have ever tried to hit a baseball going 85MPH you know you have very little time to react. I would guess that the majority of humans could not hit it fair (with a full swing of course) given a 100 chances. Not to mention the inherant fear of an object coming at that speed very close to your body.

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    • B N says:

      Haha. Agreed. Admittedly, I have a terrible eye, stance, and everything else that is useful at the plate. But even trying to hit a fastball as slow as most MLB breaking balls 100 times would result in only two things for me:

      1. Being exceptionally lucky if I hit a dribbler into the infield.
      2. Having hands that ring like heck if I was able to make much contact at all.

      Baseball is hard game. Thankfully, it’s hard for everyone, because otherwise we’d have game scores that look more like cricket…

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  7. I think this is an example where tradition wins out and we haven’t really developed any reason why converting it to ft/s or something else would be terribly useful. Generally speaking, small numbers like the amount of time it takes the ball to reach home are really hard for the human brain to comprehend, so converting it up to mph makes it easy to process.

    That said, H/T for Pythagoras was one of my favorite links ever.

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  8. Metric System says:

    Because, America.

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  9. Leo says:

    Why even use a speed or velocity number at all? The distance between the plate and the mound is fixed. All we need to know if the time it takes for the pitch to cross that distance, presumably expressed in seconds.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I’m working on making a time to plate data point using PITCHf/x, but it’s going to take me awhile to learn the necessary database skills to do so.

      I’m not sure if the seconds unit makes a ton of sense since it’s a decimal. Brains don’t like decimals.

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    • nada says:

      I love this idea! Reading that table with time to plate gave me a better feel for just how impossible it would be for a normal human to attempt to hit major league pitching.

      On top of that, I think it would be more accurate, for some of the reasons discussed in the article–varying release points, loss of speed as the pitch travels, and so on. All of those elements could be factored in to give an exact time, rather than a phony approximation (100 mph pitches only travel 100 mph for some tiny fraction of a second, after all).

      In conclusion: I am all for a time to plate measure. I know approximately what 1/2 a second feels like–in fact, that seems like an excellent point of reference for me, maybe even better than mph. After all, I don’t drive 95 mph very often.

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    • makeitrayn says:

      It isn’t always an exact distance. The ball travels in 3 dimensions in 3 different speeds.

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  10. Ben says:

    Seems to me a much better question is why we don’t take into consideration the fact that some pitchers’ release points mean the ball has a significantly shorter distance to travel to home plate, making the pitch seem much faster than its “true” speed. This is the reason that David Robertson’s seemingly ordinary 92 MPH fastball consistently blows hitters away, or why Jered Weaver was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball (at least until recently) despite rarely cracking 90 MPH on the radar gun.

    (For more on this, see: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/tom_verducci/04/12/fastballs.trackman/)

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  11. tz says:

    Which is more likely to happen?

    1. Prince Fielder running a mile.
    2. Prince Fielder running for an hour.

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Grandpa Simpson says:

    These metrics are the tool of the Devil. My fastball gets 700 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it!

    +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. jfree says:

    Miles per hour is far more useful when trying to calculate how far the pitch would go during an average game. Which is in turn used to calculate how far apart MLB franchises need to be.

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  14. Detroit Michael says:

    For a fuller history of the radar gun, I suggest pp. 106-109 of High Heat by Tim Wendel.

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  15. Cus says:

    Baseball has a hard enough time appealing to the masses without using stats or numbers the average person cannot naturally relate to.

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  16. Tucker says:

    Is it possible to measure the exact spot where the pitcher releases the ball? Not the height he releases it, but the distance from home plate that it’s released? Since it’s possible to determine the flight of the ball, we could use this information to get an exact read on how much time batters have to react. This is useful because not all pitchers release at the same point. Tim Lincecum, for example, is not that hard of a thrower, however his incredible stride length means that his fastball is in flight for the same amount of time as someone who throws harder than he does. Doing this would allow us to quantify the effect of a pitcher releasing closer to home plate.

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  17. TheGrandslamwich says:

    I like to compare pitch velocity to how fast my car goes. Anytime it’s above 55 I get excited! Eephus be damned.

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  18. Nate says:

    I think it has more to do with the fact that MPH is a unit used in other areas of life. We all drive. Having pitch speeds reported to us with a unit of measure we already use all the time and are familiar with gives us as viewers a better context for understanding what it is we’re seeing.

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  19. johnny eagle says:

    I think that we should use both ft/s and mph. Brad’s comparison of Jamie Moyer’s velocity to Justin Verlander is fascinating and instructive. I have been actively following baseball since 1955 so I could not claim to be anything but traditional. Nevertheless I love knowing both.Thanks, Brad Johnson.

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  20. tomrigid says:

    To make a useful change in this area one must employ a unit derived from human reaction time. Then all this ball and bat stuff can be normed to an intuitive scale.

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  21. Jody says:

    We use fps for some things. Bullet speed (I think), definitely arrow speed, I bet for some industrial stuff. It might be kinda fun to use it for baseball too.

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  22. pft says:

    In the country I live they report wind speed in m/s or a scale from 1-15. I had to convert to mph or at least knots per h to know how strong a typhoon was. 100 typhoons later (I’m pretty slow) I now know 50 m/s is pretty fast, mainly because I know to just double it for a quick estimate of mph (actually 2.2)

    Everyone knows mph intuitively because we all drive and adhere or surpass the speed limit. Some of us have even driven 95 mph and know its fast, while 60 mph is for old ladies or people who need stronger glasses or their cataracts removed.

    I am all for change that produces something useful. I see no benefits of changing mph for fastball velocity to f/s or whatever, at least not for the fans.

    If a change were made, rather than f/s I do like just sec to plate, given the mound is a fixed distance to home. Or maybe a scale sec x 100 to avoid the decimal. So use 50 for a 83 mph fastball and you quickly convert in your head to 0.5 sec. However, will people really appreciate the difference between 0.50 sec and 0.45 sec (or 50 vs 45) as much as they do mph?

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  23. Teddy Rochlis says:

    The most probable reason we use mph instead of ft/s or m/s is because we as americans can relate to mph easier than ft/s. From all the driving we do we can easily relate to what 50mph is and when we see 90mph we have an idea of how fast it is due to the fact that on highways we drive close to that speed. It is more a reason of recognition than reason. If we changed all speeds in america from mph to m/s or ft/s everyone would recognize the new speeds easier and then the baseball system would switch over. The same applies to europe and km/h.

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  24. Unit Conversions, ho! says:

    I prefer furlongs per fortnight personally.
    Plus, fpf just rolls off the tongue.

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  25. Really disappointing article. I thought you were going to examine hate time it take from release point to the ball crossing the plate.

    Hitting is mostly timing and time to react. If one guy throws harder, but released the ball 6 feet further back, them the hitter could actually have more time. I’d guess the release point isn’t actually all that different pitcher to pitcher, but in some instances it could be.

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  26. Matt says:

    People are used to thinking in mph (or kph in the rest of the non-luddite world where we use the metric system.) for speed. Look at sprinters, if Usain Bolt runs the 100m in 10s, he’s obviously averaged 10m/s. But see something looking at the speed he’s doing, and it’ll say the average is 36kph, with various speeds in each 10m increment. Unless you’ve done a fair bit of Physics, in which case you might actually use m/s. Even the ones from metrically challenged nations use it.

    I also don’t think people really have a sense of the difference between having 0.4 sec reaction time or 0.45 sec. I’m a hockey goalie, and if I want to roughly work out the amount of reaction time I get on a shot, it’s by starting with the speed. So now I can equate in my head 0.4 sec reaction time with actual experience, but I can only do that by sitting and working out which of the shots I face equate to 0.4sec. Without that, it’s basically meaningless to me, 0.3, 0.4, 0.45, they all = not much time.

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    • B N says:

      While it might not be super useful for trying to relate it, it’s great for modeling it. Assume that your reaction time is only 0.05 ms (pretty spry) and it takes you 0.1 seconds to put a bat/stick in the path of an object

      0.05s: It will be past you before you even start moving
      0.15s: You can theoretically hit it, but only if you use zero “thinking time” to decide (e.g., a reflex)
      0.20s: You have 0.05s to decide how to react
      etc

      When you combine that with some estimate of how much time to takes to narrow your targeting to a useful level (e.g., can hit more than 1% of the time, maybe), you can figure out how fast a pitch needs to be for you to literally have to guess its location in order to hit it.

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  27. Ruki Motomiya says:

    As mentioned before, MPH has a lot more benefit as something to use overall because you can put it in a public game and everyone has an idea of what it means. ft/s could be interesting to go alongside it, though the benefits seem small.

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  28. Newcomer says:

    Neither set of numbers is really intuitive. When I hear fastball speeds, the speed of a car isn’t really a reference point any more than is the speed of an unladen swallow. The pitch speed is just a number, and I only know what the number means from learning what speeds different pitchers throw. There would be NO difference, to me, if we used ft/s, except that I would have learned slightly different numbers as the landmarks between tiers of pitch speeds.

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  29. Bryan says:

    America uses all sorts of silly measurements that the rest of the world shunned years ago, why should baseball be any different?

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  30. David says:

    In other words, no other single activity in baseball is meaningfully measured using miles or hours.

    Umm … this isn’t really true.

    When a game goes deep into extra innings we always here about how long the game went and it is always in hours. I’ve never heard an announcing crew give it in seconds.

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    • B N says:

      Color: “We’re in the bottom of the 14th and this has been a looong one.”

      Play-By-Play: “That’s right! We’re already past 18000 seconds on this one, with no end in sight! Well, make that 18005!”

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  31. james wilson says:

    Apples and Oranges. No game employs more disparate skills than baseball, or the reasons to measure them differently. MPH is spot on in translating what a pitcher is humping up to home plate, for the masses or the specialists. The stop watch determines whether a pitcher’s time home from the stretch added to the catcher’s turnaround can beat a base stealer’s splits. MPH is useless. That never bothered anybody until today.

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  32. Randy says:

    “People know how long a foot is. Yes, they also know how long a yard is, and a metre, and a mile.”

    No, they don’t. Do you seriously think people can accurate accurately estimate those distances? That would be a fun experiment.

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    • Newcomer says:

      Much better at foot, yard, and meter than mile or kilometer. Vast distances are hard to comprehend. But people tend to be quite inaccurate even talking about inches and centimeters, despite the prevalence of rulers and measuring tape.

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  33. David Price says:

    Man, what a bunch of nerds.

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  34. Joey Steiner says:

    After coaching HS baseball for nearly 40-years I can assure everyone that hitting a baseball is the most difficult feat to do in all of the major sporting activities.

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  35. Daisuke Matsuzaka says:

    “No single activity in baseball is meaningfully measured using miles or hours”

    So, since my delivery takes an hour and batters hit my pitches a mile, does that mean that I’m not meaningful?

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  36. Llewdor says:

    From the opening of the article, I thought it was going to be an appeal to use the metric system.

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  37. Mac says:

    This was touched on once or twice above, but really what does the velocity matter when it always a fixed distance (excepting the differing release point issue).

    Time to plate is the essential piece of information in all this, not the speed. It’s all about arrival time.

    Most every baseball fan learns that 70-80 is “slow”, 90+ is “sort of fast”, and 97 and up is “fast”.

    The unit itself is far less important than knowing relative difference between pitches. Any measure if speed or time (since distance is fixed) would work. MPH as many have pointed out is the most common layman speed unit.

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  38. cass says:

    Amazing how many comments this got!

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  39. Damn, I thought this was going to be about the merits of the metric system. It’s odd that the US has had metric currency forever but nothing else in metric..

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  40. Chris says:

    when discussing defense arms, I think ft/s might make more sense in a lot of situations. Say the shortstop makes a play behind second, spins and makes a 135 ft/s throw… I know that the throw is 90-100 feet so it should only take 2/3 of a second. I know it probably takes the runner around 4 seconds to get to first…

    Or comparing outfielders arms. Outfielder A throws 135 ft/s. Outfielder B throws at 115 ft/s. That is a tangible difference.

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  41. BillyF says:

    One suggestion to MLB authority: Use “seconds for balls to reach from A to B” for Field f/x measurements. We’ll then know EXACTLY how quick a ball travels from the release point of the pitcher to the glove of the catcher.

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  42. regfairfield says:

    Why do we use the most common measurement for measuring speed instead of something that the average human will never see. A question we ponder today on fangraphs.com

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  43. Jon says:

    As most everyone has said:

    1) We are used to measuring things in mph because we drive every day. Feet per second may be more useful but it’s just not normal to measure things in feet per second.

    2) 100 mph is the “gold standard” and we like round numbers. I had a teacher who scored homeworks and quizzes and tests proportionally based on their weight. So instead of getting 100% on a test and having it be worth 3 times more than a quiz and 10 times more than a homework, you would get a score out of 100 on a test, a score out of 30 on a quiz, and a score out of 10 on homework. This makes more sense because there’s less computation to do to find your final average. Nobody liked it because it was weird to say you got a 28 on a quiz and have that mean that you did very well. We like round numbers, and powers of 10 are as round as it gets.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Nearly every teacher I ever had gave grades the way you described. How else can the student know exactly how they are doing in the class? Especially for classes that try to feign objectivity in grading. Obviously it’s less important for subjectively graded classes.

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      • Jon says:

        Weird, I got grades on a scale of 0 to 100 on almost every assignment. They would say something like “homework is 20% of your grade, tests are 50%, and quizzes are 30%” or something like that (well, thinking back, homework was probably worth more, but I’ll stick with that).

        You knew that you would have homework almost every night, a quiz every week or two, and a test maybe every month. It was the same information, just everything was scaled to 100.

        Some were much less transparent than that, however.

        And for the record, I was one of the few that preferred the other way (different assignments having different denominators)!

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  44. Balco Slammers says:

    its a more accurate measurement, i like that. i like the dialogue too.

    things like batter’s position in the box, pitcher’s release point, and the ball’s velocity (path) are important and change the hitters time required to react. id like to know what measure’s that best?

    still… mph is way cool.

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