Pitching Too Hard

Many thanks to what-if.xkcd.com for putting the old radar gun debate to bed. According to legend, the faster the fastball, the better. NOT SO.

In answering the query “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?”, the fine people of what if? have ultimately established that it would result in no less than a hit-by-pitch every time:




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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.


11 Responses to “Pitching Too Hard”

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  1. Bryce Harper says:

    That’s a clown question, bro.

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  2. J Bravo says:

    The conclusion isn’t true, though. While the fireball would hit the batter, if the ball still went through the strike zone, it’s a strike, regardless of whether the batter swings or whether the batter tries to get out of the way. No hit by pitch.

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    • But since the ball is disintegrating and pieces of it will no doubt mingle with the batter’s particles post mushroom cloud, shouldn’t it still be a HBP? Or at least HBPP — hit by pitch particles?

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      • ppabich says:

        If it hits the batter at any point it’s a dead ball. But i’m not sure of the ruling because i’m not sure baseball has a rule that accounts for an exploding baseball.

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      • J Bravo says:

        Rule 6.08(b) (which Munroe actually cites):
        “[The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when –] he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
        If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.”

        I don’t understand any way of reading this that doesn’t result in it getting called a strike. Even if the contact with the batter is outside the strike zone, the ball is still in the strike zone.

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        • Isaac Cajina says:

          Yes, I think the easy part is to say that while the batter will be hit by the pitch/particles of the pitched ball, he can’t be given a HBP as the speeds involved mean he can make no attempt to get out of the way. That also means it’s a dead ball.

          Deciding if it’s a ball or a strike though depends on how “the ball” is defined in this case.

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  3. ettin says:

    Brings a whole new meaning to the ‘exploding’ fastball.

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  4. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    This is a gem. Thank you.

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