When choosing a baseball or softball bat, we value a bat that can create an increase batted baseball speed. What we often don’t do, however, is quantify what increase batted baseball speed means. For example, if a bat can add 5mph to the batted ball (give all other things equal) then how much more distance on hit do I get? If its substantial then maybe the extra money for the nicer bat is worth it. If the distance is marginal then maybe we save a few bucks.
As you can imagine, the calculation to determine the distance a ball travels and its batted baseball speed is a difficult one. The list of variables to control seems almost unreasonable if you start to list them. Some are obvious like swing and pitch speed. Others not so much:
- ball spin both on and off axis,
- barometric pressure,
- trajectory angle,
- the bats ‘bounciness’ (coefficient of restitution),
- etc, etc, etc.
So, then, are we left to wonder how much further a ball might fly if we can just add another mph to our exit speed?
Using a sophisticated Dopplar Radar a company called TrackMan is able to immediately track the precise location, spin, velocity, acceleration and trajectory of a batted ball. Over years of collecting fantastic data a very smart person named Dr. Nathan Alan created an excel calculator which you can download here as well as at his site here where you can download the calculator and do the calculations yourself. The excel spreadsheets accounts for every detail you could ever imagine, and then some. This model has been tested and it is accurate within 6 inches.
With that calculator, we can hold a bunch of variables constant while we increase batted baseball speed incrementally and measure what happens to distance. I took the calculator and made a chart. It shows how a ball changes increments of 5mph at different trajectories. This assumes a list of things (wind = 0mph, Barometric Pressure = 29.2, Elevation = 0, Relative Humidity = 50, backspin of 200 rpms, sidespin of 50 rpms, and on and on and on). When hitting the ball at a 30 degree angle an increase in batted ball speed from 90 to 95mph increases distance by 26 feet (391-365). At those volocities, we can say, roughly, that a 1mph increase in batted ball speed increases distance by 5 feet 2 inches. Interesting indeed. Other charts like this one show the value of increase batted baseball speed at the correct trajectory.
It is also of note that a 30 degree trajectory becomes a deeper shot compared to a 45 degree trajectory when as speeds increase above 55mph. Below 55 per hour and a 45 degree angle is a deeper shot.
On a side note, the first “Measuring Tape Job” is reported to have been done by a homer of Mickey Mantle in 1953 in Washington DC where it is reported that he hit a ball 656 feet. If that did indeed happen (and it didn’t) under normal circumstances (i.e. not a tornado in center field) then Mantle’s lowest batted ball speed needed to be 154mph on at a perfect 24 degree trajectory.
As a reference, Adam Dunn holds a more verifiable record at 545 feet in 2004. His measurable bomb’s lowest batted ball speed could have only been 124mph at a perfect 26 degree angle. In other words, if Mantle’s bomb was real and conditions were even slightly similar in the two examples, Mickey Mantle has hit the ball at the perfect angle a full 30 mph faster than Adam Dunn, one of the biggest swingers in the game, ever has.