PDA

View Full Version : Another view of the curveball



redsmetz
06-08-2009, 09:26 PM
I'm killing some time while my wife's on the phone with my sister, and saw this article from the NY Times about a hypothesis a professor has about curveballs. Some interesting stuff in it:


June 7, 2009
A Professor Throws Curveballs a Curve
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bert Blyleven threw a wicked curveball, and whatever batters called it — the deuce, the yakker, the hook or Uncle Charlie — it was pretty tough to hit.

Why?

“It’s a figment of your imagination,” Blyleven kidded.

Ever since someone snapped off the first curve, and there has been a century-old debate whether it was Candy Cummings or Fred Goldsmith, there has been equal discussion over exactly what the pitch does in flight.

“There’s something physical about it and something illusory about it,” the Bucknell University professor Arthur Shapiro said.

A die-hard Mets fan well versed in the field of visual sciences, Shapiro has studied curves from every angle, and he reached the same conclusion as many other experts.

“They look like they jump or break or do all these funky things, but they don’t,” he said. “The idea that the bottom falls out isn’t so.”

He added: “I’m not saying curveballs don’t curve. I emphasize that, yes, they curve. They just do so at a more gradual rate. Instead of making a sudden hook, they would form a really big circle.”

That might have pleased Dizzy Dean. He had a favorite line for those who doubted the ball moved at all.

Dean liked to say, “Stand behind a tree 60 feet away and I’ll whomp you with an optical illusion!” Shapiro, however, offers a new theory on why hitters might think a ball bends so drastically: The eye exaggerates the break.

Shapiro said the brain processes objects it sees in peripheral vision differently than things it observes looking straight on. So a batter tracking a pitch from the corners of his eyes might throw himself a curve.

To illustrate his point, Shapiro presented a tantalizing design that recently was judged the world’s best visual illusion by a group of neuroscientists and psychologists.

It depicts a spinning ball that quickly changes direction, depending at which angle it is viewed. Straight on, it appears to simply drop; from the side, it seems to veer.

“I’m not saying this is it,” Shapiro said. “It’s a hypothesis.”

Shapiro developed the illusion with three collaborators — the University of Southern California professor Zhong-Lin Lu and the former students Emily Knight and Robert Ennis.

“I would agree there is an illusion taking place when a batter visually tries to deal with a curving pitch, but not due to peripheral vision,” the Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt told The Associated Press in an e-mail message.

“Curveballs are like snowflakes, none are the same,” Schmidt wrote. “No two curveballs have the same rotation speed, velocity toward the hitter, arm delivery angle or break. Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven had the tightest rotation and velocity combination.”

Schmidt batted .348 (8 for 23) against Blyleven, hitting two home runs and striking out five times.

“Hitters are seeing the ball with both eyes, not out of the side of the front eye as suggested,” Schmidt wrote. “I believe the illusion is a result of the speed with which the action takes place, not a peripheral view. Then again, I’m not a scientist, just a hitter.”

Blyleven won 287 games and two World Series rings. He is now a Minnesota Twins’ announcer.

Blyleven said he used to listen to the Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully describe Sandy Koufax’s curveball on the radio as a ball that was almost tumbling.

“I visualized the dropping motion,” he said.

Blyleven said he worked off the third-base side of the rubber, especially to right-handed hitters, to make it harder to pick up. He saw the differences in Shapiro’s illusion, and focused more on his own grip and motion.

Shapiro will move from Bucknell, in Lewisburg, Pa., to American University in Washington this fall, and will keep rooting for the Mets.

He admits that when he watches games with his 10-year-old twins, Benjamin and Sarah, and his 7-year-old son, Joel, his “critical apparatus goes down.” As in, when Mets ace Johan Santana gets in a jam, Shapiro becomes more of a fan and less of an expert.

“Oh sure,” he said. “I’ll be like, ‘C’mon, break one off right here.’ ”

HumnHilghtFreel
06-08-2009, 09:29 PM
http://illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate.com/2009/the-break-of-the-curveball/

This was posted on another board I frequent a few days ago. Pretty cool.

RED VAN HOT
06-08-2009, 09:39 PM
If the sharp, downward break is an optical illusion for a more gradual downward curving motion, wouldn't batters tend to hit under the ball instead of swinging over it? Is he suggesting that the batter sees no break and therefore swings over it while those of us keeping score at home see an illusion breaking suddenly and sharply downward?

traderumor
06-08-2009, 10:01 PM
Regardless of the how, it will still make or break a lot of careers.

BoydsOfSummer
06-09-2009, 04:22 AM
"Curveball, bats are afraid."

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 08:35 AM
And after all those at bats, it was just an optical illusion of sorts. Go figure.

RFS62
06-09-2009, 09:02 AM
And after all those at bats, it was just an optical illusion of sorts. Go figure.


It's good to know that when I slice one in golf, I'm just imagining it. Hopefully, the water it goes into is also imaginary.

They need to set up the CBS shot tracker that they use for golf telecasts and find out one way or another how much each pitch breaks.

RFS62
06-09-2009, 09:08 AM
Another thing.

All this talk about peripheral vision of the hitter causing the illusion. What about the catcher, who is straight on to the pitcher? I've caught many a curveball, and I can tell you, they break.

The physics of ball flight are well documented. Pretty much anybody can throw a curveball with a wiffleball, and make it dance all over the place.

nate
06-09-2009, 09:12 AM
Why is it only an optical illusion when it's a curveball and not a fastball?

traderumor
06-09-2009, 09:25 AM
Just to be fair, the article didn't say that a curveball didn't break, it said that some of the break a batter sees is optical illusion, ergo, it isn't breaking as much as the hitter thinks it is.

westofyou
06-09-2009, 09:45 AM
The curve has been controversial since it showed up. In the 1880's the Reds held a display of its odd nature prior to a game, it's one of the most famous moments of the 19th century in baseball and it has been buried by time. here's a PDF on the origins of the curve from 109 years ago.

http://baseballminutia.com/images/curveball.pdf

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 10:27 AM
Just to be fair, the article didn't say that a curveball didn't break, it said that some of the break a batter sees is optical illusion, ergo, it isn't breaking as much as the hitter thinks it is.

No offense, traderumor, but how much does the hitter "think" it is breaking? That seems a little absurd to think that some pinhead "thinks" he knows how much the hitter "thinks" the curveball is breaking. Little too much "thinking" going on if you ask me.;)

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 10:28 AM
Another thing.

All this talk about peripheral vision of the hitter causing the illusion. What about the catcher, who is straight on to the pitcher? I've caught many a curveball, and I can tell you, they break.

The physics of ball flight are well documented. Pretty much anybody can throw a curveball with a wiffleball, and make it dance all over the place.

Your eyes can't possibly tell you that. ;)
:beerme:

BuckeyeRedleg
06-09-2009, 11:12 AM
I don't understand the point about peripheral vision. A hitter is watching the ball during a pitch, not the 2nd baseman.

Cool illusion, but I think it's bogus when applied to baseball.

Ltlabner
06-09-2009, 11:37 AM
We are heading off into Redzoniest Land.

Don't dare question the eyes.

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 12:07 PM
We are heading off into Redzoniest Land.

Don't dare question the eyes.

They always lie, don't they?

Ltlabner
06-09-2009, 12:11 PM
They always lie, don't they?

They always tell the truth don't they? Golly, absolutes are fun.

It's really that fantastical to believe that *some* element of a curve is a perception issue on the part of the batter? It may be 5% of the equation while actual movement is the other 95%. I don't think it's that out of bounds to suggest some percentage of the effectiveness of a curve (or any pitch really) is due to movement the batter simply imagines.

princeton
06-09-2009, 12:27 PM
doesn't he have it backwards? you're straight on as the pitch leaves hand and you see the real drop -- then as ball comes into catcher you move eyes faster than head and are thus more peripheral-- picking up the veer but not the real drop.

hence, you put the fat part of the bat right over the top of the stupid thing.

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 12:47 PM
They always tell the truth don't they? Golly, absolutes are fun.

It's really that fantastical to believe that *some* element of a curve is a perception issue on the part of the batter? It may be 5% of the equation while actual movement is the other 95%. I don't think it's that out of bounds to suggest some percentage of the effectiveness of a curve (or any pitch really) is due to movement the batter simply imagines.

I guess when you've seen a few from a lot of angles, you don't question the movement.

dabvu2498
06-09-2009, 01:00 PM
I guess when you've seen a few from a lot of angles, you don't question the movement. I think the guy is pretty much right. And doing a survey to prove it wouldn't be hard. Have a hitter stand in the box and have a pitcher throw him dueces. Then ask the hitter how much said ball moved. I would bet that the answer would almost always more than the actual movement of the pitch. I am not necessarily sure that makes it an "optical illusion" nor does it mean that the hitter can't "square up" the pitch with the bat. I would certainly like to see the results of a survey like I have suggested.

Ltlabner
06-09-2009, 02:49 PM
I guess when you've seen a few from a lot of angles, you don't question the movement.

Not questioning the movement, just the amount. I'm saying that the movement can be exaggerated by the batters perceptions. Maybe it's only a slight difference, even a matter of an inch, but it doesn't take much curiosity about the world around us to understand that what our eyes see isn't always deadly accurate and to question it.

But I guess I'm silly and tend to question things.

traderumor
06-09-2009, 02:50 PM
No offense, traderumor, but how much does the hitter "think" it is breaking? That seems a little absurd to think that some pinhead "thinks" he knows how much the hitter "thinks" the curveball is breaking. Little too much "thinking" going on if you ask me.;)The brain is involved in processing all of this. It isn't like a little hammer hits the knee and a reflex jerks the hands down into the hitting zone. But I know what you meant----I think---or I see---ohhhhh, I'm so confused :beerme:

In the immortal words of Margaret Hoolihan: "I'm not as think as you drunk I am."

gonelong
06-09-2009, 03:10 PM
I think all the guy is saying is that a really good curveball doesn't drop at nearly a right angle (off the table) as perceived by a lot/some/many/most/a number of batters, but rather it's more rounded. Maybe. How that gets everyone's panties in a bunch is beyond me. It's not like the guy said anything about rising fastballs. :)

I wonder if the batter knew a curveball was coming if he would perceive the drop as the same as if he thought a fastball was coming? A catcher has no problem catching a curveball until they get crossed up by the pitcher and are expecting a fastball. All of the sudden that same pitch is exponentially harder for the catcher to handle (recognize and track).

The sharper the drop the more difficult the pitch is to identify, and then track. The delayed recognition gives the batter less time (and therefore spatial information) to calculate the trajectory of the ball causing him to often underestimate the break and swing over the top of the pitch.

On a hanging curve, the batter recognizes the pitch early, giving him more spatial information to work with, and therefore has adequate time and information to track, and then smack, the ball.

GL

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 03:50 PM
There are curveballs, (Mehhh) and then there are Curveballs.(Holy....) I've seen some that are so hard and tight that you would not recognize them from a fastball, until they suddenly do their thing. In catching them, it's like "Here it comes," and you are still surprised. I've caught them and I've hit against them. They are as varied as the colors of the rainbow and come from totally different angles (creating the path and break) and spin and break in varied and different ways. Some go side to side. Some go 10 to 4 and some literally go 12 to 6. I can only chuckle when someone attempts to place every curveball in a pretty little package and call it an optical illusion. As far as the amount of time that a hitter's brain and body has to react to this "optical illusion," well, it ain't much.

traderumor
06-09-2009, 04:12 PM
"See ball, hit ball"--natural hitters who have no design on becoming a hitting coach

"Those who see best hit ball hardest"--Confuscious

gonelong
06-09-2009, 04:14 PM
I can only chuckle when someone attempts to place every curveball in a pretty little package and call it an optical illusion.

That doesn't seem like a very fair assessment to me.


He added: “I’m not saying curveballs don’t curve. I emphasize that, yes, they curve.
..
“I’m not saying this is it,” Shapiro said. “It’s a hypothesis.”


GL

RANDY IN INDY
06-09-2009, 05:12 PM
“They look like they jump or break or do all these funky things, but they don’t,” he said. “The idea that the bottom falls out isn’t so.”

That is not a fair assessment either.

Bob Borkowski
10-14-2010, 08:45 AM
Is the break of a curveball a mirage...an optical illusion?

Here we go again with this controversy. I thought this idea had been debunked quite a few years ago.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/baseball/mlb/wires/10/13/2080.ap.bbo.sci.eye.on.the.ball.0829/

macro
10-14-2010, 09:07 AM
Bob, I've merged your post with this thread from last year, so that we don't lose the context of what was said at that time.

jojo
10-14-2010, 09:15 AM
They always lie, don't they?

If the eyes didn't lie to some extent, wouldn't a curve ball be easier to hit?

RANDY IN INDY
10-14-2010, 09:49 AM
Just cause you see it don't mean you can hit it.:)

jojo
10-14-2010, 09:50 AM
Just cause you see it don't mean you can hit it.:)

The discussion is centering on why that's so though...

RANDY IN INDY
10-14-2010, 11:18 AM
It is so because it is such a hard game. Hitting a baseball thrown by accomplished pitchers is probably the single hardest thing to do in sports. 90-100mph fast-balls. Off speed pitches that "actually do break" at many varied angles. Trying to figure out what pitch is coming at any given time and having so little time to react. It is an art in itself if you can hit it. When I was pitching, if I wanted to throw my curveball for a strike, I would start it out in one of two places. The back of the hitter's shoulder or the back of his rear end. The pitch would end up near the outside corner of the plate. Seeing the hitter "buckle" because the ball was coming at him was a fairly common. All curve balls are different. Big slow ones, fast breaking ones that look like a fastball until the last second, flat frisbee's like Arroyo throws from time to time, and the ones that spin and don't break that end up smacking the hitter in the back.

On another note, have you ever seen a catcher get crossed up on a pitch? Truth is, if he didn't know what was coming, he would have a very hard time catching the various pitches, and I don't think it's because he's having optical illusions.

dougdirt
10-14-2010, 11:50 AM
On another note, have you ever seen a catcher get crossed up on a pitch? Truth is, if he didn't know what was coming, he would have a very hard time catching the various pitches, and I don't think it's because he's having optical illusions.

Catchers get crossed up because the reaction time is so fast and if they are expecting to move to catch one thing and they get another, they lose that reaction time because they already expected to react one way and by the time they figure out that isn't happening, its too late to react another way.

As for the optical illusion.... physics isn't lying here. Pitches don't have 'late break'. They have a consistent break.

Roy Tucker
10-14-2010, 12:03 PM
Yeah, "breaking" balls travel in a parabola. Having a "break" infers that the rate of the ball curving increases which it doesn't. It does curve, but it doesn't break.

I think what these articles are saying is that the illusion of a "break" comes from human vision and perception and switching from central to peripheral vision when that ball is about 20 ft. away.

So the concepts of "late break" and "falling off a table" don't exist in the physical world but the illusion of them happening in the human perceptual world does exist.

jojo
10-14-2010, 12:09 PM
Yeah, "breaking" balls travel in a parabola. Having a "break" infers that the rate of the ball curving increases which it doesn't. It does curve, but it doesn't break.

I think what these articles are saying is that the illusion of a "break" comes from human vision and perception and switching from central to peripheral vision when that ball is about 20 ft. away.

So the concepts of "late break" and "falling off a table" don't exist in the physical world but the illusion of them happening in the human perceptual world does exist.

Right.

pahster
10-14-2010, 12:43 PM
Catchers get crossed up because the reaction time is so fast and if they are expecting to move to catch one thing and they get another, they lose that reaction time because they already expected to react one way and by the time they figure out that isn't happening, its too late to react another way.

As for the optical illusion.... physics isn't lying here. Pitches don't have 'late break'. They have a consistent break.

Science is scary. ;)

TheNext44
10-14-2010, 01:22 PM
What about sliders, sinkers, screwballs and cut fastballs? Not assuming anything, just asking.

jojo
10-14-2010, 01:31 PM
What about sliders, sinkers, screwballs and cut fastballs? Not assuming anything, just asking.

Spin creates movement... that's not really being questioned.

TheNext44
10-14-2010, 01:37 PM
Spin creates movement... that's not really being questioned.

But is there actual late break with these pitches, or are they optical illusions like the big curveball?

RANDY IN INDY
10-14-2010, 02:51 PM
You can see some curveballs coming from a mile away. Others you don't see until the last minute, and break later because they are thrown harder. A slider and a cut fastball breaks/curves (semantics :rolleyes:) later, for the same reason. We used to long toss curveballs and they would, curve/break, whatever you want to call it, 10 feet or more. No one is going to convince me that they do not curve, RFS62 hit it on the head with his golfing analogy and the slice. I've seen them start on one side of the fairway and go completely into another zip code. Different pitches break at different times. Some earlier than others.

westofyou
10-14-2010, 02:55 PM
Why the curveball curves

http://books.google.com/books?id=-q9M4pe3kmUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=curveball+bond+cincinnati&source=bl&ots=MKZQsTySKe&sig=LNTpAxkxLFBEXjP8TVyKcrAFiB4&hl=en&ei=yFG3TNTpIYiWsgPb3Lm7CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

RANDY IN INDY
10-14-2010, 02:55 PM
Science never lies. Go back and read some old textbooks.;)

RANDY IN INDY
10-14-2010, 02:56 PM
Catchers get crossed up because the reaction time is so fast and if they are expecting to move to catch one thing and they get another, they lose that reaction time because they already expected to react one way and by the time they figure out that isn't happening, its too late to react another way.

As for the optical illusion.... physics isn't lying here. Pitches don't have 'late break'. They have a consistent break.

I've also seen them crossed up by "pure stuff."

dougdirt
10-14-2010, 03:45 PM
You can see some curveballs coming from a mile away. Others you don't see until the last minute, and break later because they are thrown harder. A slider and a cut fastball breaks/curves (semantics :rolleyes:) later, for the same reason. We used to long toss curveballs and they would, curve/break, whatever you want to call it, 10 feet or more. No one is going to convince me that they do not curve, RFS62 hit it on the head with his golfing analogy and the slice. I've seen them start on one side of the fairway and go completely into another zip code. Different pitches break at different times. Some earlier than others.

It isn't that they don't curve, its that the curve is consistent. There isn't a "late" curve to it. It isn't possible for it to be going straight, then to just all of a sudden curve, without some outside force being applied to it (an object striking it).

dougdirt
10-14-2010, 03:46 PM
I've also seen them crossed up by "pure stuff."

Well yes, but that is still because they didn't get what they were expecting. The curveball broke more or was faster than expected. The fastball was faster. The fastball had more movement to it.

Brutus
10-14-2010, 05:55 PM
I get the feeling that the argument is whether a curveball breaks gradually or can often have a sudden break.

If that's the argument, it seems like a silly one.

If the curveball didn't break, then MLB's millions of dollars poured into this Pitch F/X data was a real waste. I'd hate to think that, if a pitch really did have a 14" vertical break, that we wouldn't really care whether that was gradual or sudden. Just hit the darn thing.

GullyFoyle
10-14-2010, 06:21 PM
The biggest issue is that our eyes don't work the way we think they do ... they are not "windows" on a world. Three stage of image process occur in the brain, the earliest of which occurs "preattentively" or before we even focus on something in our view. There is a lot of pattern recognition and image transformation that goes on without you being conscious of it (the evolutionary process has wired the mind find patterns and notice the edges of what we see). The most obvious example of how the mind effects vision is the large blind spot that is in your vision right now, that none of us "see". Human sight in not an objective relayer of external reality.