Turn Off Ads?
Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

  1. #1
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    42,660

    Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Dear Bill,
    Why are there so many broken bats in baseball these days?

    -- Splinters Enquirer


    Dear Splinters Enquirer,

    If you ask me, it's these kids today. They don't know how to play the way we used to. Why, back in my day ... and so on.

    But in this case, there really is quite a bit of truth to the notion that things were different a few years ago. Now, watch any major league baseball game, and you'll see a few broken bats due to a marvelous confluence of knowledgeable craftsmanship, veterans' know-how, rookie mistakes, ecosystem biology and physics.

    Baseball bat basics
    Many players today grow up and spend their entire premajor league careers playing with metal bats. So when players get to the major leagues, they are not familiar with the care and use of a wooden bat.

    The problem simply stated is that wood, and thereby a bat made from wood, is anisotropic. Aniso what? You heard me, or read me. Unlike a typical chunk of metal or Jell-O, wood does not have the same strength or structural properties, when pulled or pushed in different directions. Wood has fibers, made of lignin (like ligament) that run from top to bottom, treewise.

    So it is with a bat; a bat has those same wood fibers running from knob to heavy end. From the end, a bat is a circle, and it's cut from within the circular cross section of a tree. So when you examine a bat's end, you'll see that it has gently curving layers. The natural bond between these layers is what often gives way when a batter gets "sawed off." That's when a pitcher throws the ball in such a way that the batter hits it with a thin part of the bat handle, and it breaks (as though it were sawed off).

    As you might imagine, a bat is cut out of a long rectangular block of wood, which in turn was cut from a big round tree. The bat is cut by spinning it on a lathe, while gently but firmly bringing a very strong, sharp cutting tool to the surface. After the bat is shaped just so, a craftsman carefully judges the best orientation of the bat to be strong against a ball, and marks the bat with a label. This marking is traditionally burned into the wood like a cattle brand, so it's often called "branding" the bat.


    How to hold a bat
    So what would that orientation be? Basically stated, it's edge-on. Imagine a paperback book. Better yet, pick one up, and slap it into your palm or onto a tabletop. Which way is it stiffest? The pages present themselves flexibly, when bent in the direction you turn pages. But, they get stiff when you hit 'em along their edges. So it is with a wooden bat. The craftsman batmaker places the brand so it's parallel to the wood grain layers underneath it.

    Now imagine yourself at home plate ready to make your mark in baseball record books. You want to orient the bat so that the layers are swung parallel to the ground. You want the brand facing up. You want to, in a word, brand the bat, before you swing.

    If you don't brand your bat, you'll be bending and banging the bat in an unfavorable orientation. The chances of it breaking are much, much higher. It can have less than half its potential strength this way. Observe modern players; many of them don't brand their bats. They don't have the brand facing the sky as the bat crosses the plane of the plate, so their bats are more likely to break. It's a habit many players who grew up with metal bats need to work on changing.

    Bats aren't what they used to be
    There are a couple of other factors at work as well. For starters, we have the world's burgeoning population. Humans invented baseball around the same time we came across ways to make machines do work for us. With machines, our farming became more efficient. We could feed more and more of us. Our needs for forest resources became greater. We cut down a lot of trees.

    When trees are replanted, in general, they're not as big and robust as the so-called first growth. The soil's nutrients haven't been adequately replenished. The trees are growing without the benefit of up-and-running ecosystems. They just don't grow in the same way. So, it is possible that modern bats are made of material that's not as strong, or at least, not as well suited to batmaking as they were years ago. Second growth may be second-rate.

    Modern players have discovered that a fast bat is more effective than a heavy one at slamming baseballs a long way. This is a remarkable and elegant feature of the universe. When we hit baseballs we're transferring momentum, which is the combination of how massive something is and how fast you've managed to get it moving.

    In order to get the bat moving, you have to apply force. That force, over the course of the swing, gives the bat energy. For a given batter, the swing is about the same length no matter how heavy the bat. The faster he or she can pull the bat over the course of its swing, the more energy will be available to the ball. Take a moment and take this in. The energy that the bat gets is determined by its momentum combined with its speed again. Energy goes with the velocity times itself -- velocity squared.

    So lighter bats can give the ball more energy. Because of this, players are choosing lighter and lighter bats, which means they're also thinner and thinner. This, too, makes for more broken sticks.

    Finally, and this is subtle: Most players have stopped batting with their bare hands. The weather is quite cool at many spring training camps. So, players wear gloves to keep their hands from getting rattled, especially when they don't hit the ball squarely. Once you get a feel for a bat with gloves on, you might just keep the gloves on for every at bat all summer.

    So, players have selected bat handles that are thinner by a couple of thicknesses of leather. A millimeter or two, or a sixteenth of an inch or so may not sound like much. But, it can render a bat handle 10 percent smaller. The strength of a cylinder like a bat handle goes not as its diameter, and not as its diameter squared. Instead, when a rod is bent, its stiffness depends on its diameter squared times its diameter squared. It goes as the fourth power of the diameter. So a 10 percent reduction can mean a 35 percent reduction in strength. That's a lot. Yikes. No wonder we're seeing all this kindling in the infield.

    Perhaps as more bats break, players will want to take steps to keep them intact. Bigger handles, better wood, and branding would all help.

    Meanwhile, it should be possible to engineer a material that feels like wood and performs like wood. As easy as it might be for car dashboards, it has proven a bit of a problem for the marketplace. Stay tuned though; engineers are working hard on new anisotropic fiber materials all the time. Perhaps soon, the crack of the bat will be a result of well-designed stuff, and more of our trees will be left standing. Play ball!

  2. Turn Off Ads?
  3. #2
    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    16,601

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Bats are dried out today to make them lighter, too. They practically explode sometimes.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~ Mark Twain

  4. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Madeira, OH
    Posts
    835

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Interesting article, I had never taken the batting glove effect into account.

    I wonder how the fondness for maple bats instead of the traditional ash factors in. I know that maple is harder, but not sure if it has less strength than ash.

  5. #4
    Pagan/Asatru Ravenlord's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Williamsburg, OH and the wilds.
    Posts
    8,994

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    i love Bill Nye.

    would MLB allow artificial wood into the game (please check Viagra commercials at the door)?
    the store for all your blade, costuming (in any regard), leather (also in any regard), and steel craft needs.www.facebook.com/tdhshop


    yes, this really is how we make our living.

  6. #5
    Member Highlifeman21's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Bristol, just around the corner from ESPN
    Posts
    8,694

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    If they can restrict the ballflight in golf equipment, I would sure as heck think they could come up with materials that would restrict the speed of a batted ball.

    Right now, if MLB had college aluminum, you'd see at least 1 dead pitcher, and 1 dead 3B a year. Kinda bad PR for MLB.

  7. #6
    Vavasor TRF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Location
    Amarillo, TX
    Posts
    13,392

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    I'd like to see bamboo. It won't happen until they can prove that a composite bat, bamboo is glued strips, can work safely. but they are supposed to be stronger than steel.
    Suck it up cupcake.

  8. #7
    RaisorZone Raisor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Charlotte, Nc
    Posts
    15,176

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Bill Nye is a cool dude. Started out on local tv up in Seattle when I lived there.

    Now you know.
    "But I do know Joey's sister indirectly (or foster sister) and I have heard stories of Joey being into shopping, designer wear, fancy coffees, and pedicures."

  9. #8
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    34,387

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    I like new technology as much as the next guy but I don't see a problem with bats breaking more often. Right now the game is geared more towards offense. The strike zone has been diminished, batters are standing on top of the plate, umpires are ready to eject a pitcher when a ball hits a batter whether it's intentional or not, ballparks are smaller, etc.; why not keep one thing in this game where pitchers can have an advantage.

    From Little League through college, kids are using aluminum bats. Purists don't like the noise the ball makes when it hits the bat. There are also safety issues as Highlifeman has stated. But there are also baseball issues as well. If a college pitcher can throw a ball inside, instead of getting his bat broke, the hitter lines a double down the line. It's hard to evaluate both a hitter and a pitcher when that happens. It would be the same if there were ceramic or composite or even bamboo bats. I know aluminum bats - especially on the youth level - are cheaper in the long run than wooden ones so I don't expect high schools and youth leagues to go back to wood. But I'd like to see colleges adopt wood bats - real ones, not the kind that doesn't break. As for the pros, same goes. One of the first rules of physics is that for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Hitters want to have lighter bats to get more bat speed, that's fine. It'll just make it easier for the pitchers to saw them off.
    The Rally Onion wants 150 fans before Opening Day.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rally-...24872650873160

  10. #9
    Member Red Heeler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Cookeville, TN
    Posts
    1,659

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Quote Originally Posted by TRF View Post
    I'd like to see bamboo. It won't happen until they can prove that a composite bat, bamboo is glued strips, can work safely. but they are supposed to be stronger than steel.
    With the adhesive technology available today, I would imagine a laminated bat would be far safer than solid wood. It would also kill a lot fewer trees. Bamboo would come into play, and more bats could be made out of one ash log than is possible if you have to use a solid piece of wood.

  11. #10
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    42,660

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy


    Deaf and illiterate, the six-foot, 180-pound Browning was eccentric as well. He refused to slide; played defense standing on one leg to prevent anyone running into him; stared into the sun to improve his "lamps" (eyes); treasured his "active" bats because of the hits they still contained; was constantly on the prowl for the next, new "magical" stick with hits in it; reportedly favored bats that were 37 inches in length and 48 ounces in weight; maintained a warehouse of "retired" bats in his home -- all of them named, many after Biblical figures; kept his batting statistics on his shirt cuffs; and when traveling over the circuit, frequently alighted from trains and introduced himself as the champion batter of the American Association.
    http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?...id=29&pid=1712

  12. #11
    Member Highlifeman21's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Bristol, just around the corner from ESPN
    Posts
    8,694

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    favored bats that were 37 inches in length and 48 ounces in weight
    That's freakin' huge.

  13. #12
    Matt's Dad RANDY IN INDY's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Brownsburg, Indiana
    Posts
    15,268

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    To use a log like that, the pitchers must have been throwin' a might slow. You'd get a hernia trying to check your swing with that.
    Talent is God Given: be humble.
    Fame is man given: be thankful.
    Conceit is self given: be careful.

    John Wooden

  14. #13
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    42,660

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Quote Originally Posted by RANDY IN CHAR NC View Post
    To use a log like that, the pitchers must have been throwin' a might slow. You'd get a hernia trying to check your swing with that.
    Browning played before 60 feet too, starting out when pitchers could take a running start to throw. Plus they could indicate if they wanted it high or low during the early years.


    n 1883, modern pitching began with the removal of the ban on overhand pitching. The following year, all restrictions on the pitcher's delivery motion were removed, and the requirement for a base on balls dropped to six balls. In 1887, the game moved further towards the modern rule set, with five balls becoming the requirement for a walk and the adoption of the hit batsman rule awarding a batter first base if he was hit by a pitch. For this season only, there were four strikes to an out; before and since, there have always been three.

    In 1889, the ball and strike rules of today were first established--four balls to a walk, with the traditional three strikes to an out. This brought the pitches per at-bat down towards a reasonable number; in modern times, this is around 3.75 pitches per at-bat. In 1893, the distance for pitching was changed from 50 feet, which had been the front of one of the incarnations of the pitching box, to the modern distance of 60' 6",

  15. #14
    Passion for the game Team Clark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Posts
    8,104

    Re: Baseball Bats with Bill Nye - The Science Guy

    Quote Originally Posted by Highlifeman21 View Post
    That's freakin' huge.
    Not too shabby. Like a Dick Allen piece of lumber.

    I wonder how hard these guys were throwing? 75MPH? Not many in the upper 80's I would suspect.
    It's absolutely pathetic that people can't have an opinion from actually watching games and supplementing that with stats. If you voice an opinion that doesn't fit into a black/white box you will get completely misrepresented and basically called a tobacco chewing traditionalist...
    Cedric 3/24/08


Turn Off Ads?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Board Moderators may, at their discretion and judgment, delete and/or edit any messages that violate any of the following guidelines: 1. Explicit references to alleged illegal or unlawful acts. 2. Graphic sexual descriptions. 3. Racial or ethnic slurs. 4. Use of edgy language (including masked profanity). 5. Direct personal attacks, flames, fights, trolling, baiting, name-calling, general nuisance, excessive player criticism or anything along those lines. 6. Posting spam. 7. Each person may have only one user account. It is fine to be critical here - that's what this board is for. But let's not beat a subject or a player to death, please.

Thank you, and most importantly, enjoy yourselves!


RedsZone.com is a privately owned website and is not affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds or Major League Baseball


Contact us: Boss | GIK | BCubb2003 | dabvu2498 | Gallen5862 | LexRedsFan | Plus Plus | RedlegJake | redsfan1995 | The Operator | Tommyjohn25