38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 1999
Excellent treatment of the variables that affect the flight of a thrown or batted ball. Reveals facts that explain why the ball does, or doesn't do what people think it does. For example, most players, coaches and spectators are not aware that a fastball decelerates on its' flight from the pitcher to the catcher at a rate of about one mile per hour for every seven feet of travel. Thus the ball speed, as it reaches the batter, 60 feet six inches away, is about 8-9 MPH slower than the speed when it leaves the pitcher's hand. The Professor also explains the dynamics of the curve ball; and why a ball hit at Coor's Field travels farther than those hit at most other ballparks. His theories are interesting, enlightening, and provocative. I strongly recommend the book to any baseball fan who wants to understand why a thrown or batted ball does what it does.
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
When I was a teenager, I did a science fair project looking at statistical analyses of baseball games to help understand how one could improve the strategy of the game from a general manager's perspective. In The 2,000 Percent Solution, I wrote about the potential levels of perfection for a baseball team. So I have long been hooked on what measurement could add to my understanding of baseball. What a pleasant surprise it was when I discovered this fine book that used measurements and analyses to go even further!
Whenever I listen to former Big Leaguers talk about baseball on television, I get lost by half of what they say. While I can see fast balls falling on the way to the plate, the broadcasters are describing a "rising" fast ball. Suddenly, the ball moves strangely, and they refer knowledgeably to the pitcher throwing a "splitter." Then a knuckle ball pitcher comes in, and the catcher can't seem to ever control the ball because there is little spin. Why is that happening? What's going on here?
If you have ever wondered about questions like these, The Physics of Baseball will fill you in and actually give you the ability to amaze others with your precise explanations why the unexpected is either perceived to be happening or is actually happening.
When I was a teenager, baseball games usually lasted about 2 hours. Now, they are much longer. This book gives you a way to take advantage of that, by giving you more interesting things to talk about during the prolonged games.
The author also takes on the many controversies of recent years, such as corked bats, scuffed balls, and extra pine tar on the bat. Although he did not have the resources or information to definitively answer some questions, his educated guesses are probably good enough for now.
If you don't really want to understand physics, you can mainly focus on the graphs and illustrations that simply show the conclusions of Professor Adair's analyses. That simpler approach makes the book a much quicker and more exciting read.
Physics is not my favorite subject, but I was impressed by how much this book was able to add to my understanding and potential enjoyment of watching a baseball game. I think it will probably do the same for you.
Although he is a professor, the author has the humility to consider whatever the players talk about as a potentially important subject. One of the most interesting topics is an evalutation of why Babe Ruth used a bat that was both longer and heavier than any modern slugger would ever consider using. There are also references to "juiced balls" and playing baseball in Denver, and what the impact might be on home runs and a pitcher's e.r.a.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
Ever wondered why a curve ball curves? Why major leaguers stretching for third often take a wide turn between first and second? Why bats seem to break much more often than they used to? This wonderful book contains the answers. Written by a Yale physicist, it contains well-documented but sometimes densely worded explanations of why and how a baseball, a bat and even the players behave as they do. Any serious fan of baseball will finish this book with an enhanced appreciation for the game. Not to mention the ability to speak intelligently about how grip and mechanics differ between pitchers throwing curves and sliders. The author has wisely chosen to address the questions posed most frequently by baseball lovers who aspire to higher knowledge. His only failure is his heavy reliance on technical academic language and somewhat mysterious graphs. It makes for a very enlightening but slow read.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 1998
Before my wife and I married, she had to pass the "basketball" test by sitting through a University of Illinois game in a crowded bar and at least feigning interest. The first nights of our honeymoon were taken up with the World Series (luckily for her, the winning team swept the series). I thus consider myself a sports fan (I am obviously a reader). Accordingly, I was delighted to receive for a recent birthday Robert K. Adair's The Physics of Baseball. The book itself, however, did not quite meet expectations. I encountered two key problems. First, Adair writes in the dry, passive-voice-laden prose of the scientist lacking a good editor. Second, much of the scientific analysis was simply beyond me. What I enjoyed -- and found useful -- were the qualitative discriptions of the game: how and why curveballs curve; how far a batted ball can be hit; the differences between metal and wood bats. While I could not follow each step of his scientific description, the general, non-technical account which he also gave was clear and persuasive. From henceforth, I will watch the game somewhat differently.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2001
The author does a very good job of explaining the basic physics behind national pastime for those who are willing to understand and do a bit of their homework (you just need to be able to read figures and graphs). The various aspects of the game such as the flight of baseball, breaking balls, batting the ball, and the effect of the properties of bats are discussed concisely, without being bogged down into the details of physics. Since the book is targeted for the mass audience (though not including casual baseball fans), readers who studied physics and math at high school or first-year college level should find it very manageable to read and understand. The use of equations is kept at minimum (the author does not use much of mathematical argument anyway), so mathematically challenged readers can also enjoy and extract the most important part of discussions fully. It somewhat reads like a textbook, and will turn away those who have no fond memories in school. The otherwise fine book has its own place in the library of baseball books, since it is the only book in its class for over a decade. This is a very unique baseball book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2004
Trajectory lines, momentum, and distance vs. velocity from a batted ball aren't exactly what you think of when you watch the great game of baseball are they?
This book keeps the reader thinking outside of the box and it lets them get a closer look at which part of the bat will send the ball to a certian place-like in the stands, how fast the ball can be hit, and where the perfect hitting point-or 'sweet spot' is-among other things. It answers the questions of many 'rookies' like why their hand stings after a certain hit and how they missed that 'perfect' pitch. This book gets inside the game of baseball and it contains explainations for why the ball does 'what it does'.
This book is very informational and it provides great detail and extreme elaboration on virtually every topic that is covered.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 1999
A fantastic book for any baseball fan with a scientific interest. Discusses in straightforward terms (with equations relegated to back of chapters) such things as why and how much a spinning ball curves, the interaction of bat and ball, how an outfielder gauges a fly ball, effects of atmospheric conditions, etc.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2002
This little book, while it can be difficult to understand for the verbal first segement of the population like me it is, nonetheless, a wonderful treatise and was desperately needed.
What I enjoyed most about it was the section on hitting which was a wonderfull confirmation of Ted William's theories in THE SCIENCE OF HITTING.
Hiting a baseball is an incredibly complex action and Adair unravels its mysteries. If you want to finally understand hitting for your self, your child or as a coach it is a must buy along with William's book and THE MIKE SCHMIDT HITTING STUDY which details all the schools of hitting in its first five chapters.
While one might be able to poke amateurish holes in his work by saying Adair knew nothing firsthand about the game on the field he demonstrates throughout the book a good knowledge by bringing in the exploits not only of current players but also of players past. Being a student of the history of the game his analogies were always right on.
Unless you are a gifted person mathmatically you will find it hard to comprehend at times. It requires study but is well worth it if you are serious about wanting to maximize your understanding of the game.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2001
I thought this book was good for the most part. It gives great discussions on topics like bat types and different pitches (curve, fastball, etc). It dispells myths about corked bats (they don't really help) and rising fastballs (they don't rise).
Most results of his studies are presented in tabular format, so it will be easy to get the basics of the book even if you don't understand all of the physics. Personally, I had trouble understanding the sections about curve balls. I think this is more of a personal hang-up. Even though I have an engineering degree, I have never quite grasped the physics of spinning objects.. Otherwise, I thought this was a good book. Just not quite great to earn a 5 Star..
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2007
The Physics of Baseball is a great book that should be read by any baseball fan who wants to understand the reasons behind why certain things in the game happen as they do. Robert Adair, a professor at Yale, informatively discusses nearly every aspect of the game through a scientific view. Adair uses models, graphs, and equations to further explain the content of the book. The average person will probably not completely understand every detail about the physics of the game, but will grasp the general concepts with ease. If you do have a good understanding of physics, then you will comprehend everything in the book without a problem. The book is really intended to be read by people interested in baseball, not physics. After reading the book you come away with a greater appreciation for the game and its players. Baseball players really have to understand the concepts of the game and be very gifted to play baseball. Scientifically, it seems quite improbable that a batter will successfully come in contact with a ball at such high speeds, but in reality the best major leaguers do it about a third of the time. Baseball players really know what they are doing when playing the sport. For example, a pitcher has to able to know how to make baseballs curve and change directions in certain ways.
Adair provides reasoning to what baseballs do in motion. If you have always been absolutely puzzled on how a curveball curves, then you will find the answers in this book. You will also understand the great impact outside factors have daily on the game. In a windy stadium, your batted ball might land 30 feet shorter than its normal length. Have you ever wondered why coaches teach you to hit the ball on the "sweet spot" of the bat? Adair explains how vibration and softness relate to this idea. Adair discusses wooden vs. aluminum bats, judging fly balls, and running the bases. Did you know that there is a specific limit to the distance that a batted ball can travel? You can learn this distance and the reasons behind it in the book. Adair talks about the slider, screwball, and fastball in describing the scientific reasons for how they act. You will learn the different swing motions that certain hitters use in order to hit a line-drive or home-run. Did you know that the contact between the baseball and bat last about 1/1000th of a second? Adair also ties in some controversies of the day, such as the corked bat. Adair surprisingly explains why the corked bat is commonly misconceived and its actual effect on a baseball. In the book, Adair even leaves some technical notes at the end of each chapter for the more scientifically advanced people. The book is an interesting read for anyone curious about the reasons for why things in the game act as they do and anyone looking for a fulfilling, quick read.