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## Rounding the Bases Faster, With Math212

Posted by timothy
from the suh-wing-battah-battah-battah dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The fastest route around the bases, mathematicians show, is one that perhaps no major-league ball player has ever run: It swings out a full 18.5 feet from the baseline, nearly forming a full circle. 'I would definitely experiment with it,' says former American Major League Baseball outfielder Doug Glanville, who last played with the Philadelphia Phillies. 'There's no question in my mind that runners could be more efficient.'"
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## Rounding the Bases Faster, With Math

• #### Parameters? (Score:1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2010 @10:35PM (#34001294)

So there's a single, precise path for this?
It doesn't vary even slightly based on one's mass, the length of one's legs, or anything?

• #### Maybe for a home run... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday October 23, 2010 @10:42PM (#34001332)

The main reason why they've calculated a circular path is because of the delays that sharp turns introduce. As far as I can tell, this path makes sense if and only if you're trying to run from home to home. If you're going for a single, or a double, or a triple, you'd have different ideal path.

So even in theory, this doesn't really pan out: nobody in MLB makes it to home-plate on an outfield hit. You could probably come up with more effective routes for doubles and triples, but on the other hand, it's probably hard to tell if you've hit a triple right as you start running. If you make a hit that would be a triple, but follow a route like it's a single and then change your mind as the ball gets played, you'll probably still end up with a single or a double. If you start running for a triple on a base hit that's only really going to get you a single, it could slow you down enough to get you out. I'm more in the hedge-your-bets camp, and I'm betting that, on that basis, this isn't an effective way to go.

• #### Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (Score:3, Interesting)

on Saturday October 23, 2010 @10:54PM (#34001390)

Where are the constraints?

You can be called out if you stray too far from the base line.

• #### Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:14PM (#34001472)

You can be called out if you stray too far from the base line.

I cannot find anything in the rules saying that. Only thing I can find at all related is rule 7.08 (a) (1) [mlb.com], which only applies if they move away from the base line to avoid being tagged.

AFAICT, they can run where ever they like as long as they don't interfere with the fielders.

• #### Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (Score:4, Interesting)

<jwsmythe AT jwsmythe DOT com> on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:50PM (#34001608) Homepage Journal

Exactly. He takes visual queues from the opposition players and coaches. Do I keep going, or do I stop. The decision for all four bases can't be made as soon as he contacts the ball. He hits it, he runs for 1st. Is it safe to go for second? Continue on, but that decision is made at or near 1st base.

The only time a decision like that can be made is if he hits a home run, over the wall. Then speed isn't of the essence, he could walk it if he so desired.

Optimal speed lines are used in race car driving though. Generally you come into the turn on the outside, go towards the apex, and drift out to the outside again. Obvious exceptions apply. Is there another car in the way? What is the next turn after this one? Driving on a street-type course, there was a set of four turns in a snake pattern. Instead of taking each turn properly, I lined up with the center of the overall pattern. It left a little bumping as I nudged the curbs (slight angles, not hard curbs like a neighborhood street would have). Instead of doing 60mph through there, I could do over 90. Anyone behind me, even if they were in an equally powered car, would be far behind me by the time I left that part of the course.

Lots of planning goes into automobile racing, since I'm not waiting to see if the ball I hit is coming in from the outfield. My only concerns were the maximum speed I could take turns with no choices (like above), and other cars on the track. I can't do 90 through that pattern if there's a car doing 60 through it ahead of me, weaving through the whole thing "properly". With that in mind, I would try to be the first car of a group through it, just so I didn't have to slow down. In professional racing, all the drivers would have already known the best way through, so part of that would be eliminated, unless it was a car about to be lapped. In those cases, he'd be flagged over to allow the faster cars through, but you don't always get that luxury on street-track type courses.

• #### Re:Maybe for a home run... (Score:3, Interesting)

on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:55PM (#34001638)

Additionally, they discount the fact that you can use the base to apply extra side-force to cut the corner faster. - the fastest path around the bases is to curve a little but mostly to use the inside corner of the base, with your outside foot, to push off in a new direction. Baseball has been played for 150 or so years,and has been studied to death by both the finest minds in sports and some of the best athletes, in real life. The ideal path has been known for more than a century, and coached accordingly.

• #### Re:1st page of the proof: (Score:3, Interesting)

on Sunday October 24, 2010 @01:52AM (#34002024) Homepage Journal

They charge the runners and apply a magnetic field perpendicular to the playing field? Synchrotron baseball. Cool.

• #### Re:1st page of the proof: (Score:3, Interesting)

on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:13AM (#34003070) Homepage Journal

1st page of the proof:

My good friend and neighbor, the mathematician G.V. Ramanathan has an article in this weekend's Washington Post that seems a little bit relevant to this discussion. It's called "How much math do we really need?"

I recommend you take a look. He makes a very interesting point. [See? I told you I'd find a way to promote it on Slashdot.]

• #### Re:Maybe for a home run... (Score:3, Interesting)

on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:26AM (#34003138)

Right. The players will hit the ball, then watch carefully and verify its path, do some quick back-of-the-envelope calculus to verify the fielders' maximum speeds,[...]

Or, they'll just run, and figure out what's best as they go.

Those are the same thing. Brains are smart and very good at prediction, especially given the training a pro ball-player goes through. It's 3 seconds to first base - that's a lot of time to predict and adapt. Ball players do it intuitively; the physicists have just quantified it (and probably failed to account for a dozen parameters that a ball player's brain will accommodate without their conscious awareness.

• #### Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (Score:5, Interesting)

on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:22PM (#34007558)
There is something to what you say. However, what an experienced batter won't know is how the fielder will choose to play the ball. That means that the batter doesn't know if it will be over the fielder's head or not. Additionally, that knowledge of where the ball will land is really only true in his home park. Over the course of this past baseball season, I saw several occasions where a home team batter got an extra base because of where the ball landed that on another night a visiting team batter did not. The reason for this was that the home team batter knew that the ball hit to that spot would take a tricky bounce while the visiting team batter did not. This was compounded by the fact that the home team fielder also knew that the ball would take a tricky bounce and the visiting team fielder did not (I only noticed this particular occurrence because the announcers pointed it out, but in future games after that I noticed that the home team fielders consistently fielded balls hit to that area better than visiting team fielders).

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