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Math Science

Rounding the Bases Faster, With Math 212

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

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:27PM (#34001258)

    If that really worked, everybody would be doing it already.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:46PM (#34001344)

    No one cares about how fast you can round _all_ of the bases. There are only two times when it is applicable -- a home run or an in-field home run. The first makes the speed unimportant. The second really doesn't happen frequently.

    The player will hit the ball, and then attempt to get to first base. If conditions look good, they will try for second base. At this point, third base will only be attempted in rare cases, mainly when an error has been made by the fielding team. The double/triple attempts are more based on information that isn't known when the player first hits the ball. As such, the action will be to take the fastest path from the current base to the next base.

    So that swooping path can't be slower than the straight path or the player risks giving up a lot of singles and allowing double-plays. These are often determined by fractions when the fielding team is efficient.

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:49PM (#34001364)

    TFA addresses this. The ideal path for a double still curves quite a bit, going about 14' off the straight line path instead of 18 for the home to home path.

    It is amusing to think that the only time you know when you leave the plate that you're running back to home for sure is the same time when it doesn't matter how fast you go.

  • by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:52PM (#34001380) Homepage

    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.

    As the article notes, the authors are aware of this. They also are aware of the fact that runners seldom adjust to more efficient paths even when they know they've hit doubles, not singles. This was, in fact, the motivation for the study.

    I think you're confusing their point: they're quite clear that they don't think that this helps in reality (at least, not much). It's an exercise in "I wonder..."

  • by Azarael ( 896715 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:57PM (#34001410) Homepage
    I thought that too, but wikipedia and other online sources say that this only applies when a defensive player is attempting to make a play on the runner. At that point the runner must proceed on the most direct path to the base, without deviating by more than 3ft, otherwise the runner is called out.

    Online references aside, this makes a lot of sense thinking of the baseball that I've played and watched on tv.
  • by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @12:12AM (#34001464) Journal

    Only once a defensive player is attempting to make a play on you.

  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @12:19AM (#34001488)

    Runners can be called out for running outside the basepath, which is 3 feet to either side of the baseline. It usually only comes up on plays where the runner is trying to avoid a tag, but that's also usually the only time anyone ever goes very far from the baseline. It's quite likely a runner would get called out well before they got 18.5 feet away from the baseline.

    No, that rule explicitly only applies when they're trying to avoid a tag. it's rule 7.08 (a) (1).

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/runner_7.jsp [mlb.com]

  • by mmontour ( 2208 ) <mail@mmontour.net> on Sunday October 24, 2010 @12:22AM (#34001498)

    I thought a 'home run' was something else entirely. Involving a girl. A naked girl. I didn't know running in a circle was part of the process. Or running at all, for that matter.

    Meat Loaf [youtube.com] can explain the connection.

  • by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <brianberns@gmail.com> on Sunday October 24, 2010 @01:23AM (#34001752) Homepage Journal

    This whole scenario assumes the ball is still in the outfield, so no one can attempt to tag you out.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @02:00AM (#34001866) Journal

    And just to be clear, the base line isn't the dirt path between the bases with the line painted on it forming the diamond shape. The base line in this rule is a line from the runners current position to the base when the defensive players are attempting to tag the runner out with the ball.

  • by honkycat ( 249849 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @03:16AM (#34002108) Homepage Journal

    Incorrect. As long as you're not "making a mockery of the game" (I believe that's the term, but it may be something roughly equivalent), until a defensive player attempts to make a tag, you are free to run absolutely anywhere you like. Once the tag is attempted, you are restricted to remain within 3 feet of the line connecting your current position to the next (or previous) base. This running strategy would quite easily be allowed within the rules.

  • by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @05:36AM (#34002514)

    * Reaches the wall elsewhere: Double

    Not in Fenway Park. If it bounces hard off the Green Monster then it's a single. Hard line drives that are home runs in other parks are singles at Fenway.

  • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Sunday October 24, 2010 @06:56AM (#34002806)

    Rule 7.10(a): [mlb.com]

    "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when --
    (a) After a fly ball is caught, he fails to retouch his original base before he or his original base is tagged;
    Rule 7.10(a) Comment: "Retouch," in this rule, means to tag up and start from a contact with the base after the ball is caught. A runner is not permitted to take a flying start from a position in back of his base."

    In case you're curious about the relevance of comments, there is this note in the Official Rules Foreword: [mlb.com]

    "The Playing Rules Committee, at its December 1977 meeting, voted to incorporate the Notes/Case Book/Comments section directly into the Official Baseball Rules at the appropriate places. Basically, the Case Book interprets or elaborates on the basic rules and in essence have the same effect as rules when applied to particular sections for which they are intended."

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:47AM (#34003268)
    The thing is, if a batter waits to see where the ball lands (will land) before he starts running for first base, he is unlikely to make it as far as you project from the final landing spot. Another factor is one of the rules of baseball. If a player runs straight to first base and over runs it, he is safe as long as he touched first base before a player holding the game ball touches first base. If however, a base runner rounds first base towards second base, an opposing player with the ball can tag him out.
    Basically, to maximize his chances of getting on base, a batter must start running for first base as soon as the ball leaves his bat. Since at that moment he does not know where the ball will land, his optimum decision is to start running straight for first base. If while he is running, he realizes that the ball will land where he will be able to get extra bases, he can then curve out toward the optimal path for going for extra bases.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982