Publication Date

2011-05-02

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2011-05-02

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Industrial Engineering (Engineering)

Date of Defense

2011-04-13

First Committee Member

Shihab Asfour

Second Committee Member

Khaled Abdelrahman

Third Committee Member

Loren Latta

Fourth Committee Member

Arzu Onar-Thomas

Fifth Committee Member

Glenn Fleisig

Abstract

Success in baseball batting is fundamental to the sport, however it remains one of, if not the most, challenging skills in sports to master. Batters utilize the kinetic chain to transfer energy from the lower body to the upper body to the bat, hoping to impart the maximum amount of energy into the ball. Scientists and coaches have researched the swing and developed theories on the keys for successful batting, but most of this research has been inadequate in attempting to fully describe the biomechanics of batting. The purposes of this study were to improve upon the methodology of previous researchers, provide a full biomechanical description of the swing, and compare swings against pitches thrown to different locations and at different speeds. AA-level Minor League Baseball players (n=43) took extended rounds of batting practice in an indoor laboratory against a pitcher throwing a mixture of fastballs and changeups. An eight camera motion analysis system and two force plates recording at 300 Hz captured the biomechanical data. The swing was divided into six phases (stance, stride, coiling, swing initiation, swing acceleration, and follow-through) by five key events (lead foot off, lead foot down, weight shift commitment, maximum front foot vertical ground reaction force, and bat-ball contact). Twenty-eight kinematic measurements and six ground reaction force measurements were computed based on the marker and force plate data, and all were assessed throughout the phases. First, a comprehensive description of a composite of the batters’ swings against fastballs “down the middle” was provided. Second, successful swings against fastballs thrown to one of five pitch locations (HIGH IN, HIGH OUT, LOW IN, LOW OUT, MIDDLE) were compared in terms of selected kinematics at the instant of bat-ball contact, timing and magnitude of peak kinematic velocities, and timing and magnitude of peak ground reaction forces. Third, these variables were once again compared for swings against fastballs and changeups. A large number of biomechanical differences were seen among the swings against various pitch locations. More fully rotated positions, particularly of the pelvis and bat were critical to the batters’ successes on inside pitches while less rotated positions keyed successes against outside pitches. The trail and lead arms worked together as part of a closed chain to drive the hand path. Successful swings had the trail elbow extended more for HIGH IN and flexed more for LOW OUT, though batters often struggled to execute this movement properly. A distinct pattern among successful swings against fastballs, successful swings against changeups, and unsuccessful swings against changeups was witnessed; namely a progressive delay in which the batter prematurely initiated the events of the kinetic chain, especially when unsuccessful in hitting a changeup. It was believed that this study was much more effective in capturing the essence of baseball batting than previous scientific works. Some recommendations to batting coaches would be to get batters to take a consistent approach in the early phases of every swing (particularly for the lower body), identify both pitch type and location as early as possible, use the rotation of the pelvis to propagate the energy transfer of the kinetic chain from the group to the upper body, and use the pelvis, and subsequently, the upper body, to orient the trunk and hands to an optimal position to drive the ball to the desired field. Limitations of the current study and ideas for future work were also presented to better interpret the findings of this research and further connect science and sport.

Keywords

kinematics; kinetics; timing; batting; hitting

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