The Unhittable Wiffle Ball

QUICK SPORT SCIENCE: WIFFLE BALL vs BASEBALL THROWING

If you are a baseball junkie, or even an average joe, there’s a good chance that you played wiffle ball at some point in your life.

If you haven’t played, I suggest you try it! However, I warn you, it’s not as fun being inside the batter’s box.

Most of the fun comes from pitching because the hitter has NO idea when or where the ball will be…but why? Actually, the question becomes “how”?

After whiffing a few dozen times against Strength Coaches Kiefer Lammi (pitcher in video) and Rob Sutton (hitter in video) of Champion PT and Performance (Boston, MA), I had to do my research on why a wiffle ball can move the way it does.


Comparing Fluid Resistance

 There are multiple factors that lead to why a 5-ounce baseball can move in any direction in space: gravity (down ward force), drag (opposite force of the throw), and magnus force (result of drag and gravity).

But, the constant variable is fluid resistance. The ball’s circular shape allows for the disruption of airflow while it’s spinning in space.

A pitcher can manipulate any of these variables with back spin, top spin, and side spin depending on what pitch they throw.

For example, the stitches on the baseball allow for a curveball to drop so quickly because the amount of air pressure over the top of the ball increases, so gravity gives more of a downward pull (resulting in greater magnus force).

A wiffle ball (3.33 ounces) also contains a circular shape, but it also has eight oval-shaped holes on one side. These small holes give the ball a greater surface area, giving the pitcher a huge advantage in fluid resistance.

The greater surface area of the wiffle ball leaves the hitter completely guessing since the amount of drag and magnus forces are constantly changing as the ball is spinning.

Oh yeah, not to mention, when a pitcher closes one or more of the holes on the ball, this constantly manipulates the amount of interior and external forces placed on the ball. Good luck, hitters!

To watch a cool video on a professional wiffle ball pitcher go against Major Leaguer James Loney, click here (sport science).


 

Keep swinging,

Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS

 


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