Pitching From 56 Feet

Standard pitching distance in ASA is 50 feet. For safety reasons, some leagues allow the pitcher to stand up to six feet behind the pitching plate.

Here's how that extra six feet affects the game: 

For the Batter

1. Flatter pitches. The farther the pitching distance, the flatter the arc, even when the height of the arc remains the same. Just think of pitching a 12-foot arc from 3 feet away from the plate - the ball would be falling almost straight down. The farther back the pitcher goes, the flatter that 12-foot arc becomes. For most batters, the flatter the pitch, the easier the ball is to hit squarely.

2. The ball comes across the plate faster, because the pitcher has to throw it harder to cover the extra distance. The speed differential means that the ball comes off the bat about one mph faster. This extra mile per hour gives a long fly ball about 3 1/2 feet more distance. 

3. Though it seems that it would take longer for the ball to get to the batter, it does not. Because the pitcher has to throw it harder (i.e. faster) to cover the extra distance. In both cases (50 feet and 56 feet), it takes the ball about 1.55 seconds to get to the plate. 

If you ever took a college physics class, you probably saw the demonstration where a marble is dropped from a fixed height, and another marble at the same height is shot sideways at the same time. They both hit the ground at the same time, showing that the time it takes an object to fall to earth is the same whether it drops straight down or is moving sideways as it falls. Similarly, the time it takes a softball to get from the pitcher to the plate is the same as long as its maximum height is the same, regardless of the horizontal distance covered. (I verified this with physics-of-baseball professor Alan Nathan). 

For the Pitcher

1. More time to get out of the way of a line drive (because you are six feet farther away from the batter to start with); fewer injured pitchers.

2. More time to get into position to field the ball; fewer grounders past the pitcher.

3. For pitchers who throw curves and knuckleballs, the extra speed and flatter arc of the longer pitch will make the ball move more.

4. More walks, because it is more difficult to throw strikes because of the extra distance.



Copyright 2008 by Dan Hughes