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Spin rate and seam orientation as visual cues in baseball

1 May 2002


This study investigated the viability of baseball spin direction and seam orientation as visual cues in predicting the flight path of pitched baseballs and thus increasing hitting accuracy. Ten male Optometry students served as subjects. Using an instrument designed to minimize all visual cues associated with a simulated pitched baseball aside from spin direction and seam orientation, the subjects viewed a striped ball with three possible seam orientations at varying spin rates. Viewing distance, time, and stripe size were chosen to closely simulate the parameters of professional pitches. Results indicated that subjects were able to accurately resolve the stripe orientation and spin direction at an average maximum spin rate of 490 RPM, with a range of resolvable spin rates between 355-800 RPM. As professional fastball spin rates vary between approximately 1500-1800 RPM, we have concluded that the visual systems of average young healthy males are not capable of resolving seam orientation and spin direction of professional fastball pitches. Further studies testing professional or high level amateur baseball players are required to determine the viability of using these visual cues as a training technique to improve hitting percentage.


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