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Pitching Science

Engineers who track baseballs catch insights into the game

The pitcher's action up to the release of the ball is part of the art of pitching; the action of the ball after release . . . is addressed by physics.

–Robert K. Adair,

The Physics of Baseball, 1994

Even in baseball, there's pure science and there's applied science. Mechanical engineer LeRoy W. Alaways has been pursuing a bit of both.

On the one hand, he and his colleagues at a biomechanics lab at the University of California, Davis have been helping forge a better understanding of what makes a baseball curve. They've been making particularly good headway on one theoretical question that's stumped baseball researchers for more than 50 years–how the seams of the ball affect the way it flies from the mound to home plate.

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