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Rounding the Bases Faster, With Math

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the suh-wing-battah-battah-battah dept.

Math 212

An anonymous reader writes "The fastest route around the bases, mathematicians show, is one that perhaps no major-league ball player has ever run: It swings out a full 18.5 feet from the baseline, nearly forming a full circle. 'I would definitely experiment with it,' says former American Major League Baseball outfielder Doug Glanville, who last played with the Philadelphia Phillies. 'There's no question in my mind that runners could be more efficient.'"

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Hitting the brakes slows you down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001226)

Kind of obvious when it's pointed out to you. :)

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (3, Insightful)

Sensible Clod (771142) | about 4 years ago | (#34001240)

Well, yeah, always obvious in hindsight, but I'm just waiting for someone to say, "If that really worked, everybody would be doing it already."

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#34001300)

If that really worked, everybody would be doing it already.

And indeed, baseball players typically do this: They run straight along the baseline at the beginning and then, if they think they’ve hit a double or more, they bow out to make a “banana curve. ... Carozza noticed that even when the ball heads straight for a pocket between fielders, making a double almost certain, runners almost never curve out right away.

The researcher seems to expect ball players to gamble with every such run, betting their play on what the researcher thinks is "almost certain". That means that, while trying to hit the ball, the player must know the tactics and maximum speeds of all the opponent fielders. I don't think that's going to happen.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | about 4 years ago | (#34001346)

Players don't run in a big circle because there is no reasonable expectation they can round all four bases. They're lucky to get one.

You get a hit, you run straight for 1st. If after arriving you can keep going, you curve over to second. Unless you belted it out of the park (and are therefore in little hurry) it's unlikely you can get further than that, but anybody going on to 3rd will make another wide curve.

In general, if a runner thinks he can clear two bases, he'll make a wide curve. Otherwise it's just a beeline for the next base.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (2, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#34001390)

Where are the constraints?

You can be called out if you stray too far from the base line.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (3, Informative)

fotbr (855184) | about 4 years ago | (#34001464)

Only once a defensive player is attempting to make a play on you.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#34001504)

Which they are liable to do and you could probably be called out before you scuttle back to the baseline.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

ari_j (90255) | about 4 years ago | (#34001720)

Is that rule a limitation on distance from the baseline or on distance from a line from the point you're at when the play is attempted to the base? That makes a bit of a difference.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (2, Informative)

Shimmer (3036) | about 4 years ago | (#34001752)

This whole scenario assumes the ball is still in the outfield, so no one can attempt to tag you out.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (5, Interesting)

compro01 (777531) | about 4 years ago | (#34001472)

You can be called out if you stray too far from the base line.

I cannot find anything in the rules saying that. Only thing I can find at all related is rule 7.08 (a) (1) [mlb.com] , which only applies if they move away from the base line to avoid being tagged.

AFAICT, they can run where ever they like as long as they don't interfere with the fielders.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (4, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 years ago | (#34001866)

And just to be clear, the base line isn't the dirt path between the bases with the line painted on it forming the diamond shape. The base line in this rule is a line from the runners current position to the base when the defensive players are attempting to tag the runner out with the ball.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

Nikker (749551) | about 4 years ago | (#34001900)

That rule is mostly to stop a player from running into the outfield trying to avoid a tag.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (5, Funny)

Vegemeister (1259976) | about 4 years ago | (#34001970)

It is thus obvious that this rule should be repealed, and, furthermore, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" should be replaced in all occurrences with "Yakety Sax".

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (3, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 years ago | (#34001608)

    Exactly. He takes visual queues from the opposition players and coaches. Do I keep going, or do I stop. The decision for all four bases can't be made as soon as he contacts the ball. He hits it, he runs for 1st. Is it safe to go for second? Continue on, but that decision is made at or near 1st base.

    The only time a decision like that can be made is if he hits a home run, over the wall. Then speed isn't of the essence, he could walk it if he so desired.

    Optimal speed lines are used in race car driving though. Generally you come into the turn on the outside, go towards the apex, and drift out to the outside again. Obvious exceptions apply. Is there another car in the way? What is the next turn after this one? Driving on a street-type course, there was a set of four turns in a snake pattern. Instead of taking each turn properly, I lined up with the center of the overall pattern. It left a little bumping as I nudged the curbs (slight angles, not hard curbs like a neighborhood street would have). Instead of doing 60mph through there, I could do over 90. Anyone behind me, even if they were in an equally powered car, would be far behind me by the time I left that part of the course.

    Lots of planning goes into automobile racing, since I'm not waiting to see if the ball I hit is coming in from the outfield. My only concerns were the maximum speed I could take turns with no choices (like above), and other cars on the track. I can't do 90 through that pattern if there's a car doing 60 through it ahead of me, weaving through the whole thing "properly". With that in mind, I would try to be the first car of a group through it, just so I didn't have to slow down. In professional racing, all the drivers would have already known the best way through, so part of that would be eliminated, unless it was a car about to be lapped. In those cases, he'd be flagged over to allow the faster cars through, but you don't always get that luxury on street-track type courses.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (3, Insightful)

guanxi (216397) | about 4 years ago | (#34002028)

Exactly. He takes visual queues from the opposition players and coaches. Do I keep going, or do I stop. The decision for all four bases can't be made as soon as he contacts the ball. He hits it, he runs for 1st. Is it safe to go for second? Continue on, but that decision is made at or near 1st base.

Why does everyone keep repeating this? It's not true. I'm not a major league player, but after watching a good number of games, I assure you that I, most fans, and every major league player knows, very likely, what base they will reach when it becomes apparent where the ball will land. Sorry to repeat myself:

  * Over the centerfielder's head: Triple
  * Reaches the wall elsewhere: Double
  * Doesn't make it past the outfielders: Single

If the defense tries to make a play on another runner, you might take an extra base, and there are a few other variables, but the above is pretty reliable. Think how many times a major leaguer has hit a ball: It's not like they have no idea what is going to happen, or that they won't make it past first when they hit it a line drive off the wall in left-center.

Its against the rules (0)

turkeyfish (950384) | about 4 years ago | (#34001762)

The rules of baseball do not allow the runner to swing outward of 18.5 from the first and third base lines, so one can not run in a circle.

With respect to first base it makes no sense to run anything other than in a straight line to first base as any other distance would be longer and hence for a runner's greatest speed would be slower increasing the probability he would be called out as it gives fielders more time to throw the ball to the first baseman tor the force out. With respect to third base it would create all kinds of potential difficulties to the rules, such as a runner heading home instead he could head for the restroom near the hotdog stand and then sneak up behind the catcher after he thinks he is continuing the game. It simply wouldn't make any sense to allow a circular route along the first and third base lines.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

froggymana (1896008) | about 4 years ago | (#34001776)

Did you even look at the FA? If look at the picture displaying how they should run it shows them curving through all 4 bases.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

guanxi (216397) | about 4 years ago | (#34002000)

You get a hit, you run straight for 1st. If after arriving you can keep going, you curve over to second. Unless you belted it out of the park (and are therefore in little hurry) it's unlikely you can get further than that, but anybody going on to 3rd will make another wide curve.

Actually, you know roughly how far you're going to get around the bases depending on where the ball goes. If it goes over the CF's head, it's probably a triple. If it reaches the wall otherwise, it's probably a double. If not, a single. At least, that's the case in the major leagues. YMMV.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (0, Troll)

guanxi (216397) | about 4 years ago | (#34002074)

You get a hit, you run straight for 1st. If after arriving you can keep going, you curve over to second. Unless you belted it out of the park (and are therefore in little hurry) it's unlikely you can get further than that, but anybody going on to 3rd will make another wide curve.

In general, if a runner thinks he can clear two bases, he'll make a wide curve. Otherwise it's just a beeline for the next base.

Interesting theory, but not how it works in practice. Players know (very likely) how far they'll get based on where the ball lands. Details in my other posts.

No offense, but wow, only on /. would you find so many people who don't know (and still promulgate theories about it). Kinda funny how we fit the stereotype. Nobody would make similar mistakes about World of Warcraft!

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

Nikker (749551) | about 4 years ago | (#34001894)

You could always try the scientific approach. Try it while you are not actually in a game! You think a coach wouldn't run a drill with the whole team making them try it out with a stopwatch if he thought it could help him win a game? If it woks everyone will do it.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1, Troll)

coaxial (28297) | about 4 years ago | (#34001908)

If that really worked, everybody would be doing it already.

Tell that to Dick Fosbury [wikipedia.org] .

The researcher seems to expect ball players to gamble with every such run, betting their play on what the researcher thinks is "almost certain".

If you've hit in the gap it's clear you're going to get a double. Everyone knows that.

That means that, while trying to hit the ball, the player must know the tactics and maximum speeds of all the opponent fielders. I don't think that's going to happen.

If only they had scouts and game film, and played like 162 games.

In all seriousness, you've never watched a sporting event at any level have you?

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1)

digitig (1056110) | about 4 years ago | (#34002036)

The article you link points out that the Fosbury Flop was a response to changed landing surfaces and that many high-jumpers were experimenting at that time.

Re:Hitting the brakes slows you down. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001258)

If that really worked, everybody would be doing it already.

only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001260)

Of course if you're only trying to get to first, a straight line might be advised.

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (5, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 years ago | (#34001306)

Of course if you're only trying to get to first, a straight line might be advised.

Huh? You're trying to get to who?

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (4, Funny)

hldn (1085833) | about 4 years ago | (#34001376)

naturally!

That's Doctor Who. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001520)

Unbeknownst to those cricket-playing islanders off the coast of Normandy, Time Lord and wander Doctor Who is the one who's on first. (Surprised he plays baseball? I was.)

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 4 years ago | (#34001606)

Of course if you're only trying to get to first, a straight line might be advised.

Huh? You're trying to get to who?

I don't know!

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (1)

scatter_gather (649698) | about 4 years ago | (#34001732)

I don't know is on second.

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (4, Funny)

DavidRawling (864446) | about 4 years ago | (#34001964)

No, Who is on first, What is on second. I Don't Know is on third. FFS what do they TEACH you kids these days?

Now get off my lawn!

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (1)

jcwayne (995747) | about 4 years ago | (#34001646)

The guy on first, what's his name?

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 4 years ago | (#34001656)

Of course if you're only trying to get to first, a straight line might be advised.

Huh? You're trying to get to who?

What?

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001844)

your mom

Re:only if you know you're in-route to a home-run. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34002034)

Of course if you're only trying to get to first, a straight line might be
    advised.

Huh? You're trying to get to who?

3rd base!

Baseball is still a shitty sport. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001282)

No amount of math and analysis will change the fact that baseball is a pretty poor excuse for a "sport". Then again, it's still better than football or soccer.

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (-1, Troll)

ooshna (1654125) | about 4 years ago | (#34001394)

So are you a watch tall lanky guys bounce a ball and put it in a hole guy or a skate while fighting and playing with a stick guy? As long as your not a drive fast and make a left hand turn guy.

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001432)

All I'm hearing out of you is "watching tall lanky guys", "bouncing balls", "putting it in a guy's hole", "playing with a guy's stick", and "left hand tugging a guy". It makes me think that you might be a user of Apple products.

Re: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001660)

Your sentences are awkward. Remember to use commas and "you're" is a contraction of "you are."

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001490)

Come on. Admit it. You're a Philly fan.

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 4 years ago | (#34001652)

LOL troll.

Nah, you have a good point. Baseball was the only sport to require an organist [voanews.com] to fill in the boring parts.

Modern baseball games are even worse. Even live, only a fifth of the game is actual baseball. The rest is filler provided by the jumbotrons and sound systems. The only redeeming qualities of going to meatspace MLB games are getting really drunk and laughing inside about how our kids don't fully understand the meaning of the popular song Hey-oh [songfacts.com] that's being played every 5 seconds over the PA.

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001694)

Robot Wars - now that's a motherfuckin' sport!

Re:Baseball is still a shitty sport. (0, Offtopic)

westlake (615356) | about 4 years ago | (#34001870)

No amount of math and analysis will change the fact that baseball is a pretty poor excuse for a "sport"

Baseball is the only game left for people.

To play basketball, you have to be 7 feet 6 inches. To play football, you have to be the same width. ~Bill Veeck, 1975

Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world.

If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off. ~Bill Veeck

More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood. ~Thomas Boswell, in Inside Sports

Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection. ~Red Smith

Baseball [quotegarden.com]

1st page of the proof: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001284)

1st page of the proof:
Consider a spherical runner in a frictionless vacuum.

Re:1st page of the proof: (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 years ago | (#34001500)

Consider a spherical runner...

Baseball players are approaching that these days.
   

Re:1st page of the proof: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001676)

Pop!

Re:1st page of the proof: (1)

Potor (658520) | about 4 years ago | (#34001698)

This is the funniest thing I've ever read in /.

Bravo.

Re:1st page of the proof: (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#34001740)

I'll be interested to see how they make turns in a frictionless vacuum. Maybe with an RCS [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:1st page of the proof: (1)

Urkki (668283) | about 4 years ago | (#34001826)

I'll be interested to see how they make turns in a frictionless vacuum. Maybe with an RCS [wikipedia.org] ?

It didn't say it was tractionless vacuum. Frictionless just implies that no energy (as heat, sound etc) is lost to friction.

Re:1st page of the proof: (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 years ago | (#34001890)

Traction relies on friction.

However, I don't know if the op was being pedantic or funny. I'm just bored and pointing out the obvious even though your comment was obvious.

Re:1st page of the proof: (2, Interesting)

treeves (963993) | about 4 years ago | (#34002024)

They charge the runners and apply a magnetic field perpendicular to the playing field? Synchrotron baseball. Cool.

Parameters? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001294)

So there's a single, precise path for this?
It doesn't vary even slightly based on one's mass, the length of one's legs, or anything?

Re:Parameters? (1)

kainosnous (1753770) | about 4 years ago | (#34001662)

..but wouldn't that mess up the whole idea of a completely theoretical model? For instance, how many people who, having rounded three bases would really be in a hury to get to home, seeing how they have probably hit a home run. Also, they specifically mentioned that they didn't take into account that humans don't accelerate as fast in a curve.

Re:Parameters? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 years ago | (#34001774)

Sounds like the next step would be to round up like 20 runners - 10 who play baseball, 10 that don't, and either get two infields - one marked traditionally, one marked with the 'optimized' path, or just have one with both markings - though I'd want them to be coverable in that case, to avoid 'mental hesitation'.

The reason for getting baseball and non-baseball playing runners is that the baseball players are likely to know how to run a diamond the best, while the non-players can provide a more 'even' sample.

Then do some test runs.

In the end, probably realize the time saved isn't enough to pick up an extra base, on average, and gets more players caught 'out' due to not stopping when they should have.

Most obvious flaw, to me... (0, Redundant)

Dormann (793586) | about 4 years ago | (#34001318)

Is that model presumes that the batter's immediate intention is to round all the bases. That is certainly not the fastest path to run a single.

And then the umpire probably calls you out (0)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 4 years ago | (#34001320)

If you leave the accepted line of travel too far, they call you out. Its a judgement call, but I wouldn't want to push my luck if I was a player.

Re:And then the umpire probably calls you out (4, Informative)

Azarael (896715) | about 4 years ago | (#34001410)

I thought that too, but wikipedia and other online sources say that this only applies when a defensive player is attempting to make a play on the runner. At that point the runner must proceed on the most direct path to the base, without deviating by more than 3ft, otherwise the runner is called out.

Online references aside, this makes a lot of sense thinking of the baseball that I've played and watched on tv.

Re:And then the umpire probably calls you out (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about 4 years ago | (#34001416)

I checked the official MLB rules, and your understanding is correct.

Useful? (1)

Palmsie (1550787) | about 4 years ago | (#34001328)

If the majority of hits are singles, does this still apply? It only mentions hitting a double in that you can round the base faster. It would look pretty funny if the batter used this for a single and it took them much longer.

Maybe for a home run... (5, Interesting)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 4 years ago | (#34001332)

The main reason why they've calculated a circular path is because of the delays that sharp turns introduce. As far as I can tell, this path makes sense if and only if you're trying to run from home to home. If you're going for a single, or a double, or a triple, you'd have different ideal path.

So even in theory, this doesn't really pan out: nobody in MLB makes it to home-plate on an outfield hit. You could probably come up with more effective routes for doubles and triples, but on the other hand, it's probably hard to tell if you've hit a triple right as you start running. If you make a hit that would be a triple, but follow a route like it's a single and then change your mind as the ball gets played, you'll probably still end up with a single or a double. If you start running for a triple on a base hit that's only really going to get you a single, it could slow you down enough to get you out. I'm more in the hedge-your-bets camp, and I'm betting that, on that basis, this isn't an effective way to go.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (2, Funny)

Angst Badger (8636) | about 4 years ago | (#34001352)

On the other hand, if it works, maybe high school jocks with start to find it counterproductive to bully the math geeks.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

kainosnous (1753770) | about 4 years ago | (#34001690)

Or perhaps, this is some math geek's way of getting back at the jocks by making them run in silly circles and loose the game. If we ever get a scientific report that the best route is in fact skipping from base to base, then we'll know for sure.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (4, Funny)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 4 years ago | (#34001724)

Well, if the math geeks can find a significant increase in efficiency, and they don't tell the jocks, then guess who gets the ladies?

(The jocks. But it was worth a try.)

Re:Maybe for a home run... (2, Informative)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 4 years ago | (#34001364)

TFA addresses this. The ideal path for a double still curves quite a bit, going about 14' off the straight line path instead of 18 for the home to home path.

It is amusing to think that the only time you know when you leave the plate that you're running back to home for sure is the same time when it doesn't matter how fast you go.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (5, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | about 4 years ago | (#34001380)

As far as I can tell, this path makes sense if and only if you're trying to run from home to home. If you're going for a single, or a double, or a triple, you'd have different ideal path.

As the article notes, the authors are aware of this. They also are aware of the fact that runners seldom adjust to more efficient paths even when they know they've hit doubles, not singles. This was, in fact, the motivation for the study.

I think you're confusing their point: they're quite clear that they don't think that this helps in reality (at least, not much). It's an exercise in "I wonder..."

Re:Maybe for a home run... (2, Funny)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#34001616)

when they know they've hit doubles

Right. The players will hit the ball, then watch carefully and verify its path, do some quick back-of-the-envelope calculus to verify the fielders' maximum speeds, apply their doctorate-level psychology knowledge to anticipate the fielders' actions, then once they know it's a double, they'll start running a longer path that's faster if their bodies work according to various assumptions.

Or, they'll just run, and figure out what's best as they go.

It's baseball. It's not rocket science.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 4 years ago | (#34001806)

Modded, funny, but should be modded insightful (since it's what I was going to post ;)

The whole point that makes this article useless is that the optimal path requires perfect knowledge of the target base from the start, and that's just not how baseball works.

It just shows the difference between the exact science of mathematics, and the heuristics of game theory/statistics, etc. The average (ok slightly above average) player hits maybe 25 doubles and a couple of triples, vs over 150 singles. So, statistics say they should really just make sure they get to first base. Anyone who knows baseball knows most doubles are stand-up, ie. it's in the gap and is pretty clear once the outfielder can't get it. Triples are honestly the only time you might even want to worry about it, yet the odds of getting in that situation are so low it's just not worth worrying about.

Besides, the "standard line" for running the bases has always been to gradually loop out for a wide curve when you think you may have a shot at the next base. If they are saying it could be extended a few feet given perfect knowledge of the result - again, BFD. Players *already* try that with imperfect knowledge, sometimes to great or tragic results.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34002056)

When hitting you can probably judge whether you got a powerful hit or a chopper and judge whether there is a chance of a double or whether it is almost certainly a single. Making that snap judgement shouldn't tax even Manny Ramirez (actually applying it may be another matter). It is also worth noting that in some situations it makes sense to be conservative or aggressive in base running - with 2 outs a single doesn't give you a high probability of scoring while a double might give you .20-.25 (.250-.300 hitting, outfield single or extra base hit would likely score the runner if he is quick) vs a single which would give you closer to a .11 chance of scoring (either a single or walk followed by another hit at about .060 or an extra base hit of 0.050 based on your doubles vs singles figures). With those probabilities running for a double probably makes sense if it was a solid enough hit to reach the outfield (run differential also plays a role here, but making decisions on straight expectations this strategy is sound)

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 4 years ago | (#34001622)

It's an exercise in "I wonder..."

Great. I wonder how many of my tax dollars this year were spent so that mathematicians can indulge in "I wonder..." studies where there is no expected useful outcome?

Re:Maybe for a home run... (2, Insightful)

CheeseTroll (696413) | about 4 years ago | (#34001678)

I would guess that *most* mathematical research is done without any expectation of a "useful" outcome. On the other hand, how much of our modern world would be possible without that exact type of "I wonder..." research?

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

lostros (260405) | about 4 years ago | (#34001716)

Man, every single dollar spent on mathematics is an exercise in I wonder, that's actually the point of the entire field. Check out the mathematician's lament sometime (http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf). but surveying and launching things into orbit and all that is pretty neat, so we let it go. It also is just federally funded schools spending the money how they choose, as is their right.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 4 years ago | (#34001712)

Maybe I've been drinking too much...I missed that line.

I haven't played baseball since Little League, certainly not on a professional level, but I would think that a runner would have to pay attention to what the outfielders are doing, and adjust on the fly. If so, it's probably better to aim on the side of caution.

But of course, none of what we're talking about right now is reality, reality is the Rangers in the World Series (I've now lived in Dallas long enough that I probably have to become a fan now), we're still talking about theory.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001584)

They didn't account for all the variables. Kicking each basemen in the nuts buys you more time. Also swinging slightly wide and hitting the Catcher in the face mask can buy you the seconds need for an in field home run while they revive him. If that fails just aiming your cleats for his knee cap can have the same affect. Variables are critical to any equation. I mean what if your base hit beans the pitcher on the head and his lifeless body falls on the ball? That can easily turn a base hit into a home run if the pitcher is over 250 lbs.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (2, Interesting)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 4 years ago | (#34001638)

Additionally, they discount the fact that you can use the base to apply extra side-force to cut the corner faster. - the fastest path around the bases is to curve a little but mostly to use the inside corner of the base, with your outside foot, to push off in a new direction. Baseball has been played for 150 or so years,and has been studied to death by both the finest minds in sports and some of the best athletes, in real life. The ideal path has been known for more than a century, and coached accordingly.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (1)

guanxi (216397) | about 4 years ago | (#34001982)

it's probably hard to tell if you've hit a triple right as you start running

OT: Actually you can tell. I'm no expert but watching baseball, I can tell you which base the batter will reach as soon as I know where the ball will stop; I expect that most other baseball fans can do the same. A hit that doesn't get by the outfielders: single. A hit that reaches the wall either side of the CF: double. Hit over the CF head: triple.

Of course there's some variation, depending on the speed of the batter, on other baserunners, on the play the defense attempts, etc. But it's not too hard to predict.

Re:Maybe for a home run... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001986)

I agree, but I want to know: "WHO" IS IN FIRST?

Re:Maybe for a home run... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001994)

You are right on the home run analysis, but at contact an experienced player probably has some idea of whether it is an infield or outfield hit. If it is an infield hit, you go straight, if outfield then it might pay to try some compromise strategy between double/single curves or triple/double curves if you are fast. Even a slight edge will produce results over a 162 game season.

A bigger concern might be in muscle memory. I don't know whether base runners actually do this, but I'd think it would make sense to try to lengthen your stride so that you touch a base on a natural step without breaking stride. Similarly, it would make sense to try to push off of the base laterally in the turn and thereby sharpen your turn.

Another thing that would mitigate against this is that you want the option of stopping at second as the play develops and so it is better over time to slow unnecessarily when you approach second and accelerate afterward than pass second at full speed (again, over time).

This misses the point (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001344)

No one cares about how fast you can round _all_ of the bases. There are only two times when it is applicable -- a home run or an in-field home run. The first makes the speed unimportant. The second really doesn't happen frequently.

The player will hit the ball, and then attempt to get to first base. If conditions look good, they will try for second base. At this point, third base will only be attempted in rare cases, mainly when an error has been made by the fielding team. The double/triple attempts are more based on information that isn't known when the player first hits the ball. As such, the action will be to take the fastest path from the current base to the next base.

So that swooping path can't be slower than the straight path or the player risks giving up a lot of singles and allowing double-plays. These are often determined by fractions when the fielding team is efficient.

I'm sorry guys but... (1, Funny)

pizzach (1011925) | about 4 years ago | (#34001350)

Does this not seem like a round-about answer to anyone else? *hides under a desk*

But the basepath is only 6 feet wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001408)

Runners can be called out for running outside the basepath, which is 3 feet to either side of the baseline. It usually only comes up on plays where the runner is trying to avoid a tag, but that's also usually the only time anyone ever goes very far from the baseline. It's quite likely a runner would get called out well before they got 18.5 feet away from the baseline.

Re:But the basepath is only 6 feet wide (2, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about 4 years ago | (#34001488)

Runners can be called out for running outside the basepath, which is 3 feet to either side of the baseline. It usually only comes up on plays where the runner is trying to avoid a tag, but that's also usually the only time anyone ever goes very far from the baseline. It's quite likely a runner would get called out well before they got 18.5 feet away from the baseline.

No, that rule explicitly only applies when they're trying to avoid a tag. it's rule 7.08 (a) (1).

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/runner_7.jsp [mlb.com]

Guess I'm confused (3, Funny)

tpstigers (1075021) | about 4 years ago | (#34001412)

I thought a 'home run' was something else entirely. Involving a girl. A naked girl. I didn't know running in a circle was part of the process. Or running at all, for that matter.

Re:Guess I'm confused (2, Informative)

mmontour (2208) | about 4 years ago | (#34001498)

I thought a 'home run' was something else entirely. Involving a girl. A naked girl. I didn't know running in a circle was part of the process. Or running at all, for that matter.

Meat Loaf [youtube.com] can explain the connection.

Back in 7th grade base ball (1)

pastyM (1580389) | about 4 years ago | (#34001414)

I would have been called out for running a line like that.

Re:Back in 7th grade base ball (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | about 4 years ago | (#34001920)

The rules in Little League and similar tend to be enforced much differently than in the professional leagues - tends to take a lot of the fun out of things. Part of the fun is stretching the rules!

As others have noted several times it's not actually against the MLB rules to run a line like this, unless you're doing it to avoid someone who will tag you out if you run straight for the base. In Little League, though, this often gets interpreted as meaning you need to run within a couple of feet of the painted line .

Meanwhile, the kids who don't have Little League and who play on their own (down to stickball level) have a lot more fun because they get to bend the rules as much as they want. I was in the position of supervising kids playing baseball at a summer camp on a few occasions, and I made sure that we bent the rules as much as possible (while remaining fair to both sides of course).

Great idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001456)

...its against the rules. Awww. (just noticed pashyM's comment

The players must run the base-lines, to allow the team on defense a reasonable expectation of where the path they will run from one base to another in order to apply a tag for an out.

Really though, I'm glad they did this research to show that humans can't turn 90 degrees at an all-out sprint.

The Sandlot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001466)

"You said 'Run Home', so he did!"

This is irrelevant (-1, Troll)

gagol (583737) | about 4 years ago | (#34001474)

Baseball is so boring to watch... I only went to the games when it was rebate night. now the team has moved out of town, but we have a soccer team now!

Sounds crazy to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001478)

but I'll try it if it stops those morons in Boston from rioting.

very telling (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 years ago | (#34001510)

none of the researchers or verifiers actually got off their ass and ran bases to test

Re:very telling (2, Insightful)

jmottram08 (1886654) | about 4 years ago | (#34001760)

Do you want some engineer that designed something to test it out to see if it improves professionals performance half a percent?

Please. This is to help real baseball players who really run bases. If the math guys could suddenly outrun the professionals, fine, but this is a clear fraction of a fraction gain, not a leap forward.

You don't get non-runners to do a running test. How is this insightful? Seems more "funny" to me.

I'm confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001618)

Could I get this in a car analogy?

Re:I'm confused... (1)

jappleng (1805148) | about 4 years ago | (#34001798)

You want to go around a giant U-turn so the fastest way is to come from the side in a big U instead of a V however there's a debate whether or not players can stray a farther than a certain distance from the bases. At least that's my interpretation of all this mumbo jumbo.

Re:I'm confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34001814)

Could I get this in a car analogy?

Sure. It's up there in the thread where we talked about the racing line [slashdot.org] , namely (for an automobile) the fastest way around a corner.

This sounds like a job for... (1)

sirrunsalot (1575073) | about 4 years ago | (#34001708)

Calculus of Variations [wikipedia.org] ! Seriously, it's a fascinating subject. See Brachistochrone [wolfram.com] . It also ties in closely with optimal control and such subjects. There are some fascinating, counterintuitive results. A professor described a researcher who had used this to calculate the optimal (in some sense) ascent trajectory for a jet aircraft after takeoff. For the specific case, it wasn't even a monotonic climb!

Stand Back! (1)

Fareq (688769) | about 4 years ago | (#34001744)

Stand Back! I'm going to try SCIENCE! ...

so if you're standing within about 14 feet of the baseline, I might run you down. Seriously. Stand back!

simpsons did it (1)

jappleng (1805148) | about 4 years ago | (#34001746)

Well, they sorta did... I believe it was last week's episode where Lisa used calculations to get her players to play the game. I normally don't watch the Simpsons but it was 10/10/10 and I wanted to see if they would do something special for that day, which they did.

Wrong answer, but the truth is easy to derive (4, Insightful)

junglebeast (1497399) | about 4 years ago | (#34001778)

"At first you might think that a very slow, awkward runner should just walk directly from base to base, except that he'd likely fall down trying to make the sharp turn at first.."

I would like to point something out.

Making a 90 degree turn is physically impossible without coming to a complete stop. If a person immediately applies a force orthogonal to their current velocity, it would not result in a 90 degree turn in the path (but it would probably cause them to fall down). The only way to make a 90 degree turn is to come to a complete stop, then turn, then accelerate in the new direction. There would be no reason for the runner to fall down under these circumstances.

Because our muscles exert a finite amount of force, and force is the time rate of change of momentum, and momentum is mass times velocity, the time required to come to a stop must be proportional to the velocity of the runner.

This confirms the obvious fact that for a walker, the time that it takes to go from walking speed to a full stop is a fraction of a second, and hence there is no measurable time wasted in making a 90 degree turn, and no reason to walk anything other than the shortest path if you are walking.

We know that the optimal path for a faster runner involves some overshooting, and this proves that there is a continuum of optimal paths that is dependent on velocity. It is also clear from Newton's first law, as I showed above, that running faster befits reducing curvature of the path. This applies to any velocity. Thus, in the limit as velocity goes to infinity, curvature becomes ever increasingly important, and hence in the limit the optimal path must be a circle.

You could round the bases even faster (1)

EdipisReks (770738) | about 4 years ago | (#34001936)

with meth.

Re:You could round the bases even faster (1)

darthdavid (835069) | about 4 years ago | (#34001992)

I don't pay much attention to sports news but I think the MLB not only beat you to it but got called in front of congress over the whole thing. I think it ended up with Barry Bonds screaming about 'the spiders' or something...

Tagging up on 3rd (1)

thewils (463314) | about 4 years ago | (#34002006)

I often wondered why, if a runner is on say, 3rd and the batsman hits a long fly ball (but not a homer), why does the runner wait at 3rd to tag up, instead of backing up a few paces so that he can hit 3rd base at full tilt just as the fielder catches the ball. This would easily give him 2 or 3 if not more strides jump and he should be safe at home more frequently. In a game of fractions of a second, this would be a clear advantage.

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