How a Spring Can Take Sting Out of a Swing

How a Spring Can Take Sting Out of a Swing

When Gregor Blanco of the San Francisco Giants hit a line drive over center field smacking Tigers’ pitcher Doug Fister right in the head last night in Game Two of the World Series, he almost certainly hit the “sweet spot,” the part of the bat where the best hits usually come from.

 

The sweet spot is where the greatest amount of energy is transferred from the bat to the ball and, incidentally, where the hands feel the least vibration. This spot, also called the center of percussion, is generally found between 5 and 7 inches from the business end of the bat. Miss it, and you’ll feel it. They don’t call it “the sting” for nothing.

 

Bat companies have been scratching their heads for decades, trying to take the sting out of the swing. Daniel Russell, a professor of acoustics at Penn State University, thinks he’s got it figured out. He’s discovered that bat vibrations between 600 and 700 hertz are what cause the most pain, and “vibration absorbers” designed to dampen those oscillations can eliminate it. He presented his findings this week at the 164th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

 

Our hands are sensitive to frequencies ranging from 200 to 700 Hz, but previous damping techniques — wearing batting gloves, wrapping metal bats with leather and even vibration absorbers like those Easton has used in youth bats for a generation — came with drawbacks like added weight. Others, including Louisville Slugger and Worth, experimented with vibration dampers and two-piece bats for youth leagues.

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