Friday, April 19, 2019

Is the Softball Swing Different Than the Baseball Swing and Why It Matters



Okay.  Let's get right to it.  Here are some obvious similarities;
  • The main goal is to score more runs than the opponent.
  • The field alignment looks pretty much the same.
  • There are visitors and home teams.
  • There are innings.
  • There is a ball, a bat and gloves.
  • There are umpires.
  • There are big hits, diving catches, slides that avoid tags, fielding errors, and the infield fly rule.
  • there are a lot of easy and quick similarities.
Some Obvious differences::
  • The softball is larger.
  • The softball is yellow.
  • The softball bat barrel is thinner.
  • The softball bat is lighter.
  • The distance from home to the outfield fence is much shorter in softball.
  • Softball has cheers and chants from the dugout as baseball typically does not.
  • The infield in softball is all dirt where the typical baseball field has grass or turf.
  • The distance to the bases is shorter in softball.
  • The distance from home to the pitching rubber is shorter in softball.
  • Softball pitches from a flat surface as baseball pitches from a mound.
  • There is a circle of chalk around the pitching rubber in softball.
  • Oh yeah, the teams in fastpitch softball are females and in baseball they are males.
There are many other differences in the game but overall, it is probably 90%ish the same game.  Don't you agree?

The two biggest differences that I see in the perspective of the hitter in the game of softball vs baseball:

TIME TO REACT

According to this site, a pitch of 70 MPH from the pitcher's mound takes about .35 seconds to reach the plate and a pitch of 90 MPH from a baseball pitcher takes about .44 seconds.  Now, before we go on, let me comment on these numbers:
  • 70 MPH is achieved by some of the very top pitchers at the college level and even then, not a lot of them throw that hard.
  • 90 MPH is actually achieved by a lot of top college pitchers and many throws harder.  
  • So, we could probably assume that most hitters are facing around 65 MPH in Softball and around 95 in Baseball.  This isn't significant but does make the speeds a little more similar.
  • However, it is probably, on average, a little quicker for the ball to get to the plate from the typical fastpitch pitcher.  This IS significant.  
RELEASE POINT

Obviously, the release point is lower in softball than baseball with the possible exception of some submarine pitchers in baseball.  This is significant for a few reasons in my opinion.  
  • Fastballs that are above the release point will be moving in an upward movement.
  • Fastballs below the waist will have a sinking motion due to the spin of the ball and the release point.
  • This makes both of these pitches very difficult to hit squarely with the barrel.
These are the main areas that I believe are very different or more of a challenge for the softball hitter.  Overall, the only real issue from these differences is based on how quickly the softball hitter gets the bat to the ball or, in other words, bat speed.

With this said, the pitch from a baseball hitter is also very fast and the baseball hitter also needs a very high level of bat speed.  So, at this point, I don't see much of a difference other than a possible stronger emphasis on bat speed for the softball hitter.


FACING A PITCHER FROM THE OTHER SPORT

Have you seen where a baseball hitter has tried to hit a good fastpitch pitcher?  I have.  It is usually ugly where the hitter fails.  However, I have also seen where the softball hitter has tried to hit a good baseball pitcher.  Same results. Failure. 

Here are some 2019 Statistics as of April 19th...a little over half way through the season:

TOP BATTING AVERAGES-INDIVIDUAL

Softball | Courtney Cashman | UMass Lowell | .531
Softball | Rachel Anderson | Southeast Mo. State | .492
Softball | Kelli Godin | UCLA | .487
Baseball | Alsander Womack | Norfolk State | .463
Baseball | Nick Gonzales | New Mexico State | .448
Baseball | Patrick McColl | Harvard | .445

TOP BATTING AVERAGES-TEAM
Softball | Oklahoma | .371
Baseball | New Mexico State | .367
Softball | George Washington | .358
Softball | UCLA | .347
Baseball | Penn | .340
Baseball | Arizona State | .325

TOP HOME RUNS PER GAME-TEAM
Softball | Arizona | 1.95
Softball | Oklahoma | 1.88
Baseball | Indiana | 1.78
Softball | Virginia Tech | 1.76
Baseball | New Mexico State | 1.75
Baseball Tennessee Tech | 1.61

Obviously, this is very limited numbers of which to draw a conclusion but I believe these numbers are somewhat typical.  Overall, statistically, it looks like the softball hitters do well against their softball pitchers however, the numbers are basically pretty close.

Let me get directly to my conclusion.  IF hitting a softball was much more difficult than the baseball numbers would all be consistently higher.  They are not and in fact, a bit lower. 

I don't believe one is more difficult than the other.  One thing you know as a hitter.  It is difficult to hit something you haven't seen very much as a hitter.  I believe that if you had the top fastpitch hitters spend the same time hitting a baseball, they would eventually get used to the different release point and timing.  I also believe the guys would eventually do the same.  

WHY IT MATTERS

Some Reasons Why It Matters

First, a truth:  Major League Baseball has a ton of money invested in their hitters and each hitter has a ton of money, sweat and time invested in their skill.  These resources have been directed toward the understanding and teaching of the skill of hitting at the highest level possible.  

Why it matters:  If the swing is the same than we in the softball world can benefit from these resources.  We can benefit from the terminology, the drills and the experiences of both sports.

Join Gap to Gap Radio on Monday at noon (Eastern) where Holly will talk about this topic in a little more depth.  LISTEN HERE