In baseball hitting, batters need high precision timing control to hit the ball with bat's sweet spot. Knowing the acceptable range of timing error for hitting the ball in the aimed direction for various pitch types is helpful to understand whether the cause of the batter's mis-hit is a spatial or temporal error and highlight the motor skills required by the batter. The purpose of this study was to determine the acceptable timing error in different baseball pitches and the impact characteristics of mis-hits. Twenty-six high school baseball players hit a ball launched from a pitching machine with three types of pitches: fastballs, curveballs, and slowballs. We recorded the three-dimensional behavior of the ball, bat, and human body (pelvis) using an optical motion capture system. We then defined the optimal impact location based on timing accuracy, and determined the acceptable range of timing error by the interactive relationship between the horizontal orientation of the bat's long axis at the time of ball impact and the horizontal direction of the batted ball. The ±30° width in the horizontal direction of the batted ball was set as the precondition for the tolerance of timing. The acceptable timing error was ±7.9 ms for fastballs, ±10.7 ms for curveballs, and ±10.7 ms for slowballs, and the optimal timing for outside pitches was approximately 10 ms later than that for inside pitches. The timing error was also explained 38.1% by variation in the impact location along the long axis of the bat (R2 = 0.381, P < 0.001) and was minimized at a position close to the bat's sweet spot. These results suggest that the optimal impact location and acceptable range of timing error depend on the pitching course and speed and that timing accuracy is essential to achieve the spatial accuracy required to hit the ball at the bat's sweet spot.
ASJC Scopus subject areas