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How are pitching speeds determined? Is it the speed of the ball when it crosses the plate? Is it the speed of the ball at some interim location between the mound and the plate? Is it the maximum speed the pitch reaches?

Not that it really matters, I'm just curious how/when the speed is determined.
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Pitch speeds are typically those measured by a radar gun. Although radar guns are considered to measure the speed at release, which is the maximum speed, they really don't do so. Doppler radars operate by sending out two pulses and then in effect measure the average velocity the ball was traveling between those two pulses. A gun which sends out the pulses at a higher frequency will register a slightly higher velocity.

There are also guns that will continue to measure the speed throughout the pitch, giving both "out of hand" readings and "at the plate" readings.
Last edited by CADad
Most radar guns today use digital signal processing and are very sensitive to picking up the movement of an object. In this case a baseball and because of this the ball speed at release has become the standard measuring point.

Years ago they used analog device radars which were not as sensitive as the new DSP guns.

The difference can be as much a 7 mph between release and plate speeds....
Last edited by Marco Scutaro
I think it would be interesting to measure both release speed and speed at the plate. I would guess (I'm no physicist) that even though two pitchers had the same release speed, one of them might be able to have the ball sustain more speed at the plate.

But losing a lot of speed may be better. For a ball to sustain high speed it would have to have almost no movement.

A 90mph fastball that hits the plate at 89 would be neat, but one that reached the batter at 40 would be devastating!

The earliest speed measurements, around 1918, probably computed average speed. Determining peak speed requires radar... or a tiny midget inside the ball reading a microscopic speedometer Smile
BTW, there are radar schemes sold online that continuously measure speed change. They are guns used in connection with computer software that measure drag racer type acceleration. Or maybe, in reverse, to measure braking.

They could probably slice the speed of a pitch into tiny increments for study. Anyone have $3,000 to spare?
Grip affects the "at plate" velocity too. There is a boundry layer of air that is trapped against the ball by the seams that decreases the drag. A two-seamer has less seam material exposed to the axis of rotation so it's more affected by drag.

Figure 7-8 MPH slower at the plate for a 4-seam FB, 10-12 MPH slower at the plate for a 2-seamer.

Some pitchers generate a higher rate of spin too. This will help in reducing some of the effects of drag, giving them a FB with a bit less degragation of velocity and more movement.

I'd love to see someone 90 out of hand and 60 at the plate.... it would probably have to be a 90 MPH knuckle ball. That pitch has the most drag and slows down the fastest ... but no reason to let reality interfere with fun.

Many are familiar with the Decatur Ragun and
the JUGS Gun and how they read on pitches.
The reason different radar guns read different
speeds is because they are taking readings at
different places during the pitch. Target Acquisition
Time is what determines how quickly
a radar can lock onto a target speed. The
JUGS Gun responds relatively quick, taking
the ball speed at about 7 feet after release.
The Decatur Ragun responds very slowly, taking it's reading
between 30 and 50 feet after release. With the STALKER's
extremely fast target acquisition, it can get the ball speed at
about 7 inches, displaying that speed in the peak display and
then freezing the true ending plate speed on the lower display.
In the future, all pitchers will be evaluated on the true release
and plate speeds that only the STALKER can measure.

I took the liberty of taking this from a stalker manual I found online. As you can see the jugs gun picks up the velocity about 7 feet after release and the Stalker claims to pick it up essentially at release. The 7 feet from release is consistent with the difference of about 5 to 6 mph at 54' that I get between a glove radar and a jugs gun. Digital Signal Processing is used to filter out false readings.

I'm guessing this is for the latest model since JUGS guns have typically read 1 or 2mph faster than STALKERS in the past.
Last edited by CADad
"What is an ammo chronograph?"

A ballistic chronograph measures the speed of the projectile (bullet), allowing you to know how fast it is going. This is particularly useful if you handload, and are trying to achieve maximum velocity for a given bullet type. I don't actually have a chronograph myself, and I haven't loaded any ammunition for a while (besides, I was just loading so as to have inexpensive handgun practice ammo, not to push rifle bullets as fast as possible). With the current offerings at some of the large retailers, the cost benefit of reloading (vs. time) is not what it used to be, in my case, at least.

A few chronograph makers/suppliers:

Oehler Ballistic Chronographs
PACT Chronographs
Competitive Edge Dynamics (CED Millennium Chronograph)
Buffalo Arms Chronographs
Shooting Chrony
Last edited by JWC32
I'm not sure I understand these but this looks useful for baseball:

Every SHOOTING CHRONY® measures the speed of bullets, arrows, shotgun & airgun pellets, paintballs, et cetera, from 30/fps. to 7000/fps. and with better than 99.5% accuracy.

The earliest efforts to measure baseball speed around WWI gave results in Feet Per Second rather than MPH. A fastball goes about 100 feet per second.

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