City-Data Forum A science question about baseball bats (player, transfer, frequency, scientist)
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04-22-2013, 04:26 PM
 Location: Victoria TX 42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times Reputation: 35864

In these cold April early season days, we often hear about batters on cold days feeling "bees in their bats", in other words, a very painful vibrating sting in their hands from hitting the ball badly and missing the "sweet spot", or too close to the end or too close to the handle. But this does not happen once the temperature warms up. At about 40º F, there is a high frequency of such stinging hits, but once it gets up to about 55º F, the phenomenon ceases to occur.

Now, 40º F is about 500º F above absolute zero, but warming the bats to 515º F nearly eliminates the sting factor. That is only about a 3% increase in the actual heat content of the bat. How can such a narrow range of variation have such a profound effect?

Is it just pure coincidence that ash and hickory wood transmits vibrations at a frequency that just happens to vary through a narrow critical range at standard ambient temperatures in the earth's atmosphere?

While we're at it, I have another question about bats. How, scientifically and/or mathematically, would one calculate the exact center of the "sweet spot", the point on the length of the bat that delivers the most propelling energy to the baseball? Usually reckoned to be about 3 to 5 inches from the end.

Last edited by jtur88; 04-22-2013 at 04:38 PM..

04-22-2013, 10:25 PM
 26,886 posts, read 38,133,169 times Reputation: 34822
I'd like to have someone make bats out of Yew, Coffee Bean, Maple, etc and see if that change holds true.

I bet the results would be interesting.

And the bee sting sucks!

04-23-2013, 09:59 AM
 Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama 16,841 posts, read 51,301,408 times Reputation: 27653
I suspect that there is some molecular bond in the lignen that reaches a critical temperature in that range of temps. Solder goes from solid to liquid at a slightly higher range, plastics have property changes from brittle to flexible in a similar range.

We used to have a place that made baseball bats in the town where I grew up. I read somewhere that they tried different woods but settled on birch and maple.

"The stiffness of the bat also determines how the bat vibrates when struck by a ball. These vibrations are what contribute to a stinging sensation when the ball is hit poorly and a solid feeling when contact is made on the bat’s sweet spot, giving further credence to players’ subjective evaluation of the different merits of ash and maple. "

Properties of Baseball Bats | SABR

The site has a pretty decent analysis of wooden bats and properties.

04-23-2013, 08:22 PM
 Location: Victoria TX 42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times Reputation: 35864
Quote:
 Originally Posted by harry chickpea Solder goes from solid to liquid at a slightly higher range, plastics have property changes from brittle to flexible in a similar range.
But aren't they intentionally formulated, in order to present a change of state at a useful temperature?

A few maple bats are used today in baseball. Historically, the first were made from hickory, and in the 20th century, there was a move to ash, which was lighter but otherwise exhibited similar properties. The first maple bats were turned I think in the 1990s (when players on steroids had the strength to lift them), and are more prone to shattering.

Specific gravity of woods used for bats:
Pignut Hickory 0.75
White Ash 0.60
Sugar Maple 0.63.

Last edited by jtur88; 04-23-2013 at 08:37 PM..

04-23-2013, 08:41 PM
 Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama 16,841 posts, read 51,301,408 times Reputation: 27653
Quote:
 Originally Posted by jtur88 But aren't they intentionally formulated, in order to present a change of state at a useful temperature? A few maple bats are used today in baseball. Historically, the first were made from hickory, and in the 20th century, there was a move to ash, which was lighter but otherwise exhibited similar properties. The first maple bats were turned I think in the 1990s (when players on steroids had the strength to lift them), and are more prone to shattering. Specific gravity of woods used for bats: Pignut Hickory 0.75 White Ash 0.60 Sugar Maple 0.63.
Not sure of your point. Water has changes of state at 0 and 100 C. It is natural. The idea that wood may have some lesser changes in that range is no big deal. I'd have to delve into some of my resources to be more exact on what the company in my town used and when. I suspect that the woods used varied as different people and companies tried to make bats.

04-24-2013, 10:31 AM
 Location: Victoria TX 42,668 posts, read 71,538,289 times Reputation: 35864
I've never heard of the same effect in hockey sticks, but there could be two reasons for that. Hockey players use heavily padded gloves, so might not feel the vibration. And hockey sticks are made from a laminate of several different kinds of wood, nowadays allowed to contain composites. Whereas baseball bats in professional leagues cannot be laminated, and must be tooled from a single solid block of wood.

One on-line "scientist" explained that it's not the cold bat, but the cold ball. "Colder balls are less elastic, so more energy is transferred into vibrating the bat." http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/?quid=1189 But that simply transfers the question to one of why a 3% increase in the temperature of a ball would have such a profound effect on its elasticity.

04-24-2013, 10:43 AM
 Location: Whittier 3,007 posts, read 4,869,171 times Reputation: 3025
I just want to add that it happens with metal bats too. And I think it happened anytime and was dependent more on the type of pitch/location on the bat rather than the temp.

One might argue that it feels worse when your hands are colder.

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As far a hockey sticks are concerned I'd think it's because there's a different Hz than a bat. Though I'm not terribly scientifically minded about these sorts of things.

Taking the bite out of baseball bats

Vibrational Behavior of a Hockey Stick

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I'm sure if you were to hit a puck near the top of the stick it would hurt pretty bad. Not to mention, Hockey players wear thicker gloves, despite the cold.
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