A Zero-Gyro Seam Shifted Wake Pitch–The Looper: Post 49

We have had a hard time demonstrating seam shifted wake pitches like the Laminar Express or the Discoball Changeup because our pitching machine (and, indeed, pretty much every pitching machine not located in Pullman) cannot do gyro. But, my graduate student, Andrew Smith (who is looking for a job), found one. I think it’s pretty interesting.

With more than a century of history, it’s hard to name pitches. I’m going to call it The Looper, because of the seam pattern it makes as it spins.

The base of the the horseshoe on the front side is nearly at the pole (which would be our scuffball pitch), but is a bit past it. As a result, it makes a “loop” as it goes around the pole. Get it?

In the animation below, the axis (pole) is sicking straight out of your screen. I want to stress that for the purpose of this effect, it does not matter which direction the axis is as long as the ball has this orientation relative to the axis and there is no gyro component. This ball could be moving up, down, left or right, but cannot be moving in or out of the page for this to work.

View 1

Here’s the same thing from the side.

View 2

Andrew and his friend Troy, who used to work for me for money but is as happy to work for food, fired 56 pitches. They did 3 orientations with 2 different baseballs. All of these pitches had 3:00 tilt (a vertical spin axis), a relatively low RPM of 1200 (we did not want a lot of Magnus force but we wanted a stable axis) and 90 mph. The balls were thrown 55 feet. A Rapsodo Clip is shown below.

Both balls were 2019 vintage. One had a seam height (as measured by calipers) of 26/1000″ and the other 35/1000″ so we could determine if seam height matters.

The movie below shows the view at home plate from the side for the larger seamed ball in two orientations. The top ball has a “loop” on the bottom while the bottom ball has the loop on the top. In both cases, the axis is straight up. As you will see in the results, in addition to moving downward, the ball with the loop on top moved closer to the camera and the other one moved away. As a result, the lower ball may appear to be moving faster. They are the same speed.

The figure below shows the results, and I think they are really interesting for several reasons. Most obviously, because something happened.

All of these pitches have about 15″ of horizontal break due to the Magnus effect, but that is not what I want to look at here. So, for the plot, the location of the non-seam shifted 2-seam pitch (black) is used as the origin and all other results are shifted accordingly. If you’d like, think of all horizontal locations as having 15″ added..

Results. Open symbols are individual pitches while closed are averages. Green and Blue have the loop on top, Red and Orange have it on the bottom. Blue and Red are a ball with 35/1000″ seams while Green and Orange are a ball os 26/1000″ seams. Black is a non-seam-shifted 2-seam orientation. Both balls are from 2019 and have lower than “normal” seams.

For the larger seamed ball, we get about 4″ of break away from the loop. Note that Magnus force here is in the other plane (and generates positive X break).

Additionally, and this was not expected, we get nearly 4″ of horizontal break too. With the loop on the bottom, that’s 4″ of additional horizontal break, but with the loop on the top, that’s 4″ less of horizontal break — despite identical spin axes and spin rates. This bolsters my claim that these effects are independent of Magnus effect. I have yet to figure out why this is happening, however.

The scatter in all of these pitches is larger than normal with this cannon. My guess is that a lot of it is due to small miss-alignments of the ball. Note how the scatter in the blue and green dots is predominantly diagonal.

The seam height has an effect. The seam heights are about 35% different, and the break magnitude averages to a 20% difference. Note that Magnus effect is not effected by seam height.

My new friend Miller Hogan has explained the benefits of “approach angle” to me. I’ve computed the approach angles (just line fitting their X-Y coordinates) and find that the red points are 6.5 degrees while the blue points are 7.5 degrees. Note that these pitches have zero backspin. They were also fired slightly downward.

If the ball in the animations above was moving left to right and is view from above in view 2, it is a fastball and it will run toward the right batter’s box even though it has no Magus that way. Perhaps more importantly, it will also carry like it has more RPM than it does.

Lastly, I posted yesterday on what Rapsodo 1.0 makes of pitches that move this way.

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10 thoughts on “A Zero-Gyro Seam Shifted Wake Pitch–The Looper: Post 49

  1. Barton thanks for your contributions and investigating seam assymetry. Your work and Alan Nathan’s original post on “Dissecting a Mystery Pitch” intrigued us (myself and Rowan Ferrabee) from the University of Waterloo Motion Research Group Lab to build a machine that could can gyro.

    In its current state our machine can digital control 3D spin axis and throw up to 70mph – finalizing some R&D and materials testing to ramp up to 100+. I think a model that relates ball release state (ball orientation, speed and 3D spin) to trajectory may be something we could collaborate on. Feel free to reach out to me at: josh@trajektsports.com

    1. Thanks for reading, Ian. I am not a pitcher and could not come up with a grip if my life depended on it. What we are researching is advantageous orientations of the ball seams relative to the ball axis. How to get the ball that way is something I probably shouldn’t and won’t talk about very much!

  2. Cool research and site!

    It seems at least a bit of the unexplained change in horizontal movement with the looper could be attributed to a marginal change in spin efficiency, right? The one with more drop loses a bit of Magnus efficiency as the angle changes. It effectively becomes a tad gyro. The one with more ride loses less efficiency because the angle changes less.

    Plus or minus 4 inches of horizontal seems a lot for marginal Magnus efficiency changes to explain, but it’s a start?

  3. I believe that I mentioned this on an earlier post regarding throwing a slider with a two seam orientation. I would throw a slider with a two seam orientation but maybe having an upward tilt to have that seam on the backside of the ball in a circle. Due to the ball having a 10 degree axis pointed upwards… This will cause the pitch to have a lateral break due to the Magnus Effect… and the pitch will also drop fast due the ball’s seams lining up on the backside of the ball. I went out into my backyard(I have a 60ft mound in my backyard) to try this last year, and it worked really well. Now since I am an old man(41) with a dead arm the 70mph slider still broke in a two way direction. I would imagine that a slider thrown between 82-92 mph would have an amazing two way break because of this two seam gyro spinning ball pointed slightly upwards at around a 10 degree axis.

    1. I’m happy you are still at it. I am not doubting your story about how your pitch moved, but seams on the rear of the ball (past about 20 degrees of the center) are in the wake and have no effect at all.

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