NORTH SHORE, PGH – Understanding the concept of playing baseball is fairly simple. You throw, you hit, you run and you catch.
But understanding the language of baseball is far more complicated. During a nine-inning game, more than 1,000 silent instructions are given-from catcher to pitcher, coach to batter, fielder to fielder and umpire to umpire. The language of baseball could almost be taught as a foreign language course at the university level given the depth of understanding it takes.
Which brings us to SwingTracker, and the SwingTracker metric Applied Power.
Applied Power uses watts as its measurement for evaluating the swing with SwingTracker. In terms of understanding the basic concepts of hitting, one does not think of watts as it applies to a baseball swing. A watt, as named after Scottish engineer James, Watt, is defined as ‘joule per second’ and can be used to express the rate of energy conversion or transfer with respect to time.
So what exactly does that mean?
Before we go any further, you’re probably asking yourself, what is a joule? Let’s explain…
A joule, named after the English physicist James Prescott Joules, is defined as a derived unit of energy, work. For our purposes, it is equal to the energy transferred (or work done) when applying a force of one newton through a distance of one meter.
In terms of the baseball swing, all this physics and engineering language simply means that watts (or Applied Power) measures the amount of energy being created during the baseball swing.
So when you see an Applied Power score of 1290 on your SwingTracker app (as in the image below), that means that swing created 1.2 kilowatts of energy, or roughly the equivalent of the power of a microwave oven.
Take a look at this video from ESPN SportsScience for further explanation (emphasis mine)
As it says in the video, “A batter’s arms and shoulders are like coiled springs, loaded with potential energy. As the swing progresses, more and more energy is converted to kinetic energy. Hitting the ball later in the swing results in a faster bat speed at the moment of contact.”
Trying to understand Applied Power and what it means may seem complicated (because it doesn’t fall under ‘standard baseball language’), But Applied Power is actually a very simple concept to learn and to apply to your training.
Take a look at the list below. As with our microwave example, this is a list of other items comparable to the watts (or energy) created during the baseball swing:
• 1,000 watts to 3,000 watts: heat output of a domestic electric kettle
• 1,100 watts: power of a microwave oven
• 1,366 watts: power per square metre received from the Sun at the Earth’s orbit
• 1,500 watts: legal limit of power output of an amateur radio station in the United States
• up to 2,000 watts: approximate short-time power output of sprinting professional cyclists and weightlifters doing snatch lifts
• 2,400 watts: average power consumption per person worldwide in 2008
The penultimate item in the list of worth noting since it is the only one that requires a purely physically application by a human. Take note of the phrase “short-time power output”. A snatch lift, as we can see, is a very physical and violent motion that takes place in a matter of seconds – much like the baseball swing.
Think of this when thinking of how to use and explain Applied Power.
At Diamond Kinetics, we define Applied Power as: the average power that is applied to the bat during the swing with the hands and body. A higher Applied Power score causes the bat to reach a higher momentum more quickly. Plus, more Applied Power allows a batter to start a swing later, giving more time to recognize a pitch and still hit the ball far. Since the distance a ball travels after contact depends on barrel speed at impact (and the weight of the bat), more Applied Power means that it takes less time to reach Max Barrel Speed using a given weight bat.
So simply put, more applied power = better results.
Here’s another way to look at it. As mentioned in the video above, think of the baseball swing like a coiled spring. The more energy and effort one uses to push the spring down before releasing it, the further the spring will go.
Having said that, if someone who is 20 years old, stands 6’0″ tall and weighs 210 lbs., exerts the same amount of energy, relative to size and strength, as someone who is 13 years old, 5’7 and 135 lbs., the spring released by the 20-year old will travel further.
That seems like simple, common knowledge. But in terms of the baseball swing, this concept ties directly into the weight of the bat – a very important part of maximizing swing energy output.
The reason the spring released by the 20 year old travels further (even if he and the 13-year old are both exerting 2,000 watts of power), is because he is heavier and physically stronger.
In terms of the baseball swing, a ball struck by a 32-ounce bat swung by someone who exerts 2,000 watts of Applied Power, will travel further than someone swinging a 28-ounce bat who exerts 2,000 watts of Applied Power (assuming the balls are struck the same exact way). This is a very important part of evaluating Applied Power.
Ultimately, building more potential energy (watts) during the swing leads to more kinetic energy (joules) being released during the swing.
While these concepts are new as it applies to baseball, they have been used in everyday language in the physics and engineering worlds for over 200 years. It’s just a matter of time before they become part of the everyday lexicon of the game of baseball (if they haven’t already).