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Could baseball players learn more from physics class than spring training?

Sure, science can help us analyze baseball, but can it improve player performance?
Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

­It's the final game of the Major League Baseball World Series. An acclaimed pop star sings the national anthem and, finally, the players saunter out onto the field. The assembled fans cheer wildly when they glimpse their favorite players: star pitcher Nima Arkani-Hamed, home run king Edward Witten and, of course, head coach Stephen Hawking. Will Witten finally eclipse Albert Einstein's record of most career hits? Only time will tell.

If you're missing baseball cards for these individuals, don't fret. There's no need to adjust your fantasy baseball league stats just yet. They're all gifted physicists, yet despite their understanding of the properties involved with the sport, no Major League Baseball team has ever drafted them.

Film and literature contain countless examples of gifted min­ds applying pure science to a given scenario in order to come out on­ top. Androids and aliens crunch a few numbers to dominate pool and poker tables. Geniuses and meta-humans apply cold, hard logic to social situations to achieve everything from dating success to the manipulation of whole peoples. From Rain Man and John Nash to Spock and the fictional fantasy hero Anasûrimbor Kellhus, the message seems to be that science trumps skill and physical training every time.

It's easy to fall into the trap of attributing near mystical powers to science. After all, the scientific method has landed humans on the moon, prolonged life expectancy and filled our lives with countless time-saving gadgets.

­So why couldn't a talented physicist improve a ba­seball team's chances of victory, if not on the field then at least in the dugout? Solid physical laws underlie everything from a swing and a miss to a grand slam. Is all that strength and endurance training just a waste of time? Might baseball players learn more from physics classes than spring training?