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Radar Gun Used at Spring Training Helps Decide Pitchers’ Fates

March 28, 2014

Some Yankees fans are concerned about CC Sabathia’s fastball this year at spring training. He’s been clocked at 86-87 mph -- and has failed to hit the 90 mph mark yet. The problem is comparing his fastball velocity this year with last spring; most of his fastball pitches in 2013 came in at an average of 89.5 mph... there were a couple of 92s, a few 86s, and even an 84 but most were 89-90 mph. Using the radar gun seems easy, as well as clocking his fastball, but how do these radar gun readings really work?

One of the things that we take for granted these days is the ballpark speed gun. No matter where you look in a ballpark, or no matter what television station you're watching, it's easy to find out just how fast that pitch was thrown.

The radar speed gun was invented by John L. Barker Sr., who developed radar for the military during World War II. In 1947, the system was tested by the Connecticut State Police for traffic surveys and issuing warnings to drivers for excessive speed.

Radar speed guns, like other types of radar, consist of a radio transmitter and receiver. They send out a radio signal in a narrow beam, and then receives the same signal back after it bounces off the target object. Due to what’s known as the Doppler effect; if the object is moving toward or away from the gun, the frequency of the returning reflected radio waves is different from the transmitted waves. From that difference, the radar speed gun can calculate the speed of the object.

But what about CC Sabathia… can he claim that the radar gun readings aren’t accurate? New models – some that even fit in the palm of your hand – are said to be accurate to +/- 1 mph for a baseball up to 120 feet away! This promises to be a very interesting baseball season!

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