In celebration of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, Washington University students and faculty look at the statistics, physics, business and cultural significance of America’s pastime.
David Peters, the McDonnell Douglas Professor of Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has a body of work in applied aerodynamics and a host of academic honors, but he’s also a baseball fan. That’s why watching a baseball game takes on a whole new spin, aerodynamically speaking.
The New York Yankees have hired Washington University senior Rohan Gupta as a baseball operations associate. He will crunch big data, “Moneyball”-style, to give his team a competitive edge. It’s a dream job for a student who is passionate about sports and statistics.
A hilarious selection of free films celebrating baseball are being shown weekly on the Washington University in St. Louis campus. The “Summer Film Series 2012: Play Ball!” is open to the public.
Last year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association required all aluminum bats used in college play to meet a new performance standard designed to limit the exit speed of the ball off the bat. This year, the National Federation of State High School Associations also has implemented the new standard. With spring training beginning at all levels this month, a WUSTL professor and WUSTL baseball coaches comment on the new bats and how they have affected play.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other legislators are calling for baseball players to stop using chewing tobacco on the field and in front of their fans. “This is an important public health issue,” says Douglas Luke, PhD, director of the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. “Not only is smokeless tobacco use hazardous, but young people who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to also start smoking cigarettes.” Luke notes that smokeless tobacco use is a growing problem, particularly for the youngest baseball fans.
Whether watching the All-Star Game, a World Series game or just a regular-season Tuesday afternoon game, it’s nearly guaranteed that fans will see daring slides, both feet-first and head-first, and even slides on bang-bang plays at first. Who gets there faster, the head-first slider or the feet-first? The head-first player, says David A. Peters, Ph.D., the McDonnell Douglas Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, and big-time baseball fan. He says it’s a matter of the player’s center of gravity.
Baseball diamonds are a left-hander’s best friend. That’s because the game was designed to make a lefty the “Natural,” according to David A. Peters, Ph.D., the McDonnell Douglas Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and über baseball fan. Peters is a mechanical engineer who specializes in aircraft and helicopter engineering and has a different approach to viewing America’s Favorite Pastime.
Major League Baseball implemented revenue sharing to create incentives for ball clubs to build their teams and build their fan base. It’s ended up having the opposite effect, according to a business professor at Washington University in St. Louis. The amount a small-market team receives from the league may be more profitable than the revenue it gets from winning a game. Michael Lewis proposes an alternative way of distributing MLB revenues that creates incentives for ballclubs to create good teams and fill stadiums. (video available)
Gerald EarlyWhile baseball purists may be poised to place a “steroid-fueled” asterisk next to Bond’s name in the record books, to do so would be a mistake, one that follows an unfortunate pattern in the history of blacks in American sports, suggests Gerald Early, Ph.D., a noted essayist and book author who has written extensively on black culture and sports.
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