What is the Doppler Effect Used to Measure at Baseball Games?

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

When it comes to the best baseball games ever played, there are a lot of arguments over which ones make the list. But most fans will agree that a game that pitted the Florida Marlins against the Cleveland Indians in 1997 is definitely one of them. With the game going into extra innings, it was a thrilling affair that ended with the Marlins clinching victory after a last-minute rally. It’s no wonder the game remains one of baseball’s all-time classics.

But what makes a game of baseball so exciting to watch? For one, the game is paced at a fast speed that requires the players to hit the ball with great accuracy. The way they do that is by using a technology called radar. The technology is based on the Doppler effect, which describes how the frequency of sound waves changes when the source moves toward or away from a receiver. This change in frequency is reflected back to the radar gun, which then gives its measurement of the speed of the ball.

The Doppler radar used at baseball games is a handheld device that sends out radio waves with a specific frequency. When the reflected waves come back to the radar gun, they have a different frequency, which is analyzed by the device’s internal computer. The computer then calculates the velocity of the ball.

Although Doppler radar is widely known for its use in weather forecasting (by tracking water droplets), it can also be found at some baseball stadiums. The same technology is also used for ball-tracking systems that measure a pitch’s initial speed, spin rate, and horizontal and vertical launch angles.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram