I’ve got some thoughts on the baseball vs softball debate that loves to be brought up a couple times a year on twitter. I’m so not a fan of doing this because most people have their opinions based on their perception or the perception fed to them by a website or a video they see on Facebook (ironically just like this article, yes).
I’m going to try to minimize the opinions, go heavy on the facts, and ask you some thought provoking questions on the baseball vs softball topic.
First off, why is this even a thing? Yes the sports are similar, but there are enough differences that this is borderline comparing apples to oranges. Here’s the popular video you might have seen.
Softball players: “a baseball player couldn’t hit Jenny Finch.”
Oh you mean some average joe couldn’t hit the best softball player in the history of softball?
Putting them up against each other is anything but a fair way of judgement anyway. Regardless of who it is, a baseball player has been hitting baseballs his whole life. Different ball, different bat, different distance, different pitches, opposite arm angle…what makes anyone think that either would see success against the other?
The next video / topic, softball players love to bring up the fact that the reaction time on a softball pitch is less than the reaction time a baseball player has. Yes! That is correct!
So what exactly is the question here? If the question is “which sport is harder,” then what should we be looking at? What kind of stats or measurements tell which sport is harder? People seem to assume that this reaction time on a swing is the sole measurer of the baseball vs softball debate. Why?
If softball is more difficult, why do we routinely see college softball players hit over .400 sometimes .500 over the course of a season?
Here are the 2015 NCAA D1 leaders in batting average for each sport:
1 Torrian Wright Savannah St. .566
2 Morgan Zerkle Marshall .506
3 Quianna Diaz-Patterson Massachusetts .504
4 Allexis Bennett UCLA .492
5 Katie Lacour Southeastern La. .484
6 Caitlin Attfield UAB .473
7 Yvon Minogue South Dakota .470
8 Ivie Drake Georgia St. .462
9 Alexis Watanabe Lehigh .460
10 Kacie Burnett Idaho St. .459
1 Kevin Kaczmarski Evansville .465
2 Donnie Dewees North Florida .422
3 Jensen Park Northern Colo. .422
4 Melvin Rodriguez Jackson St. .421
5 Sean Trent Navy .407
6 Caleb Howell Eastern Ill. .407
7 Tyler Follis North Dakota .404
8 Chris Robinson Morehead St. .402
9 Zach George Arkansas St. .399
10 Drew Ferguson Belmont .397
It’s all relative. The reaction time on a softball pitch might be less, but there are other variables involved in the overall area of hitting. The bases are 60 feet away. The fences are 200-250 feet. There are WAY more infield hits. So making contact with a softball may be more difficult, but it seems getting on base is a bit easier. So by “harder,” do we mean making contact? Hitting a home run? or just getting on base?
There is no way to run a fair experiment to judge which one is “harder”. They’re different. Baseball might give you more of a reaction time, but the ball is smaller, and the sweet spot on a wood barrel is way smaller. Softball players might have higher batting averages, but the bar for what is “good” is a bit higher, they’re expected to hit higher. It’s like trying to say basketball is easier than baseball because batters hit .300 and shooters shoot 40%. Do you see what I’m saying?
There are aspects of softball that are more difficult than baseball. There are aspects of baseball that are more difficult than softball. So to settle the baseball vs softball debate, neither is harder, they’re different sports and it’s impossible to make that judgment.
Either way, we both play our own version of the greatest sport on earth.