The Fastest Path Around the Bases? World Series Take Notice

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noell[email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Sept. 29, 2009 — As the World Series approaches, Major League Baseball teams might want to implement a new base-running strategy developed by members of the Williams College statistics and mathematics department.

In a senior colloquium advised by Professor of Mathematics Frank Morgan, Davide Carozza ’09, of Washington D.C., investigated the paths around the diamond. Could you cut off seconds?

“When you hit that final long ball in the World Series of Baseball and know you need the home run, what is your optimal path around the bases?” they asked.

Carozza compared the recommended path around the bases — the so-called “banana path,” which follows the baseline halfway to first base before veering to the right to set up a better angle to continue to second — to a more continuous path.

Carozza found that running a circular path around the bases could account for a base-running time 20 percent faster, a time increase of more than four seconds.

Professor of Mathematics Stewart Johnson later computed an optimal path calculated to take 16.7 seconds, compared to the recommended path’s 22.2 second time.

The research team checked the official rules of baseball to assure the legality of their proposed path, and determined that it could indeed be used.

The research, titled “Baserunner’s Optimal Path” will appear in “The Mathematical Intelligencer” in October.

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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News: Laura Corona

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