How to Measure Softball Pitch Speed

How to Measure Softball Pitch Speed

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Quality radar guns record speed accurately within one mile per hour.

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Prior to the advent of accurate pitch speed measurements, a curious softball coach had to manually clock the time it took for a pitch to travel from pitcher to catcher and manually calculate pitch speed from that time estimate. This antique method became obsolete with the invention of the baseball radar gun by coach, inventor and former Major Leaguer Danny Litwhile in the early 1970s. Radar guns are still the standard for accurate measurement, although the old-fashioned stopwatch and calculation method can still work in a pinch if you don't have appropriate technology at hand.

Radar Gun


Stand directly behind the player whose throw you wish to measure. You must be directly behind the player to get an accurate reading.


Point the radar gun in the direction of the upcoming throw, leveled at shoulder height and parallel to the ground.


Press and hold the gun's trigger as the pitcher begins her throwing motion.


Keep the radar gun level and pointed at the moving ball throughout its flight to the catcher.


Release the trigger once the pitch reaches the target. The readout on the screen displays the pitch speed in miles per hour.

Stop Watch


Verify that the pitcher is 43 feet away from the catcher, which is the standard distance from plate to home in softball.


Stand in a spot that is as close to the action as possible and has a good view of both pitcher and catcher.


Depress the stopwatch's timer button to start the clock as the pitcher releases the ball.


Press the timer button again to stop the clock as quickly as possible when you hear the ball hit the catcher's glove.


Write down the time it takes for the ball to reach the catcher, measured in seconds.


Divide 43 by the ball's travel time to find the pitch speed in feet per second. For example, if a ball takes one-half second to reach the plate then the pitch's speed is 43 divided by 0.5 = 86 feet per second.


Multiply the speed in feet per second by the number 0.681 to convert the pitch speed to miles per hour.


Repeat the timing process and speed calculation for several pitches. Repeated measurement is important when using a stopwatch due to the difficulty of accurately measuring a single pitch.

Things Needed

  • Radar Gun
  • Stopwatch
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Calculator


  • Radar guns come in dozens of varieties, each of which operates slightly differently. Consult your user guide or contact the manufacturer for information on using your particular model of radar gun.