Let’s get one thing straight, softball was not a descendant of baseball.
The idea of softball was actually created during the Yale v. Harvard Thanksgiving College Football game of 1887. (Duffley 7).“During the merriment, a reporter from the Chicago Board of Trade, George Hancock, tied up a boxing glove (with its own strings) into a sphere, took a broomstick handle, and, using chalk, marked lines on the floor. That night a game took place with 80 runs scored, and from there the sport had been born. The first rulebook is said to have been issued (by Hancock) in 1889.” (The World Baseball Softball Confederation).
Despite the physical similarities of the field layout of baseball and softball, there is a myriad of differences:
Having played softball and being on the softball side of this debate, I have to hand it to the baseball side on this one. The pitch of a softball is unlike that of a baseball and vice versa. To pitch a softball, players wind the ball clockwise, releasing at the knee/hip region and use both of their legs to distribute their weight, creating the power needed for a fastball. Whereas pitching a baseball a player throws the ball overhand, using their dominant leg to push off of, finishing on their non-dominant leg allowing them to create the power and speed in the throw. While arguably throwing a standard fastball is harder in softball than it is baseball, baseball definitely outweighs us in specialty pitches. Softball offers changeups, dropball, curveball, and rise ball where baseball has 4x the types of pitches that softball does including sinkers, screwball, knuckleball, and many others.
Because of the variety of pitches in baseball to choose from ranging from your standard overhand pitch to sidearm and other difficult deliveries, it is easy to dismantle the pitch your batter will see.
Let’s get technical and talk about the dramatic difference in size between baseball and softball fields. For starters the basepath, meaning distance from base to base, in baseball is 90’ compared to the 60’ basepath in softball. Your initial thought might be “Well that makes it easier, your distance from base to base is shorter so you can get there quicker, how is this even a debate?” Well did you stop to think about the fact that because the distance of our basepath is shorter it actually means we have less time to get there and it takes less time for the ball to get thrown to second and flipped to first to get a double play? So I’ll have to hand it to my softball ladies for this one.
One of my favorite arguments made is, “You literally can’t miss when you’re batting if you are playing with a softball.” While the yellow leather and 12” circumference helps us to see the ball, it actually isn’t any harder to hit a baseball than it is a softball. This is because of the bat size. Most softball bats are longer than baseball bats and baseball bats have a larger diameter around the barrel. So while the size of the ball may be different, the bat makes up for it.
Speed of the ball
The average baseball pitch is 15 to 20 miles per hour faster than the average softball pitch. (Duffley 25). That whole perspective changes when we go back to the statistics of the field. The distance from home to the pitcher’s rubber in a baseball game is 60 ‘6 `,` not to mention their mound is 10” above home plate while the rubber in a softball game is 34-43’ and is level with home plate. Taking these statistics into consideration you will realize that those 15 to 20 mph don’t mean much when you break it down. A 70mph pitch with a softball can reach the plate in 0.35 of a second where it takes 0.38 of a second for a standard MLB player to pitch the ball to home with almost double the distance. This leaves only 0.025 of a second for a softball batter to decide whether the ball is a good pitch and decide whether or not to swing which is nearly 55% less time than a MLB player has at 0.055 of a second (ESPN Sports Science: The Speed of Softball). Needless to say, the obvious winner here is softball.
All in all, the two games are very similar and the concepts are the exact same. But if we are talking numbers, softball is the mathematically harder sport. It takes so much reaction time and the ability to be on your feet at the crack of the bat. Softball is so meticulously timed because of the size of the field and the circumference of the ball that a play can pretty much be over by the time it starts if not timed to the millisecond.
(Source: About the author: John Duffley John joins the FanBuzz team with five years of experience freelancing as a sports writer for TheDupes.net and Football.com. A graduate of Penn State University, et al. “Softball vs. Baseball: 6 Differences Answering ‘Which Sport Is Harder?’.” FanBuzz, 19 May 2020, fanbuzz.com/national/softball-vs-baseball/.)