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# What is the COP (Center-of-Percussion) and does it matter?

## What and Where is the Center-of-Percussion?

A solid object which oscillates about a fixed pivot point is called a physical pendulum. When displaced from its equilibrium position the force of gravity will attempt to return the object to its equilibrium position, while its inertia will cause it to overshoot. As a result of this interplay between restoring force and inertia the object will swing back and forth, repeating its cyclic motion in a constant amount of time. This time, called the period, depends on the mass of the objectM, the location of the center-of-mass relative to the pivot point d, the rotational inertia of the object about its pivot point I, and the gravitational field strengh gaccording to
The Center-of-Oscillation is the length of a simple pendulum that gives the same period as the real object.

In fact, the method used by manufacturers and governing associations to determine the moment-of-inertia, I, of a baseball or softball bat is to measure the period of oscillation when the bat is allowed to swing as a pendulum from a pivot point 6-inches from the knob end of the bat, and then calculate the moment-of-inertia from the above equation. Instead of being distributed throughout the entire object, let the mass of the physical pendulum M be concentrated at a single point located at a distance L from the pivot point. This point mass swinging from the end of a string is now a "simple" pendulum, and its period would be the same as that of the original physical pendulum if the distance L was

This location L is known as the "center-ofoscillation", since it represents the length of an equivalent simple pendulum with the same total mass and that has the same period as the actual phyiscal object. The exact location of this special point depends on the location of the pivot - a fact which will be very important to the application of this concept to a baseball or softball bat, as we will see below. One special thing about this location is that if the object (bat) were inverted and pivoted at the center-of-oscillation it would have exactly the same period as it does when pivoted from its original location. The second special property about this location is if a horizontal impulsive force is applied to the center-of-oscillation, no reaction force is felt at the pivot point. Therefore, this location is also known as the center-of-percussion or COP.

## What is so special about the COP?

Almost any physics textbook which mentions the center-of-percussion of a physical pendulum associates it with the "sweet spot" of a baseball bat[2-5] - that special place where an impact with the ball feels the best in your hands. It is relatively easy to show how this works, though I'll refrain from displaying the math equations here. Consider the figure at the right, which shows a bat suspended from a point P on the handle. If an impact force F were to strike the bat at the center-of-mass (CM) then point P would experience a translational acceleration - the entire bat would attempt to accelerate to the left in the same direction as the applied force, without rotating about the pivot point. If a player was holding the bat in his/her hands, this would result An impact at the Center-of-Percussion results in zero in an impulsive force felt in the hands. If the net force at the pivot point because the translational impact force F strikes the bat below the center-of- and rotational accelerations are equal and opposite. mass, but above the center-of-percussion, point P would experience both a translational acceleration in the direction of the force and a rotational acceleration in the opposite direction as the bat attempts to rotate about its center-of-mass. The

translational acceleration to the left would be greater than the rotational acceleration to the right and a player would still feel an impulsive force in the hands. If the impact force strikes the bat below the center-of-percussion, then point P would still experience oppositely directed translational and rotational accelerations, but now the rotational acceleration would be greater. However, if the impact force strikes the bat precisely at the center-of-percussion, then the translational acceleration and the rotational acceleration in the opposite direction exactly cancel each other. The bat would rotate about the pivot point but there would be no net force felt by a player holding the bat in his/her hands.[6,7] Because impacts at the center-of-percussion result in zero net force at the pivot point, this location has long been identified with the sweet spot, associated with feel, of a baseball bat. However, there is a problem with this identification because the location of the COP is completely dependent on the location of the pivot point. For every location on the handle there is a corresponding location on the bat barrel which acts as a centerof-percussion for that specific handle location. The traditional assumption, supported by some early experimental studies, is that when a player swings at a ball, the bat pivots about a point on the handle under the hands, roughly 6-inches from the knob. As we will see later in this article the most recent experimental evidence reveals that the pivot point is neither on the handle under the hands, nor at the wrist of the player swinging the bat. First, though, I want to take a look at how this special location on the bat has affected the manner in which bat performance is measured.