Softball vs. Baseball: Which Is Considered Harder?
The popular discussion about which sport is harder, softball or baseball, seems to be neverending. However, there are quite accurate ways to measure and determine which sport is, in fact, harder. So, in this article, I’ll be diving deep into the subject and explaining step by step which sport is harder.
It’s scientifically proven that fastpitch softball is harder than baseball. On average, there is less reacting time in softball batting than in baseball when you consider both pitching speed and distance. Also, a softball field is smaller, basepaths are shorter, and pitching style is harder.
In addition to these main facts, there are more reasons why softball is considered harder than baseball. Even though there are arguments why baseball would be harder such as longer distances to run, smaller balls, and so on. Oh, and this only applies to fastpitch softball. If you were to compare slowpitch softball, it would be by far the easiest sport of the three.
Anyways, to understand which sport is harder, we need to examine all the variables to make a general conclusion about the subject, or you can make one of your own. Either way, let’s start looking at pitching!
There are many pitching differences between softball and baseball, such as distance, pitching style, and more.
The pitcher’s mound distance from the batter’s box isn’t the same in softball and baseball. In softball, the pitching distance is 43ft, whereas it is 60ft in baseball. You might think that this makes baseball harder, but it isn’t necessarily so in reality.
You see, a baseball is smaller and lighter, so it’s approximately as easy to throw for 60ft as a bigger and heavier softball is to throw 43ft.
Here are the weight and sizes for both baseball and softball:
- Baseball weight & circumference: 5-5.25oz (142g-149g) & 9-9.25″ (22.8-23.5cm)
- Softball weight & circumference: 6.25-7oz (177-198g) & 12″ (30.5cm)
Think about it, when you grab a baseball, it fits better on your palm, and you can throw it faster and further as it is lighter. Softball is quite big, especially when you compare it to a human palm, and more often, a woman’s palm is averagely smaller than a man’s.
In addition to the distance, there is a difference in speed. On average, baseball pitchers are faster than softball pitches. Let’s talk numbers.
In softball, the pitching speed generally falls between 60-75mph, and only a few elite players can pitch at the speed of 75mph. More commonly, it’s somewhere near 70mph or slightly less.
The average throwing speed is considerably higher in baseball, falling between 85-105mph. However, this doesen’t mean that it’s harder for the batter to bat as the pitching distance is longer in baseball, but more on that on reaction time below.
The final thing that we need to talk about regarding the pitching speed is how it affects the catcher. As the baseball travels faster and is smaller, it’s clear that it’s harder for a baseball catcher to catch the ball when compared to a softball catcher.
The pitching style between softball and baseball is also different. Although, there are many similarities between drop balls, curveballs, screwballs, changeups, and you name it. However, a certain style makes softball throws harder to bat, and those are rise balls.
A riseball is a fastpitch throw thrown on an upward trajectory with some backspin, giving it a rising motion. Generally, the idea of a riseball is to trick the batters into swinging a pitch that appears to be in the strike zone, but it moves up, so it’s way harder to strike.
Delivering a good rise ball is extremely hard, but professional softball pitchers often can or are already mastered it. A riseball is a very rare occurrence in baseball, as the pitches are done overhand nearly always.
This brings us to the overhand and underhand pitching differences. In fastpitch softball, the pitchers use a windmill motion to spin their arms and release the ball when it’s at the bottom, giving it a great speed boost. In baseball, the pitches are traditionally thrown overhand.
The human eye has more difficulties noticing motion from down to up, making softball pitches and rise balls much harder for the batters when compared to overhand up to down throws in baseball.
So, in conclusion, pitching style is harder in softball.
When determining which sport is harder, it’s important to remember that everything is related to each other. For example, pitching and hitting are so related that you must compare both of them simultaneously to see the reality of the difficulties. This takes us to one of the most important things we need to learn, reaction time!
Related: Baseball Vs. Softball Bat: All Differences You Should Know
Perhaps the biggest reason softball is considered harder than baseball is the reaction time. Earlier I talked about the pitching distance and speed. Well, adding the two to each other gives a softball batter less reaction time than a baseball batter. I’ll explain further.
On average, a baseball pitcher throws the ball faster than a softball pitcher, which makes us think that it would naturally reach the batter faster. However, the baseball pitching distance is longer as well, and when you consider that softball throws use down to up motion, the reaction time in softball is generally less.
Of course, this is the average and won’t hold up every time. For example, if you were to compare an elite baseball pitcher and a poor softball pitcher, the reaction time for the batter could be less in baseball. But generally and averagely speaking, reaction time is shorter in softball batting.
In terms of reaction time, there is less time to react to a ball as a batter in softball than in baseball.
Then, of course, we need to think about the ball’s size in batting as well as we did in pitching.
When you think of the ball’s size from a batter’s perspective, it will make sense that it’s easier to hit a softball rather than a baseball. And you’re right; it is easier.
However, that doesen’t tell the whole truth. A swing to the ball isn’t necessarily a good swing. In fact, a swing that hit’s the ball can be terrible and do more harm than good.
That being said, a softball is indeed bigger, which makes it easier to hit; however, this also makes the sweet spot smaller when compared to the ball’s size. A batter needs to hit the ball into the center, not too high or too low, as it would result in a bad swing, which means that it’s harder to accurately strike a softball in the middle rather than in baseball.
Softball is bigger, which makes it easier to hit. However, the sweet spot that must be hit to make a great swing is smaller, making it harder to swing a softball properly.
There is more to discuss in batting which is slapping. If you aren’t familiar with what slapping is, it’s basically a hardcore bunt, but you do it while moving forward, making the batter reach the 1st base much faster. Slapping is only done by left-handed batters, as they can move while slapping toward the first base.
There are two kinds of slaps; soft slaps & power slaps.
- A soft slap is done by chopping down the top half of the ball, creating a high bounce on the infield. A soft slap is used when the defense isn’t close to the batter.
- A power slap is done by swinging a hard line drive through the infield. A power slap is used when the defense is close to the batter.
Slapping is a huge benefit to left-handed players if the slap is successful; it is virtually impossible to burn the batter before she reaches the first base, especially when the base is only 60ft away, unlike 90ft in baseball.
Well, what about slapping in baseball? Slapping is allowed in baseball; however, it is rarely seen. This is because baseball players are more accustomed to hitting powerful strikes instead of Buntin or slapping and because it isn’t as effective in baseball as there is a long distance to the first base.
To get a good idea about slapping visually, take a look at this great video!
If you’re a softball player and love slapping, I have a treat for you. These softball bats are best for slapping, so I highly encourage you to check them out if you’re into slapping.
Baseball and softball fields are shaped the same, and quite frankly, they look alike. However, there are notable differences regarding size, the infield, and basepath distances. Let’s learn from the field size first.
There are differences between the fields in softball and baseball, and no two softball fields and baseball fields are exactly alike. However, this is only along the outfield fence. Everything inside the lines is the same.
Anyways, baseball fields are considerably bigger than softball fields, meaning that softball players need to do everything much faster, including running, picking up the ball, throwing, catching, and so on.
This means that the reaction time that I talked about earlier is far shorter with batters and every single player on the field.
The infield size is also drastically different because of the basepath distance differences, which I will be talking about shortly.
A baseball infield is sized at 16,700ft, whereas in softball, it’s less than half of that sized at 7,200ft. Again, this makes the work on the infield drastically more hectic as the reaction times are shorter.
However, baseball players need more endurance and accuracy, which is as difficult as its own.
The infield material is another difference that doesn’t necessarily impact the difficulty, but it’s still there.
The infield is never grass in softball as it’s only made from dirt. In short, the reasons for this are softball speed, base distance, and maintenance costs. To further learn why the softball infield isn’t grass, check out my article about it.
Finally, the infield is the area inside the home base and three bases. As the infield is of different sizes in baseball and softball, so are the base distances.
In baseball, the bases are 90 feet apart, but in softball, they are 60 feet apart. This means difficulties for both sports.
For baseball and longer basepaths, the reflexes don’t need to be as fast, and the athletes don’t need to be as fast. However, they need to have more strength and accuracy than softball players.
On the contrary, softball players have less reaction time and need to act faster to everything, but as the bases are closer to each other, the strength and accuracy don’t need to be as good. However, the strength and accuracy can’t be bad by any means, as the players reach the bases faster!
Read also: Best Eye Blacks For Baseball & Softball
4. Game length
When comparing the difficulty differences between baseball and softball, it’s also reasonable to think about the game length. Both baseball and softball are physically demanding sports, and the amount of time you need to practice it will affect your strength, endurance,e speed, and mind.
An official professional baseball match is longer than a professional softball match by two innings. MLB baseball matches are nine innings long, whereas professional fastpitch softball matches are seven.
Two innings, especially at the end of the game, do make a difference in the performance of the players. So it’s safe to say that baseball is harder in terms of game length. However, this doesen’t necessarily mean that it’s always physically more demanding.
If you’re interested in how long baseball games last by the league, I recommend that you read my research about the subject!
One thing is certain; there is a lot of information that needs to be compared to which one is more difficult, baseball or softball. Both sports have similar and different difficulties, that is for sure, but softball is more difficult when looking at the big picture.
There are many points of view to look at this, and it’s good to remember that when softball is the more difficult sport, both teams have the same difficulties, so it’s not like one team has an advantage over the other.
Baseball isn’t an easy sport either, and both teams there have equal difficulties, so ultimately, you can make your own conclusion about which is the more difficult sport, as certain skills and requirements are easier and harder for some than for others.
Anyways, I have gathered the information learned in this article into an easy-to-scan table, so feel free to take a look and make a conclusion of your own. Happy baseball and softball moments!
|Pitching style||Low to high motion||High to low motion|
|Overall reaction time||Less time||More time|
|Game length||7 innings (shorter)||9 innings (longer)|
My Favorite Softball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here are my top softball equipment recommendations that I think will take your game to the next level.
- Bat: My favorite certified fastpitch softball bat is the Easton Ghost. This bat has a double-barrel construction which is incredible if you are looking for a great feel and are a fan of satisfying pop and sound. The handle is a great bonus as it’s great to hold on to and very thin. The technology used for this bat provides great durability and flexibility. This bat comes in various styles and sizes.
- Softball: The best softballs, in my opinion, are the Franklin Sports Official Softballs. These affordable yet official featured balls are perfect for practice if you want to train with a similar ball as in a real game. These balls have the official 12-inch circumference and weight. The yellow color makes it easy to spot, and the flat seams enable minimal air resistance so that they will fly consistently and far.
- Glove: Rawlings Liberty Advanced Fastpitch Glove should be introduced to every softball player. The 12.5″ size makes it a breeze to catch and secure softballs. The glove is very comfortable as it’s made from full-grain leather, and the pull-staps will perfect the fit. The design is breathtaking as well. Be prepared for a little break-in time tho.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.