Is Softball Harder Than Baseball?

Softball and baseball are two games that have a lot of similarities – which has prompted many to compare the two. While each game poses its own interesting rules and traditions, a common question that comes up about the two games is which one is harder.

According to experts, the game of fastpitch softball is much harder than baseball. The reasoning behind this is that softball offers less reaction time due to high pitching speeds and the distance that is allotted between bases and in the field. Another factor to consider is the pitching style used in softball.

Keep in mind the consideration between fastpitch and slowpitch softball, which we will discuss further in the article below. Interestingly, when you compare slowpitch softball with baseball, it is baseball that emerges as the harder sport. So, to get an in-depth understanding of these games, keep reading the rest of our discussion.

Why Fastpitch Softball Can Be Harder Than Baseball

In order to fully grasp how fastpitch softball can be harder than baseball, we need to evaluate how the two differ in various realms of the game.

Generally, one of the biggest differences in pitching between the two sports is the difference in pitching distance. Softball athletes pitch from a distance of 43 feet, whereas in baseball, this is about 60 feet. While the greater distance can seem harder, the difference lies in the ball itself.

Baseballs in general are lighter and smaller in size compared to the average softball, as described in the table below. This makes pitching the softball much harder across the distance, especially at high pitching speeds.

Type of ballWeightCircumference
Baseball5 to 5.25 ounces9 to 9.25 inches
Softball6.25 to 7 ounces12 inches

A description of the difference in weight and circumference (size) between a baseball and softball (source 1), (source 2).

Because the average baseball is much smaller and lighter than the average softball, pitching in baseball is much easier. Softball is much harder to throw across distances without even factoring in the speed necessary to qualify to become part of major league softball teams.

On average, the speed of a baseball pitcher is higher than a softball pitcher. For softball, the average pitching speed is between 58-65 miles per hour. In fact, it is rare to see pitches higher than 75 miles per hour, and some of the fastest pitchers will only hit about 70 miles per hour consistently.

In baseball, the pitching speed on average is about 75-92 miles per hour. The key difference here is the distance between the batter and the pitcher. In baseball, because of the larger distance, the batter has more time to react and can consistently counter the pitch more often.

The pitching style is also different between the two games in that softball utilizes an underhand move. Because human beings can generally react to movement faster when it comes from an overhand pitch, this makes softball a lot harder for batters. 

The Difference Between Slowpitch and Fastpitch Softball

There are two distinct types of softball that we can see – slowpitch and fastpitch games. These are the same type of games, but the difference lies in how the games are played in actuality. In fact, fast-pitch softball utilizes different concepts to play the same overarching game.

Speed

The biggest difference between slowpitch and fastball is the speed at which the ball is pitched. In fast-pitch softball, this is done using extremely high speeds and powerful force. As a result, the ball is pitched to be straight and definingly fast.

This can make the ball extremely hard to react to, and as a result, harder to hit. Slowpitch softball, on the other hand, does not involve the same fast and straight mechanism. Instead, the ball is thrown with an arch – still at a considerable speed – but with a spin.

This form of softball can be easier to hit, as its trajectory goes up, and then down, allocating more time for the batter to react to the pitch. Fastpitch softball puts the pitcher in a far more favorable position. This is because the pitcher can then throw with high speed, and get far fewer hits.

 In this method, the ball is never received into play since the ball isn’t hit. Another consequence of the pitcher’s objective is to strike the batters out at the plate.

Difference In Technique

The pitcher will often use a windmill motion to deliver the ball to the batter, which lends it significant strength and speed. This is what defines the movement in fastpitch softball.

In slowpitch softball, the batter has the upper edge, and it is in fact a much easier game to play. Because the batter has time to react and hit the ball, they can place a significant amount of pressure on the team on the defense, i.e. the team who is pitching.

When you play fastpitch softball, you also have a significant edge because of a move called ‘base-stealing.’ This means that player can advance to another base and does not have to stay on their base until the next base is available.

In fastpitch games, there is also a designated hitter put in place when the batter has to combat powerful pitches. However, slowpitch games do not allow this to happen, and only the person on the home base has to hit the ball to combat the pitcher.

A Comparison Between Baseball and Softball

Aside from the significant factors that can make baseball and softball, it is also crucial to look at some of the ways that the two sports are different from each other. To do so, we have illustrated the differences in the table below:

FactorBaseballSoftball
Bat size42 inches34 inches
Length of game9 innings7 innings
Distance between bases90 feet60 feet
Field size400 feet220 feet
Pitching StyleOverhandUnderhand
Reaction TimeLongerShorter

A comparison between baseball and softball.

Sizes of Bats

In baseball, bats can be of different sizes, but the maximum allowed size is 42 inches long, whereas, in softball, the maximum size allowed is just 34 inches long.

Length of Innings

A baseball game lasts for a total of nine innings, using two halves allotted to each team. In softball, the games follow the same division of halves, but there are only 7 innings unless there is a draw and an additional inning is needed to declare a winner.

Distance Between Bases

In the average baseball game, the field is arranged, so all of the bases are about 90 feet apart. This means that the runners have to pass through a significant amount of distance. On the other hand, softball fields have bases that are 60 feet apart from each other.

Field Size

Baseball fields are significantly larger than the average softball field, although there may be some that are slightly bigger or smaller. In general, the distance to the center of the field in a baseball game is around 400 feet.

The distance between the left and the right of the field is around 325 feet, and the distance from the pitcher’s mound to the plate is about 60 feet. The warning track outside the area of play is 15 feet in width as well.

A softball field though is much smaller, with the average distance to the center of the field being roughly 220 feet. In a softball field, the distance between the left and right of the field is around 190 feet.

The warning track around the field of play in softball is around 10 feet wide. Aside from this, the distance between the pitcher’s mound and the plate is about 43 feet.

Gameplay

Because of the smaller field size, softball players cannot move until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hands. Another major difference is that because there is less time needed to run between the bases in softball, double plays are far less frequent.

Gender Differences

One of the key differences between the games is also who is playing in terms of gender. Baseball is generally a male-dominated sport, whereas softball, in general, is a female-dominated sport.

In most cases, the two sports do not prohibit either gender from participating, but over time, there is a striking difference between the two in reference to gender distribution.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.   Do Baseball and Softball use the same cleats?

Softball and baseball players use different cleats. Athletes playing softball prefer using molded cleats that offer durability in between games. On the other hand, baseball players are likely to opt for cleats that include metal, to give them higher maneuverability.

Technically, you can use cleats interchangeably, but you are likely to have better luck using the right kind of cleats for the sport.

2.   Can I use the same gloves for baseball and softball?

Yes, you can use the same gloves for baseball and softball. However, if you want to primarily play softball, you will have better success with a softball glove. This is because softball gloves are built to handle the larger circumference of a ball in softball.

Using a baseball glove can make sense if you have one lying around, or if you only rarely play softball rather than baseball. Whether you’re pitching or fielding, you have a better chance at refined gameplay when using the correct glove.

3.   Can men play softball?

Yes, there are many male softball teams in the United States. However, most of these teams focus on slow-pitch softball, whereas fast-pitch softball is mostly played by women. It is also important to note that these teams are generally recreational and do not play professionally.

Final Thoughts

Baseball and softball pose different challenges to players, due to the differing pitching styles, distances, and rules. However, because reaction time is lowered in fastpitch softball, it can be a harder game to win. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the difference between the two and how they stand head-to-head with each other.

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