Struggle with pinpointing the differences between softball and baseball? You’re actually not alone!
For an untrained eye, it can be difficult to spot the subtle intricacies of each sport. As a result, distinguishing between softball and baseball is a challenge for nearly every newbie to these sports.
Well, in today’s guide, I’m going to hopefully help you get a better understanding of the distinctions between baseball and softball!
Baseball VS Softball - Differences At A Glance
Baseball and softball are very similar, but they have several subtle differences that significantly set them apart.
Most importantly, softball is faster-paced than baseball. The reason for this is the smaller field – it takes less time for athletes to make plays on it.
Secondly, although both sports have female and male athletes, baseball appears to have more male players, while softball has more female players.
Finally, softball isn’t as popular as baseball, which directly reflects on players’ salaries. More about this later – the differences are going to raise quite a few eyebrows!
Baseball Vs. Softball - Both Sports Compared And Analyzed In Detail
And here’s a more detailed comparison between the two sports. Keep in mind that the comparison implies adult baseball and softball leagues unless noted otherwise. Depending on the league, there may be other distinctions as well.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between softball and baseball is the field size. Softball fields are far smaller than baseball ones, which is the primary contributor to softball’s fast pace.
In baseball, the baseline is 90 feet long, while softball baselines are typically 60 feet long. In addition, the distance between the home plate and the outfield fence in baseball is approximately 400 feet, whereas in softball, it’s about 220 feet.
The second big difference between baseball and softball is pitching.
First up, the pitching distance in regulation baseball is 60 feet 6 inches. Baseballs often exceed 90 miles per hour in flight. In contrast, fastpitch softballs are pitched from a distance of 43-46 feet, with the ball typically exceeding 60 miles per hour.
There are differences in the pitcher’s spot as well. Baseball pitchers throw the ball from an elevated mound with a radius of 9 feet, while softball pitchers pitch from a flat pitching circle with a radius of 8 feet.
And interestingly, baseball pitches are usually thrown overhand (and sometimes sidearm), whereas softball pitches must be thrown underhand. Emphasis on the word “must” – softball rules require underhand throws, while baseball rules don’t have such restrictions. Baseball players usually choose to pitch overhand or sidearm to maximize speed.
There also are some variations in rules between slowpitch and fastpitch softball. More precisely, this concerns ball speed and arc restrictions. In slow pitch fastball, the ball typically must travel no higher than 6-12 feet above the ground. There are no such restrictions in fastpitch softball.
Ball size and construction
Baseballs are smaller than softballs – 9 vs. 11 or 12 inches in circumference. Softballs are heavier than baseballs as well – 6.25 to 7 ounces vs. 5 to 5.25 ounces in baseballs.
On the other hand, baseballs are harder and denser than softballs. Softball’s name comes precisely from the less dense construction of the ball.
Ball colors differ as well – baseballs are typically white with red stitching, while softballs are colored yellow.
Bat size, shape, and material
Bats in baseball are considerably longer than in softball. Baseball bats are up to 42 inches long, while softball bats go no longer than 32 inches. The diameter of baseball bats is also larger – typically about 2.5 inches, whereas softball bat diameter is usually about 2.25 inches.
Length-to-weight ratios (also called drop weight) have marked differences too. In wood baseball bats, the drop weight is usually -2 to -3, while softball bats tend to be from -3 to -5.
There are noticeable differences in material as well. Professional leagues require wooden bats, while softball bats may be made of composite materials, wood, and aluminum.
Bat shape may also vary. Softball bats have a longer barrel that sometimes takes up almost half of their length. They have thinner handles with constant width. Softball bats also have three well-defined portions – handle, taper, and barrel. This makes these bats shaped like bottles.
In contrast, baseball bats have thicker handles, often with varying diameters. Baseball bats additionally typically have less defined regions, which essentially makes them a very long taper.
When it comes to weight, baseball bats tend to be heavier and have smaller weight variability (due to the typical rule restricting the max drop weight to -3 in adult leagues). Most MLB players appear to use 32-34-ounce baseball bats, while softball bats are typically around 28 ounces.
Regulation baseball games are 9 innings, but there can be more innings in tied games. In contrast, softball games are 7 innings. Notably, softball games can end early if one team has a huge lead over the other.
High school and college baseball games have 6-7 innings, while softball games at the same level have 5 innings.
Softball and baseball have some differences in team members and in how substitution works:
- Fielders. Baseball and fastpitch softball have 9 fielders. Slowpitch softball, in contrast, has 10.
- Substitution. In baseball, players who have been substituted once can’t return to the game. In high school baseball, substituted players may return once. Pitchers may return too, but only as fielders. As for softball, fastpitch softball allows free defensive substitutions as long as each player occupies the same positions in the batting order.
- Extra players. Some leagues allow one designated hitter to bat in place of a fielder. This is a common occurrence in fastpitch softball. As for slowpitch softball, some leagues don’t have limits on extra players.
Baseball players earn way more annually than softball players. In April 2015, the average salaries in baseball exceeded $4 million for the first time, reaching $4.25 million. At the time, the highest-earning baseball player was Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, with $31 million, followed by Justin Verlander ($28 million), Zack Greinke ($27 million), and Josh Hamilton ($25.4 million).
Over the next five years, the average salary in baseball would stay around $4.4 million.
As for softball, well, there seem not to be any more or less serious studies into its salaries. But judging by what I have gathered online, most players earn 5 figures, with only a few exceeding the 6-figure mark. This makes for an astronomical difference between the two sports money-wise.
So that’s it for my baseball vs. softball guide!
I didn’t go too in-depth – if you want more, you should dig into each sport’s rulebooks. Rulebooks lay out requirements for equipment, field size, and player substitution, among other things. If you want to know every single detail, rulebooks are the way to go!