How the polar vortex might mess up MLB All-Star activities


Yasiel Puig (Chris Carlson/AP)

The polar vortex is on its way back again, say forecasters, meaning it’s going to be unseasonably cool in much of the continental United States next week. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang writes:

Bearing a haunting resemblance to January’s brutally cold weather pattern, a deep pool of cool air from the Gulf of Alaska will plunge into the Great Lakes early next week and then ooze towards the East Coast.

The brunt of the cold spell is forecast to affect Minneapolis, Minnesota, the home of this year’s MLB All-Star week of activities. Not only will spectators likely need to don fleeces and jackets in the stands during the event, during which temperatures could dip down into the lower fifties, but they also might be in for a disappointment when it comes to the hit parade known as the Home Run Derby. Data analyses show that the colder the temperature the less far a baseball will travel.

(Alan M. Nathan/Baseball Prospectus)
(Alan M. Nathan/Baseball Prospectus)

The above data crunched and plotted by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Professor Emeritus of Physics Alan Nathan in Baseball Prospectus of actual home runs shows that a baseball will travel roughly 10 feet less far on a 50-degree day than on a 90-degree day. In an average year, the high in July is 84 degrees.

On the less chilly side, the high projected in Minneapolis on Monday is around 70 degrees, which will make a big difference in the ball’s flight time compared to if it dips to 50. In that case, the ball will travel just three or four feet less far than if it was 84 degrees, according to Nathan’s study. With that in mind, if a player slugs a ball 401 feet right down the center, just three feet short of the back wall at Target Field, you might want to wildly applaud anyway.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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