Baseball physics & weather's impact

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Diamondbacks' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hits a home run at Chase Field. (Source: The Associated Press) Diamondbacks' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hits a home run at Chase Field. (Source: The Associated Press)
Jake Lamb celebrates with teammates after hitting a grand slam. (Source: The Associated Press) Jake Lamb celebrates with teammates after hitting a grand slam. (Source: The Associated Press)
Chase Field has the second-highest altitude in MLB. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Chase Field has the second-highest altitude in MLB. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Curt Schilling asked for the roof to be closed when he pitched for the Diamondbacks. (Source: The Associated Press) Curt Schilling asked for the roof to be closed when he pitched for the Diamondbacks. (Source: The Associated Press)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

There are the obvious ways weather impacts a baseball game. It could be sunny or cloudy. It could be raining, at which point, most teams have to stop playing. But baseball physics is fast becoming an interesting field that many are studying and coming up with some interesting results.

First, my personal least-favorite thing said by a sports announcer on a hot, humid day: "The air is heavier today so the ball isn’t going to carry as well."

Wrong. Humid air is actually lighter than drier air. Hence, a baseball hit on a humid day will actually travel farther.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog]

What about Dodger Stadium, they say. It gets humid in there at night and the ball won’t carry.

You’re right, except it’s not the humidity, it’s the temperature. The temperature drops at night. Temperature is a much bigger factor in how far a baseball flies compared to humidity.

[RELATED: Experts: Impact of humidor at Chase Field could be significant]

Here are a few tidbits from The Physics of Baseball. A ball that would travel 400 feet in “normal” conditions goes:

  • 6 feet farther if the altitude is 1,000 feet higher. Think Chase Field and Coors Field
  • 4 feet farther for every 10 degrees warmer
  • 4 feet farther if the ball is 10 degrees warmer
  • 4 feet farther for every 1-inch drop in barometric pressure.

We all know the wind has an impact on a fly ball, but how much?

That same ball hit 400 above is helped by a 15 mph wind blowing out would travel about 445 feet. Hit into the 15 mph wind, the ball is a catchable fly ball and travels about 375 feet.

So you might be thinking the wind isn’t a factor over at Chase Field where the Diamondbacks play. It's probably not a major factor, but when the roof is open and the giant “panels” in the outfield are open, there is air movement through the stadium, most days probably headed “out” toward the outfield.

Remember in the early 2000s when Curt Schilling asked to have the roof and doors closed when he pitched? He believed the ball carried more when the stadium is open.

None of this speaks to the fantastic increase in home runs in 2017 in the MLB. Most experts say one, or all, of three things have happened to the ball, the most important part of the equation. It’s either slightly smaller, which would reduce drag, the laces could also be on tighter and lower, which would reduce drag, or the ball itself is harder, allowing it to jump off the bat more like a golf ball.

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