As The World Series Heats Up Wednesday Night, Temperature — Air Temperature That Is — Will Play A Factor
The temperature of Wednesday night's game in the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals may affect how far the players hit the ball, and even how many home runs they hit.
"Temperature probably will play a role tonight," Dr. Alan M. Nathan, Professor Emeritus of Physics at University of Illinois and avid Boston Red Sox fan, told iScienceTimes. "The temperature is probably going to be cold. The ball doesn't carry as far in cold weather as in hot weather." All other things being equal, for every 10 degrees rise in temperature, a batted ball will fly 2.5 feet further than it would otherwise, he said. "For each 10 degrees drop in temperature, the baseball will carry 2.5 feet less," he added.
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"The difference between October and August weather can be significant," Dr. Nathan said. "So temperature matters."
Temperature matters because the colder the air becomes, the denser it becomes, creating more resistance to the batter's ball.
Dr. Nathan is standing on the shoulders of giants, particularly Robert Adair, also a physics professor emeritus, but at Yale University, who created something of a sensation in 1990 with his book, The Physics of Baseball, now in its third edition. Dr. Adair arrived at his conclusions while holding the unusual title of "Physicist to the National League."
The impact of temperature on the distance a batted ball can fly though the air would in turn have an impact on the number of possible home runs, Dr. Adair figured. A reduction in distance reduced the number of home runs accordingly. So, a one percent reduction in distance of a batted ball corresponded to a seven percent reduction in number of home runs. Dr. Nathan, using more up-to-date data, found that a one percent reduction in distance reduced the home run probability by about 10 percent, and published his results in the August issue of the subscription web magazine, Baseball Prospectus.
"Adair's estimate is remarkably good considering that he did not have the benefit of the extensive data that we now have," Dr. Nathan said. He declined to make a prediction about Wednesday night's game, when temperatures are predicted to be at around 50 Degrees Fahrenheit, because the influence on homeruns only makes itself known over many games, or in close calls, he said. "There's not enough home runs in any one game to notice a difference," he said.
But temperature made a huge difference for David Ortiz, of the Boston Red Sox, who played Game 1 of the World Series in mid- to high-40's weather, Dr. Nathan said. "David Ortiz of the Red Sox just missed a home run. I can say that with a great deal of assurance that would have been a homerun if the temperature had been warmer."
That both Drs. Nathan and Adair devoted their professional lives to particle physics — the collisions of subatomic particles -- is probably not coincidental. The two physicists are now just contemplating much bigger particles, or, as Dr. Nathan writes on his baseball physics website, instead of researching the collision of subatomic particles, he's pondering "the collision of ash with cowhide."
As Dr. Nathan told iScienceTimes , "My own interest in the study of the collision between ball and bat came after studying the collision of particles. Or, maybe from just being a baseball fan."
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