Triple-digit LA heat could make for hottest World Series game on record
(KOMO) -- The World Series is supposed to be the "Fall Classic" but this year, there is nothing autumn-esque about it.
An intense heat wave is roasting southern California with temperatures predicted it hit around 100 degrees on both Monday and for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, and an Excessive Heat Warning is in effect for the region.
If 100 degrees for a game that close to Halloween seems...unusual. You'd be right. NOAA Meteorologist Alex Lammers thought so too and went back and researched the First Pitch temperature for playoff games going back as far as the data was available on BaseballReference.com.
He found that the hottest first pitch temperature for a playoff game since data was available (starting in 1997) was 94 degrees during Game 1 of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix when the Arizona Diamondbacks played against the New York Yankees. (Yes, the Diamondbacks play in a stadium with a retractable roof, but MLB wanted the roof open despite the heat, according to this article in ESPN).
Five of the six hottest temperatures on Lammers' list were playoff games in Phoenix, with the only other one being a 93 degree NLDS game at Los Angeles.
What about before 1997? First pitch stadium temperature data isn't available, but according to MLB historian John Thorn, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar went back and matched temperatures in the city at what would have been first pitch time and found just four other games that were above 90 degrees in the respective home city -- three of them in the same World Series; the three home games the Oakland Athletics had in 1974. Also one home game in St. Louis in 1944.
Suffice to say, 90 degree World Series games are pretty rare, and 100 is unheard of. But hot weather in October is not unusual in Los Angeles or Houston, so neither team should find themselves unacclimated to playing in hot weather, as opposed to if, say, the Twins or Mariners were the A.L. representative (A Seattle blogger can dream, can't I?)
Who has the advantage in hotter weather?
Speaking of struggling American League playoff teams from the Seattle area, a few years ago I wrote a blog trying to deduce of Seattle's cool late spring/early summer weather was a reason the offense has had occasional issues early in the season.
It turns out that temperature can indeed affect the distance of a ball hit into the outfield. As air warms, it become less dense, and allows balls to travel farther. Research indicates that all else being equal, every 4 degree increase in temperature adds about 1 foot to a ball that would travel 400 feet in standard conditions.
A normal day in Los Angeles this time of year is in the mid-upper 70s so a 20-25 degree heat anomaly would add roughly 5-6 feet on a 400-foot ball. If Cody Bellinger or George Springer hit it 30 rows deep, it won't matter, but any balls to warning track under normal conditions, may have enough distance to clear the fence this time.
But it could lead to on average nearly a run more per game. MLB.com's Mike Petriello found that at least at Dodger Stadium, teams score on average 4.36 runs per game when it's 90 or hotter there as opposed to just under 4 runs a game with temps in the 70s. That number drops to 3.85 when the temp drops below 60 but no worries about that in L.A as temps might not cool below 70 during this heat wave.
Thus, the sizzling World Series will put more pressure on the pitching -- both as far as thinner margin for error for mistakes and perhaps a quicker fatigue factor so you'd think the bullpens will become more of a factor than had this game been played in more temperate conditions. In that case, you'd think the Dodgers would have a bit of an added advantage in the heat the way their bullpen has been pitching in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the hitters will be licking their chops -- or as much as you can while still realizing you're facing previous Cy Young winners.