Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when climate scientists are pulling our legs or just proving themselves to be hysterical about climate change. A study by Dartmouth scientists is probably a little of both.
The Ivy League whizkids want us to believe that at least part of the reason for the increase in Major League home runs since 2010 was — you guessed it — anthropogenic climate change. Because the air is getting warmer, fly balls go farther, and over the course of a full season, the result is that around 50 more home runs are hit by major leaguers.
“Global warming is juicing home runs in Major League Baseball,” said study co-author Justin Mankin, a Dartmouth climate scientist.
The Associated Press helpfully gives us a physics lesson.
When air heats up, molecules move faster and away from each other, making the air less dense. Baseballs launched off a bat go farther through thinner air because there’s less resistance to slow the ball. Just a little bit farther can mean the difference between a homer and a flyout, said Alan Nathan, a University of Illinois physicist who wasn’t part of the Dartmouth study.
If that’s all there was to it, I’d nominate them myself for a fricking Nobel Prize. But Dr. Nathan and some other scientists have found plenty of other reasons for the increase in the long ball.
Non-climate factors contribute even more to the barrage of balls flying out of the park, scientists and baseball veterans said. The biggest is the ball and the size of the stitches, Nathan said, and MLB made slight adjustments to deaden the ball prior to the 2021 season. Others include batters’ recent attention to launch angle; stronger hitters; and faster pitches. The study started after the end of baseball’s infamous steroids era saw a spike in home runs.
Developing the proper launch angle is paramount to becoming a more consistent home run hitter. Computer-aided training and hundreds of hours in a batting cage are making average players fabulously wealthy. And since most general managers don’t care anymore if a player strikes out 150 times a year, when fanning that much would have sent you back to the minors in a previous era, the way to gain the Riches of Araby is to become a 30-home-run-a-year man by swinging for the fences with every pitch. If you connect? Cha-Ching. And if you swing and miss? Get ’em next time, slugger.
Another factor is that many MLB relief pitchers’ fastballs top 100 MPH. In 2010, there were just seven pitchers who reached the century mark at least once during the season. By 2018, that number had jumped to 105. Needless to say, the physics of a 100 MPH fastball making contact with a bat moving through the hitting zone at the optimum angle will produce more homers than an average fastball being swung on a level plane.
Again, computer analysis has shown the optimum pitching motion to achieve 100 MPH, and young pitchers are being meticulously trained to achieve that speed. It’s no guarantee the kid’s ticket will be punched for the majors — after all, there’s the little matter of being able to throw the ball over the plate for a strike and throw it where the hitter can’t hit it. But it’s easy to see a day coming when most relievers will be tickling 100 MPH with every pitch.
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None of this has anything to do with global warming, of course. The Dartmouth scientists wildly overstate the effect of “hotter, thinner air.” Claiming that global warming is responsible for a one-percent increase in home runs is not serious science, and anyone who takes it as anything but climate change propaganda is fooling himself.