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Weather—or not?

Do the bats really heat up with the temperature?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Thus far in 2022, Twins home games have been perhaps the worst I can recall weather-wise. This isn’t an apocryphal or hyperbolic statement—the facts bear it out. Truly a rough “spring” in these parts. Even the Twins’ road contests—in Boston & Kansas City—haven’t exactly been short-sleeve affairs.

An old baseball adage states that “the bats heat up with the warmer weather”—but is that true or more along the lines of an old wives tale? Being a scholar at heart and a librarian by trade, I figured the best place to start sleuthing was scientific journals—and I hit pay dirt!

In an article from the 2013 Weather, Climate, & Society publication, researchers Brandon Lee D. Koch & Anna K. Panorska discovered—after analyzing weather & stat details from 2000-2011 contests—that offensive production was indeed higher in warm temperatures as opposed to cold temps. Runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, and home runs—most notably—all increased when the sweat was glistening, while walks declined.

BBA-TWINS-YANKEES-MIENTKIEWICZ
This type of baseball headgear is not conducive to offensive slugfests
Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

Buoyed by this interesting finding, I decided to dust off my own researcher’s cap—errr, Baseball Reference link & spreadsheet—for some Twins-centric weather analysis. Starting in 2010 when the Twins ventured back into the great outdoors, I compared the team OPS in regular season March/April/September/Oct contests to that of May/June/July/August games.

The results (skipping 2020 for general pandemic wackiness)...

  • 2010: .736 (cold months) vs .778 (warm months) = (+42)
  • 2011: .637 vs .679 (+42)
  • 2012: .702 vs .724 (+22)
  • 2013: .683 vs .696 (+13)
  • 2014: .740 vs .699 (-41)
  • 2015: .675 vs .717 (+42)
  • 2016: .703 vs .753 (+50)
Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins
Maybe a really warm ‘16 summer helped Dozier crank all those dongs?
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
  • 2017: .756 vs .769 (+13)
  • 2018: .728 vs .720 (-8)
  • 2019: .797 vs .849 (+52)
  • 2021: .723 vs .745 (+22)

Though fully realizing that more than just weather factors into OPS production, this seems to support the researched findings (2014 being a big outlier & 2018 a smaller one). Not taken into consideration were the actual temperature values of each season, so perhaps that explains some of the variation.

Of course, never in baseball—or research— is anything ever that cut-and-dry. Another study in our trusty Weather, Climate, & Society publication—this time from Wes P. Kent & Scott C. Sheridan—looked at 1987-2002 games and actually found offense to decline during clear-sky day games as opposed to cloudy-sky games. Batter strikeouts? Way up under a cloudless atmosphere.

For a team like the ‘22 Twins—loaded with all-or-nothing sluggers—the summer warm-up and dry-out literally can’t come soon enough. Hopefully by the time it does, it won’t already be too late to vault back into competitiveness.

But that’s the thing with meteorology. As famed teen time-traveler Marty McFly once noted...