Guest “Just a bit outside! ” by David Middleton
After reading Anthony’s excellent takedown of the claim that climate change is causing more homeruns in Major League Baseball, one thing really stood out: The authors of the BAMS paper didn’t know jack schist about baseball.
Here’s the abstract of the BAMS paper:
Global warming, home runs, and the future of America’s pastime
Christopher W. Callahan, Nathaniel J. Dominy, Jeremy M. DeSilva, and Justin S. Mankin
Online Publication: 07 Apr 2023
Home runs in baseball—fair balls hit out of the field of play—have risen since 1980, driving strategic shifts in gameplay. Myriad factors likely account for these trends, with some speculating that global warming has contributed via a reduction in ballpark air density. Here we use observations from 100,000 Major League Baseball games and 220,000 individual batted balls to show that higher temperatures substantially increase home runs. We isolate human-caused warming with climate models, finding that >500 home runs since 2010 are attributable to historical warming. Several hundred additional home runs per season are projected due to future warming. Adaptations such as building domes on stadiums or shifting day games to night games reduce temperature’s effects on America’s pastime. Our results highlight the myriad ways that a warmer planet will restructure our lives, livelihoods, and recreation, some quantifiable and easily adapted to, as shown here, many others, not.
*Corresponding author, Christopher.W.Callahan.GR@dartmouth.edu
Their claim can easily be refuted with baseball statistics.
Most of what follows deals with the intricacies of baseball and, more specifically, baseball statistics. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, and you ask nicely, I’ll try to explain the terminology in the comments section. If I tried to explain it in the main body of the post, I’d never finish writing it.
I’m fairly certain that Earl Nash isn’t a climastrologist, but he had it figured out 10 years ago.
Pitching Mound History–balance between pitchers and batters
By Earl Nash
Dec 13, 2013
The last time MLB made a major rule change for the Pitchers’ mound was 1969. In 1904 the height of the mound was limited to no more than15 inches higher than the level of the baselines and pitchers were prohibited from soiling a new ball.
In reaction to the complete dominance of pitching over hitting in 1968, MLB attempted to recalibrate the balance to favor the hitters by lowering the mound 5 inches to a height of 10” inches above baseline.
This was one change that was part of a general policy to make the game more exciting for fans by increasing the number of hits and runs scored, which later led to the intrusion of the DH rule in 1976.
Media consultants told MLB that only purists enjoyed shutouts and close, low-scoring games—“pitchers’ matches”—and that the majority of fans wanted to see more scoring and more HRs.
When the Steroid Era arrived and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were “chasing the Babe,” Commissioner Bud Selig promoted the race and, since it was creating more fan interest and revenues for MLB, he continued to turn a blind eye to the readily apparent used of steroids.
Prior to the Steroid Scandal in MLB, most sudden changes in the delicate balance between the pitcher and the batter was attributed to “juiced” baseballs, “corked” bats, and the height of the mound.
Personally, I love a good pitchers’ duel. I once had the pleasure of seeing Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan in an awesome pitchers’ duel at the old Arlington Stadium.
Ryan and the Rangers defeated Clemens and the Red Sox by a score of 2-1, on Rafael Palmeiro’s 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning. Arlington Stadium was a small ballpark. Even though we were sitting in the right field bleachers, the sound of their fastballs popping in the catchers’ mitts was remarkable. Ryan struck out 11 Red Sox in 8 innings; while Clemens struck out 6 Rangers in 9 innings. The funny thing is that homeruns and strikeouts go together like baseball and hot dogs… Or like baseball and statistics for that matter.
For major league baseball statistics, my go-to website is baseball-reference.com. For climate data, I relied on Wood For Trees.
The number of homeruns per team-game has been steadily increasing since Cro-Magnon Man threw out the first pitch in 1871 and this has coincided with the warming depicted in HadCRUT4 NH and most other temperature anomaly records:
Allegedly some of the increase in homerun frequency since 1962 is the result of warmer, less dense air converting some long flyballs into homeruns. OK… ‘splain this then:
The number of strikeouts per team-game has also increased along with the alleged rise in temperatures; while the ratio of strikeouts to homeruns has remained relatively flat since 1920.
Anyone who’s ever been a serious baseball fan, knows that there is a strong tendency for power hitters to strikeout more frequently than contact hitters; although this is not a universal rule.
JUN. 25, 2019, AT 3:18 PM
You Can’t Have Home Runs Without Strikeouts
Literally so. The ratio between the two hasn’t changed throughout history.
Filed under MLB
The defining characteristics of baseball in 2019 are the home run and the strikeout. Both are at all-time highs as of Tuesday. Make no mistake, the two statistics are closely related — and have been throughout baseball history.
This season, as of Tuesday, there are 6.4 strikeouts per homer. The average in the Live Ball Era, which began in 1920, is 6.5. So when adjusting homers in relation to strikeouts, 2019 is nearly a perfectly average year, ranking 45th out of the last 100 seasons in terms of most strikeouts per homer leaguewide. And note that just four of the top 20 seasons with the fewest strikeouts per homer have occurred after the Expansion Era began in 1961: 1961 (5.51 strikeouts per home run), 2000 (5.51), 1987 (5.62) and 1999 (5.62), according to Baseball-Reference.com.
When will the feedback loop of strikeouts begetting homers end? Never, if we’re to believe the sport’s preeminent sage, Bill James, who predicted these changes many years ago. He referred to it as “the push/pull effect.” Baseball now knows that getting more strikeouts has come to define being a better pitcher. But decision-makers are well beyond the point in which they believe the best hitters strike out less. In fact, teams now seem to be acknowledging what James has long contended — “strikeout-prone hitters are slightly better.” Simply put, hitters don’t care a whit about whiffing.
“So you have upward push on the strikeout column from pitcher selection, but no downward push from batter selection,” James wrote. “The result of this is that strikeouts go up over time.” And, apparently, so do homers.
Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Michael Salfino is a freelance writer in New Jersey. His work can be found on The Athletic and the Wall Street Journal.
The full article is well worth reading.
From what I recall, Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, and I shared the same gateway drug to statistics: Baseball, particularly Bill James and Sabermetrics.
It stands to reason, that if climate change was converting long flyballs into homeruns, it would also be converting shallow fly balls into long flyballs and we would see an increase in the number of sacrifice flyouts.
Looks like climate change is very selective in how it converts flyballs into homeruns. It must only be “juicing” long flyballs.
If climate change is causing more deep flyballs to sail over the fence, then the ratio of homeruns to flyballs (HR/FB) should be increasing… Right? I could only locate HR/FB data back to 1988. This should be good enough, because that’s the year that Al Gore and James Hansen invented Gorebal Warming.
It would appear that the HR/FB ratio is not changing in a statistically meaningful manner.
The historical increase in the rate of homeruns can clearly be explained by:
- Changes in baseball rules designed to make “the game more exciting”
- Improvements in physical conditioning, training and equipment
- The gradual acceptance that an increase in strikeouts is a good tradeoff for more homeruns
The claim that global warming is “juicing” MLB homeruns would appear to be…