Recently I stumbled across an article highlighting how executives from an anonymous MLB team reached out to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information to request weather data for all of the cities in which they play. Given the importance that has been placed on analytics in this era of sports, it should come as no surprise that teams are looking to factors beyond the playing field and thinking outside of the box in attempts to gain any possible advantage.
This un-named team (but let's be honest, there’s a very good chance it is the Astros) did not disclose exactly how they would be using the data, but based on the information requested it is safe to assume the team is looking at factors beyond just wind and rain. More than likely these club executives are also taking account of temperature and humidity conditions at each ballpark. Both of these factors share one commonality which affects the flight of a baseball off the bat and out of a pitcher's hand - air density. On a very basic level air density is a measure of how many air molecules are present in a given area.
As the temperature warms air molecules begin to move faster causing the air to expand. This expansion leads to more space in between the molecules which in turn lowers air density. Humid air is also less dense, even though most people describe the air as feeling heavy when it is muggy out. The lower density is due to the fact that water molecules are actually smaller than the nitrogen and oxygen molecules that make up the majority of the air we breathe. When the air is more saturated (humid) water molecules displace more of those larger molecules creating a less dense air mass (Nerd moment – this is the same reason humid air rises to create storms).
Knowing what kind of temperatures and humidity levels to expect at certain stadiums can help teams make tweaks to their hitting and pitching strategy. In cooler or drier conditions the air is more dense which can lead to a little more movement on breaking pitches due to increased friction, while in hot and humid weather, or at high altitude like in Denver, the air is less dense giving fly balls a bit more oomph towards the fences.
In Houston we have an abundance of heat and humidity for 99% of baseball season which is part of the reason Minute Maid was built with the retractable roof. Although the overall effect of air density is rather small - when combined with the Astros’ ball-mashing lineup and short outfield corners, the heat and humidity are assets not to be discounted for the home team. So on those hot and muggy summer nights perhaps the Astros should open up the juice box and let the dingers fly.
Luka Doncic had 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and the Dallas Mavericks prevented the Houston Rockets from advancing to the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament with a 121-115 victory on Tuesday night.
Kyrie Irving added 22 of his 27 points in the second half for the Mavericks, who had already been eliminated. Their victory allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to win Group B in the Western Conference with a 3-1 record.
Doncic fell just short of his 59th career triple-double. That would have tied him for ninth place all-time with Larry Bird. He shot 15 of 29, 3 of 10 on 3-pointers.
“Sometimes we take him for granted, and we shouldn’t,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s about winning, but it just so happens he’s a walking triple-double.
”The Mavericks, who trailed by nine points in the third quarter, grabbed the lead for good at 99-98 with 6:25 to play on a drive by Irving. Leading 103-100 with 5:25 left, they went on an 8-2 run that included three free throws by Derrick Jones Jr. when he was fouled by Dillon Brooks on a 25-footer with the shot clock about to expire.
Jabari Smith Jr.’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds left pulled the Rockets within 119-115 before Dallas closed it out.
Doncic played after sustaining a low-grade sprain of his left thumb on his non-shooting hand early in Saturday’s game. He wore a wrap on the thumb.
Doncic made a hook shot from the free throw line after recovering a loose ball near the baseline.
“I’m 2 for 2 in my career on the hooks,” Doncic said, saying the other came while playing for the Slovenian national team against Sweden.
Irving shot 2 for 11 in the first half, 1 for 5 on 3-pointers, with no free-throw attempts. He was 6 for 11 in the second half, hitting 1 of 2 behind the arc, and sank all nine free throws.
“I told the team, ‘Played well enough to win, not smart enough to win,’” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We were extra-aggressive, especially at the end of the third quarter. Had multiple players make a few dumb fouls, put Kyrie at the line and got him going when he didn’t have a lot going. You can be aggressive, obviously, but slapping somebody on a 3-point shot on the arm is an unintelligent play. It has nothing to do with aggression.”
Alperen Sengun had a season-best 31 points for the Rockets, who had six scorers in double figures. Fred VanVleet had 10 points and 12 assists.
The Rockets have lost all six of their road games this season. They went into play leading the NBA by allowing an average of 104.4 points per game.
The Mavericks didn’t use the specially built court for either of their home tournament games, citing dissatisfaction with the quality.
Rockets: Will finish a back-to-back at Denver on Wednesday.
Mavericks: Host Memphis on Friday.