Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pitchers Thrive After Delays

As I write this entry, the New York Mets are playing the Cubs in Shea Stadium. The first pitch was scheduled to be tossed at a little past 1 p.m., Eastern. No big deal, right. Under ordinary circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, what was supposed to be a day game following a night game, turned into a matinee following a morning game, one that ended just more than 12 hours prior. Rain delayed the start of last night’s contest by a little more than three hours. It ended at 12:53 a.m. with the Cubbies claiming an 8-1 win. The wait didn’t bother Chicago starting hurler Jorge Sosa, who pitched seven innings of one-hit baseball. He also struck out five Mets. Here are some interesting tidbits from the Associated Press:

The game didn't start until 10:17 p.m., a 3 hour, 7 minute delay because of a steady rain that began in the late afternoon. The skies darkened above the stadium at about 4:00 p.m., and the crew scurried to put the tarp over the infield before the rain started. The rain stopped for good at 9:35, and the tarp was removed to thunderous applause from the thousands of soggy Shea Stadium faithful who stayed to watch the game.

A smattering of fans stayed to the end, and they saw Mets All-Star Jose Reyes leave the game after an eighth-inning single with slight tightness in his left hamstring. Reyes said he was fine afterward and would play on Thursday.
The Mets are offering all ticket holders for Wednesday night's game free tickets to one of the three games against the Minnesota Twins, who will be in town June 18-20.

In the photo above, Mets reliever Aaron Sele waits for the rain to stop.

Wednesday night’s game between the Tigers and Red Sox in Fenway Park was postponed because of rain. The second game of the series between two of the American League’s top teams will be made up today as part of a doubleheader. Elsewhere, the Brewers and home-standing Phillies were forced to wait 92 minutes before commencing their Wednesday night game. No big deal for Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels, who carried a perfect game into the seventh inning. Hamels lost the perfecto bid on a walk to Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks. A batter later, J.J. Hardy spoiled the no-hit performance and shutout with a two-run homer. The suddenly hot Phillies won 6-2. In Chicago, the Yanks and White Sox had the second game of their day-night double dip delayed an hour and 15 minutes because of rain. The game followed a make-up game that was postponed by rain on Tuesday. The Yanks, after losing the opener, bounced back to win 8-1 in the nightcap.

Weather Term of the Day
DRIZZLE -- Slowly falling precipitation in the form of tiny water droplets with diameters less than 0.02 inches or 0.5 millimeters. It falls from stratus clouds and is often associated with low visibility and fog. It is reported as "DZ" in an observation and on the METAR.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tagged Out At The Tarp

Rick Dempsey used to make sliding on the tarp during a rain delay look like so much fun. Who wouldn’t want to take a huge run-and-go and glide several feet across a wet, slick tarpaulin? But unless you’re a player or someone whose job requires an on-field presence, you’ll most likely be arrested trying to pull off the stunt. That’s what happened to the poor fellow in the photo above Tuesday night when he was caught by a Chicago White Sox security guard. There’s no official word yet, but we think he made the slide before he was busted. The game between the Sox and Yankees Tuesday was eventually postponed after 10:30 p.m., Chicago time, and has been rescheduled for 1:05 p.m. (CDT) today as part of a day-night doubleheader. (AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

Intersting note: On this date, May 16, in 1945, every American League game was postponed by rain, for the fourth consecutive day.

Weather Term of the Day:
ANVIL -- The upper portion of a cumulonimbus cloud that becomes flat and spread-out, sometimes for hundreds of miles downstream from the parent cloud. It may look smooth or fibrous, but in shape, it resembles a blacksmith's anvil. It indicates the mature or decaying stage of a thunderstorm.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Science Behind The Splash Hit

The Mets' Carlos Delgado launched a Mike Morris pitch deep to right field Wednesday that quickly found its way over the 24-foot-high right field fence and into the cool waters of McCovey Cove. The Giants radio crew quickly pointed out that the Splash Hit was only the 56th since AA&T Park opened in 2000.

That number was a bit surprising to me and the play-by-play guy – it wasn't John Miller, but the other guy. Of those, 42 have been hit by the home team, and not surprisingly, 34 Splash Hits have come off the bat of Barry Bonds. Still the total of 56 seems a bit low. Before the park opened, there was much hype surrounding the possibility of numerous Splash Hits.

So why are there fewer deposits into McCovey's Cove than we expected? The answer, of course, can be explained by physics and meteorology. Unfortunately, I'm no expert in either subject, so, to learn more, I went Googling.

A 2004 article in the San Francisco Chronicle gives a bit of insight into the subject from high school physics teacher Paul Robinson who was determined to get to the bottom of the physics involved in the Splash Hit. Below are some excerpts from the article.

Before he was done, Robinson would be crawling around the stadium with a tape measure during the offseason, checking distances, discovering among other things that the right-field wall is a little lower than the 24 feet advertised by the team.
He studied classic baseball-physics research by Robert Adair of Yale University and Mont Hubbard of UC Davis. He pondered his own view of the water from his charter seats in Section 317, behind home plate.

Robinson got together with a couple of computer simulation software experts, and …
Together, they analyzed the key factors that account for the distance a batted baseball can reach -- angle and speed of the ball leaving the bat, mostly, but also ambient temperature and the aerodynamic lift produced by backspin. All this data was then loaded into an MSC proprietary computer program, called "Interactive Physics," that was customized for the dimensions and odd outfield angles of SBC Park (Now AT&T Park), including a left-handed Bondsian hitter standing in.

So, what did they learn?

If the program can be believed, a hitter must get the baseball moving at least 105 mph off the bat straight down the right-field line, imparting a strong 1,800 rpm backspin, lifting the ball somewhere between about 30 to 45 degrees, in order to have any real chance of making the water. And that assumes no wind blowing the ball back toward home plate or toward the deepest part of the outfield, which often seems to be the case at SBC (AT&T) Park.

Sharply hit line drives -- a speed of 130 mph and a 15 degree angle -- smash into the outfield bricks. Lofty fly balls hit steeper than 45 degrees can reach an impressive 150-200 feet in elevation above the outfield, but unless they are hit at maximum velocity, which seems unrealistic for such a steep angle, they tend to fall back well short of the cove.

Practically any ball hit toward the gap in right-center, where the wall stands 365 feet from home plate, is doomed to stay dry. Even a 120-mph screamer hit an optimum angle of 42 degrees won't make it without a near- maximum boost from backspin.

That explains the physics behind launching the stitched-up spheroid (I said spheroid, not steroid. Bonds fans tend to get a little uncomfortable when you mention the ladder.), but there really isn't any information concerning the atmospheric conditions that may come into play except for a brief mention of wind blowing off the bay. I'm sure that explains much, but we also need to take in account altitude and humidity.

Further Googling turned up nothing about atmospheric conditions at AT&T, but I did find an interesting article from the Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette. The story was published in 2001 when the Pirates opened PNC Park, and its writer, Chuck Finder, asked similar questions about the Pirates new pad. Finder's article did investigate atmospheric conditions and he wrote about the chances of what he called an Alleghany Splashdown at PNC.

Pittsburgh ranks second in the NL to the Mile High City in altitude, even if we're some 5,100 feet behind Denver. The North Side home to PNC Park is roughly 730 feet above sea level. In baseball, this translates to a 1- to 1.5-percent increase in home-run distance. "So that's as much as 6 more feet for a ball hit around 440," (John) Pastier (of the Society of American Baseball research) said.

Humidity helps homers, too. The air, although it doesn't feel it to us, is lighter for baseball air travel. So the sticky summer here translates to another foot increase in distance.

Finally, there's the variable of wind. The Pirates commissioned in 1999 a wind study that showed breezes around PNC Park would travel from left field to right, up to 15 mph. Such a blow could amount to a decent tailwind. "That could add several feet," Pastier said.

Finder added this about wind coming into play at both the San Francisco and Pittsburgh ballparks:

You might think San Francisco would have a windy advantage over Pittsburgh. But the Giants constructed their park in such a way that it served to mitigate the wind, although sometimes 2 to 10 mph breezes would curl around the right-field-line seats and sneak into play in that short-porch corner.

Notes: Perhaps Carlos Delgado has been studying up on his physics and knows all about the physical mechanics behind achieving the Splash Hit. Of the 14 visiting team home runs to splash down into McCovey Cove, three have been hit Delgado, including the last two and both were hit off Matt Morris. …The Giants web site features a listing of each Spash Hit, and includes video of each hit by a San Francisco player. ...Splash, Starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks, was a hit in 1984. …Below is video from YouTube of Gary Faselli after he caught a Bonds' home run while boating in McCovey Cove in April.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Grounds Crew Removing the Tarp at Great American Ball Park

Just for fun, here's some YouTube footage of the grounds crew removing the tarp at Great American Ball Park. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Columnist Has Idea For New Rain Dance

Mark Woods, a metro columnist at The Times-Union in Jacksonville, is at The Players Championship this week, and apparently, has figured out how to bring some much-needed rain to the area: Leave your umbrella in the car. Woods writes that is exactly what he did Tuesday, and sure enough, the rains came down leaving him all wet. Wildfires keep popping up in Florida, and more than 100,000 acres have burned in Georgia. Rain is being forecasted for the rest of the week, and if any of the visiting PGA golfers complain about the precipitation, Woods suggests this punishment: "Any golfer who complains about dry, windy conditions making the greens unfair shall be immediately taken to the nearest wildfire and handed a hose." Not a bad idea. You can read Woods' column in its entirety here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rain Halts Hawkeyes Win Streak

The Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team is soaring, winning their last 12 consecutive games. Rain, however, grounded the team this Sunday and prevented the team from further extending its winning streak. The series finale with rival Indiana was canceled on Sunday when storms hit Banks Field with the Hawkeyes leading 1-0. The game will not be made up. This from the Daily Iowan:

Instead of runs around the bases, the Hawkeyes raced makeshift boats in puddles in front of their dugout. Rather than stolen base slides, director of baseball operations Matt Haddy dove across the slick tarp covering the infield after an almost two-hour rain delay.

Richmond Rain Pushes Race To Sunday

NASCAR got all wet Saturday night in Richmond and had to postpone its Crown Royal 400 until Sunday. Jet dryers were used to prepare the track's surface after rain fell before the start on the race on the Richmond International Raceway. However, threatening skies gave way to a downpour leading to the postponement after only 12 low-speed laps. Some cars nearly slid off the track before the action was halted. I'm not much of a NASCAR fan, but I hear that Jimmie Johnson won the race on a dry track Sunday.

Juan Pablo Montoya is not used to rain delaying races, The News & Advance out Lynchburg, Va., reports. Montoya came over to NASCAR this year after running on the Formula 1 circuit, where races are not stopped because of rain, but rather racing slicks are exchanged for grooved rain tires.

"Probably the best story is when half the field in Formula One wrecked in the same corner in Brazil. When was that, like 2003? It was raining hard, but there was like a river coming across the track," Montoya said.

Weekend Baseball Delays
I love photos of grounds crews working their tarp magic at the ol' ballpark. Above is an AP photo of the crew members at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City removing the tarp after heavy rain delayed the start of the Royals' game with Detroit by 26 minutes. The Tigers won 13-4. (AP Photo/Dick Whipple). The first pitch of the Reds game with the Colorado Rockies Saturday night at the Great American Ballpark was delayed by 61 minutes.

Tennis Action On The Skids
Who knew there was a Steffi Graf Stadium? I guess a lot of people in Germany know of its existence, but today was the first I, a Steffi fan, had heard about it. Anyway, the Getty Images photo above shows fans waiting through a rain delay on the opening day of the Qatar German Open. Nothing exciting here, but it does give me a chance to mention Steffi on The Rainout Blog. …Justine Henin defeated Alona Bondarenko 6-1, 6-3 Monday to win her second J&S Cup title after rain postponed Sunday's action for a day.

SPRINKLES: A high school baseball tournament in Illinois scheduled to begin last Friday was postponed a day because of tornado warnings and a visible funnel cloud that appeared near the ballpark. "I've never been tornadoed out," said Mike Waldo, pitching coach of the host team Edwardsville Tigers. The twister appeared just as the visiting team was taking infield practice. …A writer for is asking why the recent rain-plagued cricket World Cup was not played in February and March when weather in the Caribbean has less humidity and rain.

Weather Term of the Day:
TORNADO ALLEY -- A geographic corridor in the United States which stretches north from Texas to Nebraska and Iowa. In terms of sheer numbers, this section of the United States receives more tornadoes than any other.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Yankees, Rangers Complete Stormy Series

A severe storm washed out Wednesday night's game in Arlington, Texas between the Rangers and New York Yankees, forcing the two teams to play a doubleheader Thursday. Another storm swept through the area briefly during the second game, but this time halted the action for only 40 minutes. The AP photo above shows the grounds crew removing the tarp while a rainbow appears above the ballpark. The Yankees went on to win game two, thus sweeping the double dip and the series from the Rangers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Sprinkles: There still is a 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms for Saturday's 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, according the Louisville, Ky., bureau of the National Weather Service. Friday, USA-Today quoted meteorologist Don Kirkpatrick of the NWS as saying, "Some of those (storms) in the afternoon could get into the strong level, as far as producing small hail and that sort of thing." However, the forecaster went on to say that those storms were not expected to hit Churchill Downs. By the way, Storm in May is a long shot at 30-1. Below you can watch Smarty Jones take the 2004 Derby crown in the Kentucky mud …Rain has suspended play at the Italian Open. Joakim Backstrom of Sweden was leading when the rains began. I don't Tiger is playing this event. He's getting wet in Charlotte, N.C. (above) …Forecasters say rain is likely in Richmond, Va., for Saturday night's NASCAR race there, so expect many delays.

(Tiger Woods photo -- AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Weather Term of the Day:
SQUALL -- A sudden onset of strong winds with speeds increasing to at least 16 knots (18 miles per hour) and sustained at 22 or more knots (25 miles per hour) for at least one minute. The intensity and duration is longer than that of a gust. It is reported as "SQ"s in an observation and on the METAR.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rain May Fall on Derby Saturday

At the moment, it looks as though the skies will clear over Churchill
Downs by late afternoon Saturday in time for the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Rain has scattered over Louisville this week, affecting pre-race races and horse workouts. The Associated Press photo above shows fans watching morning workouts today while hiding under umbrellas. The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 80 degrees and a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday morning and a 30 percent chance in the afternoon.

"That may change by the time we get to Saturday but as it looks right now, there's a good chance we'll have a wet track," Don Kirkpatrick of the NWS said to The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

The Courier-Journal’s Web site has a great weather page that allows Derby fans to keep continuous check on the weather with updated forecasts and radar images. Ahhh, gotta love those radar images.

And if you’re interested in the weather history of the Derby – and who wouldn’t be interested, right? – the newspaper’s Web site also offers a year-by-year account of rain, high and low temperatures and so forth though the previous 132 races. To get ya started, I’ll tell ya that the wettest Derby day was in 1918 when 2.31 inches of rain fell on the track. Oh, mudder.

Weather Term of the Day:
METEOROLOGY/METEOROLOGIST -- The science and study of the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena. Various areas of meteorology include agricultural, applied, astrometerology, aviation, dynamic, hydrometeorology, operational, and synoptic, to name a few. A scientist who studies the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena.
Related term: Dave's Dictionary

Severe Storm Forces Yankees and Rangers to Play Two Today In Arlington

Nearly four inches of rain fell in about 40 minutes Wednesday on and around the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, forcing the postponement the team’s game with the New York Yankees. Batting practice was cut short for the Yanks as tornado warnings were announced for the surrounding Tarrant County. As lightning and 80-mph wind gusts moved toward the stadium, fans in the ballpark were asked to take cover from the severe thunderstorm in concourses, hallways and restroom, as is the scene in the AP photo above. At the height of the storm, it was impossible to see the outfield fence from the press box because of the sheets of blowing rain, observes said.

"I was out there a little while and I thought the scoreboard was going to blow down. I've never seen anything like it," said Rangers backup catcher Chris Stewart.

The game was called at 8:15 p.m., local time. The postponed game is scheduled to be made up today as part of a doubleheader. The second game, originally scheduled to be played today, will begin 20 minutes following game one. Forecasters say there is a 40 percent chance of rain for the Arlington area today.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Milan Blanks United in Rain-Soaked Champions League Match

Alberto Gilardino and Clarence Seedorf each scored goals to propel Milan to a 3-nill win over Manchester United Wednesday in the Champions League semi-final match being played at at Milan's San Siro Stadium. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Kaka celebrates after scoring Milan's first goal against Manchester United.

Rain, Lightning Suspends Bucs-Cubs

Tuesday night's Pirates-Cubs game in Pittsburgh was suspended in the bottom of the seventh inning when heavy rain and lightning struck down on PNC Park. The game is slated to be resumed today at 12:35 p.m. with the Cubbies leading 6-5, and the Pirates coming to bat, we hope sans those hideous red alternate jerseys. The rain began falling in the top of the seventh, just when Chicago was staging a rally in which the Windy City squad battled back from a 5-2 deficit.

An afternoon game that was originally scheduled for today will begin approximately 20-30 after the completion of the suspended game.

Last night's rain delay lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes before the announcement of the suspension. Only a handful of fans remained in the stands at the time of the announcement. According to the Pirates official Web site, the last time the Pirates played in a suspended was against the Cubs in Chicago on April 20, 1986. That game was suspended at the end of the 13th inning with the score tied at 8-8. The Pirates later won the game in the 15th inning, 10-8.

Last night's game suspension was the result of a new rule set forth by major League Baseball at the beginning of this season, and explained best by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jim Rodenbush:

Once a game becomes official and is stopped, it will be suspended if a.) the score is tied or b.) the visiting team takes the lead in the top half of an inning, and the bottom half of that inning does not get completed.

In the photo above, Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson flips ball to Freddy Sanchez at second for the force out in the seventh inning. Photo by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

SPRINKLES: The final 11 matches of the Estoril Open were postponed by rain Tuesday. The clay-court event is taking place just outside of Lisbon in Oeiras, Portugal. There were several Associated Press photos to pick from in highlighting the tennis rain delay, but of course we chose the one with the pretty lady. …Did you hear the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing today in an exhibition on a customized half-clay, half-grass court? Just wondering: Who has the advantage if it rains? Never mind. I just read the match is being played indoors. Well, that takes all the fun out of it. …Harvard played its spring football game last Saturday in a light rain. ….We are into May now and still talking about the problems that annually plague the Major League Baseball schedule makers. Katy Feeney, MLB's senior vice president who oversees scheduling, recently made some good points about the matter to the San Jose Mercury-News.

Weather Term of the Day:
THUNDERSTORM -- Produced by a cumulonimbus cloud, it is a microscale event of relatively short duration characterized by thunder, lightning, gusty surface winds, turbulence, hail, icing, precipitation, moderate to extreme up and downdrafts, and under the most severe conditions, tornadoes.