PITTSBURGH – In the third inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 6-5 extra-innings win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Andrew McCutchen connected on a 2-2 fastball from Michael Wacha that resulted in a RBI-double, scoring John Jaso from first base.
According to Baseball Savant data, McCutchen’s hit traveled 323 feet in the air with a launch angle of 22 degrees after leaving the bat with an exit velocity of 95.9 mph. The pitch he received from Wacha was a four-seam fastball that came in at 92.5 mph with a spin rate of 2,064 rpm’s.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the temperature at the time of the hit, was at or slightly below 40 degrees.
Taking all these factors into account and digesting them down one-by-one, let’s see what could have been with McCutchen’s hit if the game had been played in June instead of April.
In Dr. Alan Nathan’s piece on the Hardball Times today, entitled “Going Deep on Goin’ Deep”, he discusses the effect of temperature, elevation, humidity, spin, exit speed, launch angle on fly ball distance.
In the article we discovered (among many things) how much certain weather conditions effect fly ball distances (seen in the illustration below).
With these numbers before us, let’s hypothetically say the Pirates and Cardinals were playing in June in 80 degree weather as opposed to April in 40 degree weather.
With that alone, we have already added 13.2 feet to McCutchen’s hit, making it 336.2 feet. The humidity during the game was around 30%. Bump that number up to 80% and Cutch gains another foot of distance on his fly ball, which puts him at 337.2 feet.
Now, add a little wind behind the ball – remember the ball was hit at a launch angle of 22 degrees – and he gets another 15 or so feet, giving him a distance of 352.2 feet.
Now, let’s look at spin rate.
Wacha’s pitch had a spin rate of 2,064 rpm’s. The average spin rate on his four-seam fastball during the game was 2,142 rpm’s.
So while the distance gain is fairly negligible, McCutchen’s hit probably gets bumped up to 353 feet.
While this hypothetical ‘extra distance’ certainly doesn’t turn this hit into a home run, it perhaps makes the play more difficult for left fielder Matt Holliday (who as we see in the video above, already had difficulty fielding the ball), and turns a sure double into a triple for Cutch instead.
Perhaps we’ll just have to wait until June 10-12 to find out when the Pirates host the Cardinals again, and the weather should (hopefully) be much warmer.