September 2, 2005

IT'S NOT THE HIGH HEAT, IT'S THE HUMIDOR:

High Jinxed: Pitching at Coors Field can be scary, but it's not as awful as it used to be (Tim Brown, September 2, 2005, LA Times)

It was Bryn Smith who threw the first major league pitch in Denver, 12 1/2 years ago on a mild afternoon at Mile High Stadium. It didn't leave the park. In fact, it didn't do anything particularly screwy at all.

So, he threw another one.

The Rockies were off, through two years in a football stadium, the rest at Coors Field, and the phenomenon that is the pitcher at an altitude of one mile plus a pile of dirt ascended from there.

Baseballs soared, and pitchers sighed, and hitters benefited. As the lines between bad pitching and good hitting and reduced friction grew vague, so too did the theories of what to do about it. Regardless, there came a time, usually right after the national anthem, somebody was going to have to pitch again.

"I think it's more mental than anything else there," Smith said. "Some of these pitchers that go into that park, they've got to be terrified." [...]

In late April 2002, stressed by a smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em decade of baseball, the Rockies dressed up a room at Coors Field, made it a humidor and stored their baseballs there.

Team management and the commissioner's office thought it was time to play the game being played in the 29 other major league parks.

As there appeared to be no way to thicken the atmosphere amid the Rocky Mountains, and having run out of other ideas — too many good pitchers failed, all the bad pitchers combusted, ERAs became confused with cap sizes — moister baseballs became the answer. In theory, the balls maintain their size, weight and texture better, so they don't carry like the balls left out to dry and harden.


Robert Adair's Physics of Baseball is a terrific little book on such subjects.

MORE:
-The science behind bats and balls: Aerodynamics and optical tricks add to baseball’s intrigue (Alan Boyle, 4/01/99, MSNBC)

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2005 12:00 AM
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