Which MLB Team Deals With the Worst Weather on Opening Day?

While there’s been a push to make it a legitimate one, Opening Day is something of a national holiday already. If anything, it’s a psychological national holiday, heralding a ceremonial end to winter, hope for the summer, and with it all, warmer weather.

But Mother Nature doesn’t typically follow the Gregorian calendar. The weather on some Opening Days is absolutely stellar. Others are laughable. So, looking back since 2000, who’s typically had the best and worst weather to deal with on Opening Day? 

The procedure for this was relatively simple. First of all, we’ll define the Opening Day game as the first game of the regular season played by an MLB team in the US or Canada (not their HOME opener…just their first game). Games in Latin America or overseas that count in the regular season but occur before US Opening Day were not counted. An average Major League Baseball game takes just under three hours to complete (don’t tell that to Yankees and Red Sox fans). For simplicity, I looked at the start time of every Opening Day (or first regular season game) for every team back to 2000. Using Weather Underground’s hourly observations (similar to this one for Philly in 2007), I looked at the three hour window (four top of the hour data observations) starting just prior to the start of the game. So if the game began at 1:05 PM local time, I looked at the 1PM, 2PM, 3PM, and 4PM observations. I averaged the temperature over those hours, noted whether it rained or snowed in that window (rain prior to games doesn’t count), noted if there were any delays during the game because of it, and took the maximum wind gust recorded from those sites in the three hour window.

I will eventually combine all the variables into one “game score,” which could then be applied through the season to see who typically is handicapped by weather the most.

A couple notes:

  • If the game occurred in a dome or had a note in the box score that it was indoors, the average game temperature was set to 72° and max wind to zero. This can fluctuate from dome to dome of course, but we’ll assume 72° to be an “ideal” indoor temperature. Most box scores from Baseball Reference back through about 2002 noted if the game was played indoors or not. 
  • If the first game was postponed due to weather, a note was made, but for the stats, the first actual game played was used.
  • Cincinnati traditionally opens the season at home every year, so there is no geographic variability for them, which may put them at a slight disadvantage.
  • For Chicago, games opened at home by the White Sox used Midway Airport for data, while games opened by the Cubs used O’Hare Airport.
  • In New York, Mets games used LaGuardia data, while Yankees games used Central Park data.
  • In SoCal, Dodgers games used Downtown Los Angeles data (CQT), while Angels games used John Wayne Airport (Santa Ana) data.

Temperature

You may be surprised to learn that the team that has averaged the coldest temperatures on Opening Day isn’t a northern climate team at all. It’s actually the Oakland A’s, with an average game temperature of 54.2°F. Next would be a bunch of Midwest teams, as you would probably expect: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, the Cubs, and Detroit, all averaging between 55° and 57°. 

The other end of the spectrum may not surprise you much at all. Miami leads the way with the warmest average Opening Day since 2000, checking in at a cozy 75.5°F. Arizona follows at 71.6°F, then comes Texas and Chavez Ravine for the Dodgers at 68.0°F each. 

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The coldest Opening Day since 2000 was last year in Minneapolis for the Tigers/Twins. The average temperature for that game was 34.3°F. Unofficially, the warmest Opening Day since 2000 was 4/1/02 in Arizona for the Padres/Diamondbacks. I say “unofficially,” as all evidence I found, including the box score, suggested that this game was played with the roof open. However, with a gametime average temperature of 89.7°F, it was quite warm. And the only visual evidence I found was this picture of the 2002 ring ceremony, which I believe occurred on that day, with lighting that appears to be of the indoor variety, so I openly wonder.

Anyway, here are the five warmest and coldest Opening Day games since 2000:

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Snow/Rain

Since 2000, 15 Opening Day games have been impacted by rain at some point and two by snow. The two snow games were Cleveland at Baltimore in 2003 and the Mets at the Reds in 2009. Four games were postponed and later made up.

“Dome” Openers

Who has had the most Opening Day games in neutral weather? Congrats are in order for the Tampa Bay Rays. Since 2000, they have opened in a dome setting (either in Minneapolis or St. Petersburg) a total of 10 times, or 71.4% of their Opening Day games. Toronto follows suit with 9 “dome” openers, all but one at the Skydome/Rogers Centre. Of note, of the nine teams that have never opened the season in a dome, seven are from the NL. Hearty souls.

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Wind

The strongest wind gust occurring during a game was the 2006 Reds home opener vs. the Cubs, in which gusts topped out at 40 mph. Temperatures in the 40s didn’t help matters much. Below is a chart of the average maximum wind gust endured by each team in Opening Day games since 2000. The Red Sox have contended with the strongest wind gusts on average, while Tampa and its 10 “dome” openers has typically dealt with the least.

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Next up, I’ll be scoring each game based on temperature, wind, and precipitation to try and determine who has had the absolute worst or absolute best Opening Days. This could also be utilized throughout the rest of the season to make various assumptions about weather. Almost like a game score for weather, which could then be applied to other statistics if need be. Likely something beyond my capacity to implement, but if interested, shoot me a message on Twitter. @mattlanza

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April’s Not Foolin’ for New England & Update on Opening Day

Here’s just an updated forecast on Thursday and Friday’s home openers.

Opening Day Thursday

Detroit at NY Yankees
Atlanta at Washington
Still looking at clouds, chilly temps, and scattered showers. I think NY is safe right now, but there are some signs that rain will envelope DC before game’s end, so keep an eye on that.

Milwaukee at Cincinnati
Still looks: Partly cloudy to mostly sunny and generally in the 40s.

LA Angels at Kansas City
San Diego at St. Louis
Still tracking a shower threat in KC. But those look more hit/miss, so I’m not anticipating any major disruption. Saint Louis looks pretty solid with sun and clouds. I’d take mention of showers out.

San Francisco at LA Dodgers
5 PM local time for first pitch at Chavez Ravine, and it will be postcard LA weather. Sunny, with temperatures probably 85-90 for first pitch, slipping into the upper 70s by the end of the game. Second place “Pick of the Weekend.”

Friday’s Home Openers

Minnesota at Toronto
Baltimore at Tampa
Dry and 70s…dome sweet dome.

Houston at Philly
It still looks like the worst of the weather will be in the morning in Philly. The snow/rain will lift into New England during the afternoon. It will be cold, breezy, raw, damp, gross. Should be some flurries around. Despite the fact that the worst will be long gone by game time, I would label this game as a risk to be rained or snowed out though, just because of how miserable the weather will be.

Pittsburgh at Chicago
Mostly cloudy here with some rain showers likely. I doubt it’s delay inducing stuff, but it may make Wrigley an unpleasant experience…sort of a raw, damp day.

Chicago at Cleveland
Still looks partly cloudy here. Looks like low 40s…a pleasant day for baseball, but still a bit chilly.

Boston at Texas
No changes in the ideas here either, except it could be a couple degrees warmer…low to maybe mid 80s in Arlington Friday. The Red Sox will be happy they’re opening there and not in Boston.

Arizona at Colorado
Not what you’d expect in Denver for baseball this early. Sunny, mild, and temps in the low 70s. This is the State of Occlusion “Pick of the Weekend!”

NY Mets at Florida
Taking out any mention of t’storms here. Looks good for the Mets/Fish. Temps upper 70s/low 80s at first pitch.

Seattle at Oakland
Partly cloudy after a nice day when highs should push into the 70s. We’ll see temps around first pitch in the 60s, easing back into the low 60s or upper 50s at game’s end.

Northeast Snow

The map to the left is this morning’s GFS model forecast for snow in the Northeast from Earl Barker’s model website. This is a pretty significant storm, for any time of winter, let alone early April. The GFS forecast is reasonable. Here’s how it breaks down.

NYC-Philly-DC: AM Rain, perhaps ending as some steady snow north and west, with a little coating possible there, and maybe some flurries into the cities.

Northwest NJ/Sussex County: Snow to rain to snow. Ending as a slushy 1-3″ accumulation I think. Higher elevations there could see snow continue longer, and there is definitely a risk that higher snowfall totals occur here. Still model disagreement in this area.

Boston: Mainly a mix in the city, but they could get 3-6″+ just north and west.

Interior CT/MA/Albany: 6-12″ easily, with higher amounts in the higher elevations. Some of those higher terrain areas may see 12-18″ of heavy, wet snow.

Interior NY west of I-87 to I-81 (Albany-Syracuse): Gradually diminishing snowfall gradient of 6-12″ near ALB to 1-3″ near SYR…. 5-10″ for Binghamton/Scranton.

This is just based on a cursory glance, so expect some changes, and refer to the NWS for the most local info. Either way, we’re looking at a large storm, with strong winds possible in New England as well, that could lead to power outages and downed trees/power lines. Just brutal for April.

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The Meteorologist’s Guide to Opening Day(s)

Well, we’re only a couple days away from Opening Day for baseball. Baseball, of course, has what feels like the longest season of the major sports. But its opening day is probably the most significant, because it means summer really is almost here. March is still a winter month, so no matter how warm it gets, most of the time, you know it’s going to get cold again, at least for a time. So baseball reminds us that we are at the end of winter…and it’s time to look to summer.

So with that in mind, let’s look at Thursday and Friday’s opening games and how the weather may impact them.

Opening Day Thursday

Detroit at NY Yankees
Atlanta at Washington
Right now, I feel the worst of the weather in the Northeast will be Wednesday and Friday. So it will be chilly, raw, but under partly to mostly cloudy skies.

Milwaukee at Cincinnati
Partly cloudy to mostly sunny and generally in the 40s.

LA Angels at Kansas City
San Diego at St. Louis
Looks like there will be some showers in Missouri on Thursday. I think the best chance in Kansas City is earlier in the day than the 4 PM first pitch, but in St. Louis they could see some raindrops. I don’t anticipate a rainout at either game, but it’s worth watching. Temperatures at both stadiums will be around 50, slipping back into the 40s by the end of the game.

San Francisco at LA Dodgers
5 PM local time for first pitch at Chavez Ravine, and it will be postcard LA weather. Sunny, with temperatures around 90 for first pitch, slipping into the 80s by the end of the game.

Friday’s Home Openers

Minnesota at Toronto
Baltimore at Tampa
Dry and 70s…dome sweet dome.

Houston at Philly
Expect a miserable morning in Philly. Looks like rain, possibly ending as some snow flurries. And right now, flurries couldn’t be ruled out for the game, with temperatures during the game in the 30s, to maybe around 40 degrees. I would label this game as a risk to be rained or snowed out though, just because of how miserable the weather will be.

Pittsburgh at Chicago
Mostly cloudy here with some rain showers possible. Doubtful this game will be delayed or rained out, but with temps in the 40s and the threat of some showers, it will be another miserable game.

Chicago at Cleveland
Partly cloudy here. Looks like low 40s…a pleasant day for baseball, but still a bit chilly.

Boston at Texas
Nice weather developing in Texas later this week, with sunshine and temps around 80 or in the low 80s.

Arizona at Colorado
Nice and mild in Denver Friday, with sunshine expected right now and temperatures well into the 60s to perhaps near 70 degrees.

NY Mets at Florida
Can’t rule out a stray shower or thunderstorm in South Florida Friday evening, but the worst of the weather should clear the coast during the day. Looks like low to mid 80s around game time.

Seattle at Oakland
Partly cloudy after a nice day when highs should push well into the 70s. We’ll see temps around first pitch in the 60s, easing back into the low 60s or upper 50s at game’s end.

So there are your opener. Admittedly, they could be worse (for instance a Friday game in NY or Boston would be a disaster). But it still looks cool, raw, and unpleasant in most areas…typical late March/early April weather. Unless of course, you are in Los Angeles, Oakland, or Denver.

So welcome baseball season!

As an aside, this storm on Friday WILL be of interest to a lot of folks. We are looking at potential for snow, possibly some significant snow, in interior Pennsylvania, New York, and much of New England. The track is right…let’s see if it actually materializes.

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Catching Up

Been out of town the last few days for a conference, so here’s a rundown of some things I’ve marked of interest. Plus we’ll talk about the weather for the weekend.

 

CIMSS Satellite Blog Capture of Satellite Loop/Lightning From Weekend Midwest Snow Blitz

So the Upper Midwest got absolutely spanked over last weekend. Just a massive snowstorm, even for that part of the country. Here’s some information on that storm.

 

The image on the right is courtesy of the CIMSS Satellite Blog, showing the development and movement of the storm as it lifted through the Midwest, along with lightning strikes. Thundersnow isn’t too rare or uncommon, but it still seems to be surprising when it happens. That usually means though that you’re dealing with a bigtime storm or some very heavy snowfall.  The storm set a few daily records at Minneapolis and Duluth. But the snow was quick to compress…it is still somewhat early in the snow season. Overall, the maximum totals looked to sit around 6-12″ in a band from Duluth back through MSP, Mankato, and down to the Iowa border.

The NWS in Minneapolis has a fantastic write up on the storm.

Another solid write up from the NWS in Duluth for Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin.

Also a good write up from Minnesota Public Radio on some of the more unique aspects of this storm…particular the convective aspect, as well as the fact that temperatures were in a prime range for good accumulations.

Keeping on the topic of winter weather and convection: Big Sky Convection’s Dann Cianca has a good write up and very nice pictures from catching some convective snow in Denver on Tuesday.

Congrats to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang for having the phrase “Snowmageddon” make the list of the top words of 2010. They were likely the original ones to coin this term. I’m not sure who coined “Snowpacalypse,” but while it was clever and useful for last winter, I hope this trend of coming up with clever catch phrases for every snowstorm stops. I’m still comfortable with “Super Bowl Snow” or “President’s Day Storm.” But in rare instances (and last winter was very rare), it’s manageable.

Shifting gears to climate stuff. Here’s the statement from Judith Curry for today’s Rational Discussion of Climate Change. The word is that the hearing was relatively uneventful, save for a few occasional heated discussions here and there. Setting the tone for the next couple years perhaps. More details and links for the testimony from the Dot Earth blog at the NY Times. So check that out if you have some interest.

A lot of times you’d think supercells were strictly an American thing. But you’d be mistaken. Check out some photos from this beauty off the French coast. The article is written in French, so if you don’t know French, oh well..the pictures tell the story.

As hurricane season winds down, Greg Nordstrom has a look at how the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) stacks up compared to some other hyperactive years. This year isn’t in the top 5, despite I think being there for actual *number* of storms. There was some pretty pathetic named storms this year (Nicole and Bonnie come to mind). Now, ACE is a decent gauge of a season or storm’s intensity, but it only factors in wind velocity and duration. We’ve learned in recent years especially that there is a LOT more to a hurricane than wind speed, pressure, surge, etc. Not all 125 mph storms are alike. So while this season may go down with the perception of sort of a bust (since the US was spared) and even ACE to some extent, this season was definitely hyperactive and worth the insane forecasts put out prior to the start of the season. I think we just simply dodged a bullet this year. It doesn’t make anyone more overdue or less overdue or anything…it just is what it is.

Here’s just a pretty simple overview as to why this may have been…sort of explaining how the pattern from last winter translated into what occurred this summer/autumn.

In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this morning, what a mess. Some crazy gusty winds, as well as tornadoes. A friend of mine had some family in and crazy pictures from the Town of Ghent in Upstate NY, which was hit by an EF-1 tornado. Wind gusts seemed to be widespread in the 35-55 mph range from Virginia up through New England. The wind did a lot of damage to an inn under construction in New Canaan, CT. The Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, NJ was especially hard hit with a number of small planes that got flipped over. A link to The Trentonian here. This sort of thing is more common earlier in autumn, but still wicked, but I don’t think too unprecedented. And lastly, the CIMSS Satellite Blog with some mountain wave captures…never fun if you’re flying.

Lastly, in what could be the coolest minor league sports move ever, the Omaha Royals have changed their name to the “Storm Chasers!” I don’t know if the Royals “brand” has been tarnished in recent years, which prompted the change, but it’s really cool regardless. The article does point out that things have changed in recent years (see: Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Richmond Flying Squirrels, etc.). I’m all for cool minor league team names.

PSU E-Wall GFS Model Map for Saturday Evening

Just a quick synopsis here on what’s coming. The image to the left shows the GFS model’s depiction of weather on the West Coast come Saturday evening. This is a MUCH different look than we’ve seen of late out here, with almost 60-70% of days I would suspect having offshore flow, dry weather, and oodles of sunshine…a nice respite after an awful summer. Well, the storm door has officially opened. And it starts this weekend. Strong low pressure off the British Columbia coast is driving a series of cold fronts, rain, and snow into the Northwest and eventually down the coast. By Saturday evening, that low pressure parks along the Oregon coast. As we go through the next few days, each one of the cold fronts swinging through is going to reinforce and strengthen cold air over the Northwest, driving down snow levels to around 2,000′ initially, then below 1,000′, and then perhaps down to “ground level” by the time we get to late in the weekend, so places like Seattle and Portland may not be exempt from snowfall. And this could set the stage for a White Thanksgiving for a lot of places in the Northwest.

Down here in California, it’s going to get colder as well, with Sierra snowfall likely, and even snow in the SoCal mountains. Just assuming from the maps, without specifically forecasting, that snow levels will approach or dip below 5,000′ in the San Gabriel and/or San Bernardino Mountains early next week. The question I guess becomes whether or not we see any precipitation at that time. This is a very interesting and cold pattern for the West Coast though, so the next few days definitely should be fun to watch.

This cold air should also work its way to the east during Thanksgiving week, bringing a  pretty strong cold shot to the East cities just after Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!