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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Winter Olympics Weather in Context

Edit (2/24/14):

With the end of the Winter Games in Sochi, we can now say that Sochi was the warmest host city on record. The average temperature during the Olympics was 48.9 degrees, besting the previous warmest host city of Vancouver (44.8°F) by four degrees.

Previous Entry:

First off, disclaimer: This is not something I’m trying to view in the context of a larger debate about climate change. I’m not trying to spin this in any particular way. This was done out of curiosity given the fact that so many discussions have ensued trying to tie the weather of the Winter Olympics to climate change. So the curious side of me wanted to dig in on the actual weather.

Starting in 1952 (weather data prior to 1950 is spotty), I’ve plotted the Olympic host city, their 1981-2010 climatology, the actual average temperatures recorded during those Olympics, as well as the start date of the games. Click it to enlarge:

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The IOC chose Olympic sites with an average temperature below freezing until Innsbruck in 1964. The average temperature during those games was almost 4 degrees below normal, so no big issues. The IOC took a big step in 1968, hosting the games in Grenoble, France, which averages 38.7°F (based on 81-10 climatology). While I was unable to find actual weather statistics, I did read some anecdotal articles that suggested there were weather related problems, including a reduction in luge runs and issues with bobsled runs. Part of that may have been engineering related, moreso than weather related. Temperatures during the games did average 1-3°F above normal according to NOAA period average maps. The ’76 Olympics in Innsbruck had weather issues as well, as the average for the games was near climatology — or above freezing. The 1984 games in Sarajevo had issues of their own, related to cold and stormy weather, as temperatures averaged about 11 degrees below normal. I discuss the 1988 Calgary problems below. In Albertville in 1992, mild weather in a climatologically mild place (second warmest location since 1952 at the time to host a games) caused problems. Lillehammer was the highest latitude location to host a games, and coupled with cold weather in 1994, warmth wasn’t an issue.

Since 1994, every Olympic host city has had warmer climatology than the previous host city. With the exception of Salt Lake City in 2002, each year’s weather has been slightly warmer than the previous year (almost walking in step with climatology). Turin in 2006 was almost as warm, climatologically, as the previous warmest host city (Grenoble). Vancouver stepped above that in 2010, and it was also actually warmer, thanks in part to boosted nighttime low temps (daytime highs were only +1 relative to normal, while nights, critical for snowmaking, were +4.5 relative to normal). 2010 was also an El Niño year, typically a bit warmer on the west coast. And now, Sochi is here to take things to the next level in 2014.

The actual recorded temperatures at the Olympics this year in Sochi will easily be the warmest in history The current forecast + actual temps at Adler, Russia (about 18 miles southeast of Sochi on the coast) would be 48.9°F, obliterating the previous record set at the previous Olympics in Vancouver of 44.8°F. This year’s weather issues at the winter games probably fall under the category of bad luck. The 30 year climatology of Sochi is the warmest of any host city in history — and they’re under the influence of a slightly above normal area of high pressure. See the map below from NOAA showing the Feb 7-Feb 15 500 mb height (approximately 20,000 feet above the surface) anomalies. When 500 mb heights like this are above normal, that typically translates to warmer than normal weather. Through Feb 15th, the anomaly at Sochi was roughly 5.7 degrees above normal. This would expand to about 6.3° above normal if the forecast holds through Sunday.

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500mb Height Anomalies Feb 7-15, 2014, via NOAA ESRL
Sochi approximately near red “X”

Sochi won’t take the honor for warmest Olympics relative to normal. That goes to Calgary in 1988, which finished the games 11.3°F above normal (including a couple days in the 60s). That year also saw “bad luck” for the Olympics with a semi-persistent +PNA ridge over the Western part of North America.

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500mb Height Anomalies During 1988 Calgary Olympics, via NOAA ESRL

So have the Winter Olympics warmed? I suppose that depends on what definition you want to use. In the sense that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has awarded the last three consecutive games to three of the four climatologically warmest sites in Winter Olympics history, then yes, they’ve warmed, and certainly in recent years, the actual temperatures have warmed too. Should this be a surprise? Maybe, maybe not. The anomalies relative to normal haven’t been terribly impressive in recent years, but if the Sochi forecast verifies that will change a bit.

So, no matter how you slice it, the Olympics have warmed in recent years. The good news? In 2018, the Olympics will be held in the climatologically coldest city since 1994 in Lillehammer: Pyeongchang in South Korea averages 26.7°F in February. We’ll see what happens then.

Follow me on Twitter: @mattlanza

One Does Not Simply Pull a Weather Forecast From Thin Air

This post is admittedly a rant post. I’m not going to drop knowledge on you. I’m not going to come to a groundbreaking conclusion. But I am going to offer an opinionated rant.

What will the weather be for Super Bowl XLVIII?

No one: Not the NFL, not the world’s greatest meteorologist, not the Farmers Almanac, not AccuWeather’s 45 day forecast, not me, not you knows what the weather is going to be on February 2, 2014 at about 6:25 PM EST. No one knows…no one has a clue…you could make a forecast as good as me, well versed in long-range forecasting with 10 years of experience under my belt. In fact, I’ll bet you can probably beat me to make a forecast that specific in place and time.

Yet, we’re devoting an absolutely absurd amount of time discussing it, analyzing it, breaking it down, harping over contingency plans. 

Besides filling time on NFL themed shows, what is this accomplishing? Anything? Could someone please show me how any of this has been helpful to anyone, ‘cuz if ya’ can, I’ll give you a lot of credit.

I’m ranting. I’m annoyed after seeing this article from nj.com:

Super Bowl weather: NJ climatologist ripped for ‘one of the dumbest weather predictions’ in history

Peter King, a well regarded NFL columnist, shredded Dr. David Robinson, one of the best climatologists in the field, for Robinson’s comments on “That Other Pregame Show” on Sunday. If you sit through the 5+ minute clip (and it is a good watch), and then read King’s comments, you might ask yourself, “Huh?”

Thankfully, Robinson shot back at King today. 

That should put the matter to rest, but it highlights an unfortunate problem inherent to the field of meteorology. To liken this to a football game, since that’s what all the hubub is about: Despite all of the advancements in and lives saved thanks to weather prediction, meteorologists are constantly running a 2 minute drill, down three touchdowns, starting inside their own five yard line. Why? Because the perception is that we’re going to get it wrong when it matters most to someone: Not when their lives are in danger, not when a hurricane or tornado is coming at them. No, none of that…it’s when it truly matters most to people: An outdoor birthday party, a trip to the beach, a football game in February. 

So when someone like King, who has a megaphone and a lot more reach than some of us have, says a forecast made by a climatologist is “one of the dumbest weather predictions in meteorological history,” it deepens this hole that meteorologists have to dig themselves out of. On top of all that, he clearly had a preconceived notion (“I want to take a swipe at weather forecasters because they’re easy targets”) and only listened for what he wanted to hear from Robinson. If you watch the clip, Robinson never makes an actual forecast. He answers a question. He’s providing a past history of the weather on and around that date, and he answers the question asked of him. There’s no forecast here…no agenda, except for that of a frustrated football writer who wants to use up space dissecting the weather forecast for the Super Bowl, a month and a half before it kicks off.

When the perception is that you’re going to fail, how does one get over that hump and above the noise to shut someone like this up? How many Sandys, Katrinas, or lives saved thanks to advanced tornado warnings is it going to take to finally rid meteorologists of this unfair reputation of “being right half the time and keeping our jobs?”

There’s no right answer…but it further illustrates how those of us in the meteorological community need to continue to run that 2-minute drill and make sure the message we’re communicating doesn’t get lost in the noise. It’s not an easy task, but it surely presents an opportunity to improve ourselves and stand out.

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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