Outdoor baseball. Minnesota. April. Those are three things that, when put together, don’t get you overly excited about what may be in store. The historical mean temperature on April 12th in Minneapolis is 45 degrees, according to weather.com. In 1962, it was 12 degrees on this date, which doesn’t really scream take me out to the ballgame.
How will playing outdoors in the still nearly frozen tundra affect the game?
Chris Constancio wrote an article for the Hardball Times in 2007, looking at the relationship between temperature at game time and home run rate. He found a statistically significant decrease in the likelihood of a batted ball flying over the fence when the temperature dropped, which is a rather intuitive result. It’s hard to hit a baseball when your hands are frozen. Constancio writes:
"Game-time temperature is a significant predictor of whether or not batted balls leave the ballpark … A batted ball has a 4.0% chance of leaving the park during a game played in 70 degree conditions, but only a 3.5% chance of becoming a home run in a game played in 50 degree conditions."
The teams that play outdoors at the most similar April temperatures are the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers. The average April low in Minny and Milwaukee is 36 degrees, while in Denver it's 32 degrees. Of course, the Twins don’t play at altitude, so they can’t expect their new park to match the offensive levels of Coors Field. And the Brewers can always close the roof at Miller Park if it gets too chilly. Look for Target Field to normally be the best pitchers park in baseball in the early months of each season.
This year, however, they may have received a gift from Mother Nature -- the forecasted high for Monday afternoon’s game against the Red Sox is a balmy 66 degrees, and then jumps to a ridiculous 74 degrees on Tuesday and 78 degrees on Wednesday, threatening historical record highs. For 2010, Minneapolis is apparently going to do its best Miami impersonation, so the Red Sox and Twins should be able to put some runs on the board.
Next year, however, assuming things return to normal, prepare for a lot of low-scoring ballgames to begin the year.
Dave Cameron is writer for FanGraphs.