Thursday, February 11, 2016

Halladay, Lincecum, and what a difference a wind makes

How wind could be a major player in the Phillies-Giants opener.

Halladay, Lincecum, and what a difference a wind makes


The updated forecasts are calling for northwest winds -- that is, blowing in from left-center at Citizens Bank Park -- gusting to 28 m.p.h. on Saturday night. Given that the starting pitchers, Roy Halladay for the Phils and rival Tim Lincecum throw 90-plus fastballs over a short distance, and given that both have well-established expertise, one might wonder what difference a little wind would make. Physicist Alan M. Nathan, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, has done more than wonder. Take the case of a 95 m.p.h. wind thrown in a 20 m.p.h. tailwind. Nathan assumes a 54-foot flight from the point of release to home plate. Those radar guns pick up the speed near the point of release, but the ball slows down about 10 percent by the time it approaches the hitter. So Nathan estimates an average flight speed of 90.5. The entire trip takes a dizzying .407 seconds. That tailwind bumps up the average speed to 91.5, cutting the trip time to .402 seconds -- and the already precious reaction time. "The ball is going to arrive a little bit quicker," he said. The calculation may not be a perfect match to Saturday's situation. The wind speeds may be quite variable, and the forecasts hinge on a coastal storm that hasn't yet formed. But you get the idea. A tailwind might have one favorable effect for the hitters. Breaking balls would lose some of their sinking actions, says Nathan, and thus might tend to stay up in hitting zones. Unfortunately, the projected wind angle Saturday night, slicing in from left-center toward the first-base line, also might give an extra bite to curve balls breaking toward the right side of the plate. All in all, it looks like a tough night for the hitters. Even if the winds are calm. ..

Inquirer Weather Columnist
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
Also on
letter icon Newsletter