ack when I Target Field opened, many fans and media members wondered after why the team wasn’t hitting as many home runs. A reporter from a local news outlet contacted one of my former coworkers (I am, if you were unaware professional meteorologist), wondering if the wind had anything to do with it. I cringed as this meteorologist said “yes, the Twins are hitting more home runs because of the wind”.
The problem is actually with density. Cold air tends to move more slowly, so there are more air molecules in a given block of air than there are in warmer air, which means the ball has more to fight through when launched off the bat, headed towards the fence. They moved from the Dome where the temperature was regulated to an outdoor stadium where it was almost always colder during game play. Also, they build a big ass fence in right field for a lineup full of lefties.
Given that the flight of a baseball is limited severely by the cold, it shouldn’t be a terrible surprise that the Twins’ offense has languished a bit. Not only is the arc of the ball affected, but pitches can bite better, making even contact a challenging endeavor.
And that’s not to say that the cold has no impact on the players physically, either. Cold weather can leave muscles tight, increasing the threat for injury, but also slowing players down. And then there is the mental aspect of it. Most of the players on the Twins roster in particular are from warmer locales, be they the southern United States like Byron Buxton, or the Caribbean like Miguel Sano, or South America like Eduardo Escobar. Just at face value, Eddie Rosario seems to short circuit whenever asked to play in the cold
There is an instinct to rush to judgment this early in the year. The offense seems to be a bit sluggish this season, and the pitching is exceptional, while the defense doesn’t seem to be itself. While part of the problem with these evaluations is that there is such a small sample, another important insight is that the frigid conditions of this endless winter fundamentally change the the way the game can be played.