08/14/2009 1:09 PM ET
Yankees notebook: solving the homers
The number of dingers at the Stadium are not due to wind
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Johnny Damon should be solid down the stretch as his Yankees try to solidify a playoff berth. (AP)

Let's kickoff this Yankees Notebook with a great study on ballpark effects from physicist Dr. Alan Nathan of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Does the ball carry better at Yankees Stadium? Or, what are you going to believe: hard data or your lyin' eyes?

Dr. Nathan, a sabermetrician as well as an expert in experimental medium energy physics, examined all 819 homers hit the first six weeks of the season at all ballparks. That's a lot of data, admittedly over a small time frame. But during a time where the supposed "carry" due to some mysterious wind-tunnel effect was well established in the typical non-rigorous way common in mainstream sports analysis.

Nathan's study used the precise and consistent measurements of hitf/x data courtesy of Sportsvision, which has equipment at Major League parks, to track the initial batted-ball trajectory. From there, initial batted-ball velocity, vertical launch angle and horizontal spray angle was determined. Greg Rybarczyk's hittracker data also was used. The result, says Nathan, was "an excellent approximation of the full trajectory" of a batted ball.

"The analysis begins by recognizing that in a vacuum, all balls hit with the same initial velocity and launch angle will travel the same distance," Nathan says. "In reality, the ball will travel more or less than that, depending on the influence of the aerodynamic effects of drag and the Magnus force, including any influence of wind. One way to define the 'carry' is the ratio of the actual distance to the distance (the batted ball) would have traveled in a vacuum."

The results will surprise amateur Yankee Stadium Wind Tunnel theorists.

"The new Yankee Stadium has a carry about two percent below average," Nathan said in his study. "If home runs there were significantly aided by the wind, one might expect an above average carry. The fact that the carry is below average suggests that there is no evidence in the data analyzed for any significant effect of wind at the new Yankee Stadium."

The full results also shed doubt on another myth regarding the Coors Humidor Effect -- that the baseballs kept more moist in a humidor there compensate for the mile-high altitude and thus reduce carry and home runs to something approaching normal.

"The striking thing about the plot is that Coors Field is head and shoulders above all the other ball parks, with a carry about 7.5% larger than average. Roughly speaking this corresponds to an extra 30 feet on a home run relative to the average. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Progressive Field in Cleveland, highlighted in cyan, has a carry about 4% lower than the average."

For the record, Citi Field was just a hair below average carry. So the ball carried better the first six weeks of the season there than at the new Yankee Stadium. Go figure.

Let's quickly move on to some other Yankee thoughts.

The Joba Chamberlain workload stuff is still ridiculous.

Again, there is ZERO evidence that innings management reduces injury risk. It's junk science, just like that practiced by everyone who swore the evidence was in on the new Stadium playing like Coors East. If we're going to merely speculate, let's also consider that taking a guy out of his rhythm can mess with his muscle memory and cause problems that may reasonably increase the risk of injury. The team is going back and forth about giving him nine days off through next Wednesday. Just scrap the whole plan and let the guy pitch.

You're not gaining control, Yankees, but merely the illusion of control.

The MVP candidacy of Mark Teixeira was given some juice this week by Joe Girardi, who touted his first baseman for the AL award. He found few dissenters locally. But, Joe Mauer is hands down the MVP. The man has a league-crushing OPS of 1.056 while playing catcher. Teixeira's OPS is a robust but less impressive .944, not only behind Mauer but trailing two other AL first-basemen (Justin Morneau and Kevin Youkilis).

The reported cold-front between the girlfriends of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez is a guilty pleasure to follow.

It seems Minka Kelly is upset that Kate Hudson was accepted into the "cool clique." This is just more evidence that high school really never ends. I'm sure there are many like me who have never heard of Kelly. But most of us know that Hudson, despite many other later cinematic transgressions, starred in one of the great cult movies of the decade: Almost Famous
.

Mind you, I never want to be assigned stuff like this. But I agree with Mark Cuban, who said that newspapers should cover sports with gossip columnists separate from the journalism side just like they've done for years with the entertainment industry. The superstar athlete is at least as big a celebrity as the movie star. The players won't like it, but there's a price to pay for fame.

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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