FanPost

Scott Lewis and Cold Weather

The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation continues, and there may be a new favorite. Scott Lewis has followed up an impressive cup of coffee in September with a fine showing in Spring Training. Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers are still in the mix, but Wedge’s comments seemed to me and Castrovince that Lewis might get the first shot at the rotation.

First shot at the rotation should be emphasized because Laffey and Sowers (and Huff and Jackson) are going to get their shots. Somebody is going to get hurt and/or someone is going to be ineffective so ultimately it may not matter a whole lot who wins the job out of the gate. With that being said, there may be real reasons, other than overall qulaity, to prioritize one guy over the other. Anthony Reyes, for example, is starting in the rotation because he’s out of options.

In Scott Lewis’s case, it might not be more than a case of riding the hot hand, but I think there might be another reason. Lewis is a fly-ball pitcher, a 39.3 career GB% in the minors. The average GB% amongst starting pitchers in the majors last year was 43.45%. This may be significant because conventional wisdom is that the ball doesn’t carry as well at beginning of the season, when the weather is cold. If this is true, Lewis would be benefited by this much more than Laffey.

To see if the conventional wisdom is in fact correct, I looked at some basic numbers. Thanks to Baseball-reference.com, I computed home runs per plate appearance in each month over the past five years in the American League. The lower the number, the more frequent the home runs.

Year/Month

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

April

37.45

40.09    

32.25

38.97

43.82             

May

35.79

36.93

34.79

36.58

44.16

June

34.32

33.97

34.22

41.03

35.02

July

31.67

33.84

33.63

40.85

36.22

August

30.88

33.94

35.77

38.61

35.83

September

34.81

36.6

35.81

38.43

38.36

 

This is obviously a very crude way to look at it and I don’t think it really tells us that much, but three of the five seasons do seem to support the cw, for whatever that’s worth. Even if it is true that fly balls don’t carry as well at the beginning of the season, the overall effect is probably not that great. But given that the difference in quality between the pitchers is small, this could potentially be a tie-breaker. Looking over the schedule, the fifth starter is set-up to get, at least his first few starts in cold weather open-air stadiums.

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