By: Eli L.
School: Fairmont Private Schools, North Tustin Campus
Science Teacher: Joshua Riturban
Baseball has always been a sport characterized by excitement, and excitement often stems from offense. However, the game has evolved over the years, and changes in environmental factors can significantly impact batting statistics in Major League Baseball (MLB). This experiment seeks to answer the question: “What environmental factor most greatly affects batting statistics in the MLB?”
The 1990s were marked by the “Steroid Era,” a period of prolific offense in baseball. It was a time when fans were treated to a barrage of home runs and high-scoring games. However, in the wake of the steroid scandals, MLB has witnessed a decline in fan engagement. The need for offense is more pressing than ever, as evidenced by a significant drop in World Series viewership ratings and a decrease in the average number of runs scored per game.
In this experiment, three key environmental factors—weather, altitude, and field size—from each MLB stadium are analyzed in relation to a stadium comparison called park factor. The correlations between these factors and batting statistics are measured using the Pearson correlation coefficient.
Several previous studies have touched on the impact of environmental factors on batting statistics. Research has shown that weather plays a role, with batting averages and other statistics increasing as temperatures rise. Altitude has also been recognized as a crucial factor, accounting for a substantial portion of the variability in park factors. Furthermore, studies have highlighted inaccuracies in the current park factor calculations, suggesting that environmental factors may play a more significant role than previously thought.
The initial hypothesis of this experiment posited that altitude would have the most substantial impact on park factor due to its effect on air density, allowing the ball to travel farther. However, the results indicated moderate correlations in three categories: park dimensions, altitude, and weather. Surprisingly, field size exhibited a more robust correlation than anticipated, while altitude showed a weaker correlation.
The results align with previous studies and make sense from a scientific standpoint. Each of the studied environmental factors has a direct impact on a player’s ability to hit the ball effectively in different ballparks. These findings could play a pivotal role in changing the offensive dynamics of baseball in the future.