Baseball announcers and their home run calls — they’re like fingerprints.
From Harry Caray’s “It could be, it might be … it is, a home run!” to John Sterling’s “Swung on and there it goes! That ball is high! It is far! It is … GONE!” there is a long and rich history of spine-tingling calls.
And if the American Meteorological Society is to be believed, there will be even more of those excitable broadcasting moments in the future.
“Global warming, home runs, and the future of America’s pastime” is the title of a recent paper authored by four Dartmouth College professors in which they argue climate change — independent of juiced balls, juiced players, analytics, better training, you name it, all of which has obviously boosted home runs as well — has resulted in at least 500 more dingers in the last 12 seasons. They observe that for every degree Celsius, home runs go up by about 2%.
The TL;DR take: Warmer air lowers air density, thus increasing the likelihood of grandma needing to get the rye bread and mustard because it’s grand salami time.
So for those sportsbook customers who enjoy getting some action down on taters, it’s pretty darned important to keep a close eye on the thermometer.
Most popular prop
Betting on home runs is now about as American as Mom, apple pie, and Tesla.
At Caesars, it’s the most popular MLB prop bet in terms of bet count, and it’s the third-most bet MLB market, period, after moneyline and total, according to a company spokesman.
It’s the same story at PointsBet. “When looking at MLB prop bets, home runs are our most popular, in terms of bet count, this season,” said Wyatt Yearout, the operator’s media analytics manager.
Yearout said an eye-popping 36.5% of all MLB prop bets have been on home runs this year, accounting for 18.7% of handle, with Aaron Judge, Kyle Schwarber, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. leading the way as the three most-bet players.
But since these players play their home games in New York, Philadelphia, and a dome, respectively, those early-season bets weren’t exactly +EV.
“I would never bet a home run prop in games under 50 degrees, and you get a lot of games like that, especially early in the season,” said Kevin Roth, the chief meteorologist at US Bets sister site RotoGrinders, and the inventor of WeatherEdge, a tool that provides a snapshot of the weather conditions for home runs, runs, and ERA. “That cold dense air is tough to overcome. There is a significant decrease in home runs once you get below 50 degrees.”
And once the temps go above 80, it’s all systems go for the dingers.
“I think sharp bettors have known this for decades, but the general public is kind of just getting on board with that knowledge in the last few years,” Roth said.
As for the study itself, Roth is on board with it, although he did note the headline got out ahead of the story itself.
“The study is right, it’s just a case of the headline becoming bigger than the story,” Roth said. “The headline was ‘climate change leading to increase in home runs,’ that’s a big headline, it was on Good Morning America, it was everywhere. If you read the study itself, it essentially says climate change has led to a 1% increase in home runs, whereas things like swing path changing, players being bigger and stronger, and ball changes has led to a massive increase in home runs.”
But Roth recognizes that even small temperature changes can have effects on the batted ball.
“It’s slightly warmer now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, you’re talking one or two degrees warmer,” he said. “So the average ball distance has traveled incrementally farther.”
Picking winners on dingers
Justin Carlucci is an editorial and content specialist at RotoGrinders, and had been giving out home run winners on ScoresAndOdds like it’s his job. (Well, it is his job, and he had a string of five straight correct home run calls a few weeks back.)
Trying to retrace whatever superstitions I’ve done in the last 24 hours. I mean, I’m pretty good. But straight 5 HR calls at @ScoresOdds. It just does not happen. I really don’t know what to say😂. Ride the wave, man. Who’s next?😎👊 pic.twitter.com/KbClTcPzWw
— Justin Carlucci (@ThejCarlucci) April 18, 2023
“Weather is certainly a part in my process,” Carlucci said. “If there is a great hitting environment, I may be more prone to wagering on a hitter at nice odds, who may have otherwise been in a neutral matchup without the enhanced hitting conditions.”
And Carlucci heeds Roth’s below-50 warning.
“It doesn’t matter if Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth is at the plate, Mother Nature will win in a monsoon nine out of 10 times, and I’d rather not pick on her,” Carlucci noted.
In the end, the Dartmouth study didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know in this space — warmer temperatures equate to more home runs. But it certainly did quantify it.
And who doesn’t like rooting for a ball to be long gone, just like an ex-girlfriend who will never return?
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images