The biggest home run of Justin Turner's life was also the biggest moment of the Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV. And it fit in perfectly with the biggest pregame story leading into the Series.Given what we know about
The biggest home run of Justin Turner's life was also the biggest moment of the Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV. And it fit in perfectly with the biggest pregame story leading into the Series.
Given what we know about how heat can affect the distance of a baseball, and that the temperature at the start of Game 1 was a record-setting 103 degrees, we were excited to see if the hot weather would have a significant impact on the outcome of the game -- and it sure looks like it may have.
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As we noted before the game, research has shown that every 10 degrees of temperature can add approximately 3.3 feet of distance to a batted ball, and the average temperature in Los Angeles at this time of year is 77 degrees. Because the temperature at the start of the game was 26 degrees higher, it was fair to expect that a fly ball on Tuesday could possibly go seven or eight feet farther than it might have on a regular Southern California evening.
Now, take that information and think about the way in which Turner's fly ball barely made it over the fence. Houston left fielder Marwin Gonzalez drifted back looking like he'd hoped he'd have a play on it, but it kept going, just clearing the 375-foot marker on the wall.
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Those extra seven or eight feet might have made the difference, both on the play and the game. Because there were two outs, the heat may have changed the narrative from "Astros starter Dallas Keuchel escapes the inning with a 1-1 tie" to "Turner gives the Dodgers a 3-1 lead they never relinquished."
Both sides acknowledged the impact after the game. Turner said that when he hit the ball, he "didn't know if it was going to be a home run or not."
"When it's that hot here, the ball does travel a lot better," Turner added, "and if it's 10 degrees cooler, that's probably a routine fly ball in left field."
Houston manager A.J. Hinch had a similar reaction.
"When the ball left the bat, I didn't think it was gone," Hinch said. "The ball carried a little bit."
They're probably both right. The best way to investigate this is to simply look at other examples of balls that had the same exit velocity (96.1 mph) and launch angle (37 degrees). Since Statcast™ started tracking at the start of 2015, batted balls with those characteristics have been a hit just less than 15 percent of the time. There are a few doubles in there, but mostly outs. Just 13 percent of those batted balls turn into homers.
That's partially because the ball was hit relatively softly for a homer (just 6 percent of homers this year were 96 mph or softer) and hit high (with a 37-degree launch angle, it was as high or higher than 95 percent of this year's home runs).
None of this is to take away from Turner. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to square up a ball against a pitcher as elite as Keuchel, and it also took some strategy, as Turner changed bats after striking out in the first and popping out in the fourth.
"My first two at-bats, I was swinging a little bit bigger bat," Turner said. "And I got beat in a couple of times. So I'm going to switch back to [the bat] that I normally use, a little smaller bat. Good thing I did, because I didn't get beat in the third time."
Turner sure didn't. But he got a little help, too. On a scorching hot night in Los Angeles, it might have been the largest home-field advantage of all.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs.