April is a very weird month for baseball in the east coast, or more specifically, the northeast. Depending on the week, you can have brutal weather for a combination of reasons. That ranges from torrential rain to absurd wind gusts, or to just normal cold temperatures! When you combine this with the fact that players have spent the better part of the last two months in the warm weather of Florida and Arizona, you end up having injuries, slow ramp ups, and weird data.
There is usually a point in April when a player has an injury that comes up and people shout, “what the heck! Why are you getting hurt?” This sounds silly, but the cold weather can have a harsh impact on rotational athletes such as baseball players. It’s pretty simple: if you’re not doing everything you can to prepare your body, and even keep it ready during a game, you can be risking serious injury! The cold is nothing to fool around with when you’re hitting, pitching, or running.
This is another reason why some players even struggle this time of year and look significantly worse than they actually are. It’s tough to feel like yourself during this time of year. The layers of clothing and sitting around are not something you get used to all that quickly. You have to actively keep your mind and body in a place where you are ready for your at-bats or inning on the mound. I’m not saying this is exactly why Mark Teixeira was awful at the beginning of seasons, but it’s hard to deny it didn’t play a big role!
It also poses a weird external shock into the routine of a pitcher. Obviously many pitchers, especially starters, have an entire routine on their start day that encompasses getting ready in the trainers room, weight room, and on the field. When it’s cold out, that routine can be dramatically shifted. Some players may prefer to stick to their guns no matter the weather, but others may prefer to not touch the field until they have to. That can throw a wrench in their plans that can come about in the form of less throwing time or throwing your weighted balls in an area where you typically do not. All these little things play a role in a player’s preparedness for a game.
While hitters are probably used to having a somewhat flexible schedule for on field batting practice, this can also affect them significantly. Speaking from experience, getting your arm ready as a position player can be very difficult in the cold. You have even less time to prepare than pitchers do. It’s pretty easy to neglect your throwing arm in these circumstances. Hitting is more difficult the colder it gets and it’s usually the focus this time of year.
Lastly, and most importantly, this is a reminder that the data which comes in from these games is different from the rest of the season for the same reasons we’ve been discussing. Cold temperatures, slow ramp ups and lower effort levels can all contribute to why a pitcher, or the entire league for that matter, can look weirder than usual. That can come in the form of worse movement of velocity profiles for pitchers.
On top of that, even though the season is almost certainly delayed, this will be the first time in recent history where there will be no sticky stuff in the early spring. Pitchers already got a chance to adjust to this in colder temperatures last season, but still, it’s something to keep an eye on. But for this season, we will miss the cold weather spring temperatures. Let’s see how that bodes for some players. The pandemic season told us that an uptick in injuries is inevitable, but with private training facilities in full swing this time around, that may change. Hopefully the Yankees players have a plan in place so they’re ready to go whenever a deal is finally reached.