Because fans can’t attend games at the ballpark, the pressure is on for media companies and announcers to provide viewers with more interactive and compelling content. Enter ClimaCell, which has partnered with Weather Applied Metrics and Marquee Sports Network to give viewers a better sense of how weather impacts the game.
As we covered here at CI in early July, Weather Applied Metrics uses computational fluid dynamics to model the effects on ball flight at Wrigley Field and other parks. Adding to the intrigue is that former Cub Brett Jackson serves as their director of operations. Teams can actually use the information generated by WAM to position their outfielders, a practice CTO John Farley says can produce dozens of additional outs each year.
ClimaCell is a weather intelligence platform supplying weather software to Uber, Delta, and AWS, among others. The software provides hyper-accurate and hyper-local forecasting on a minute-by-minute basis all the way down to street level by using hundreds of millions of sensors all over the world — cell towers, street cameras, drones, and more — to predict the weather.
The data ClimaCell collects on wind, temperature, humidity, and other weather elements at any given minute is translated to models the Cubs broadcast can use to show viewers at home how the weather is impacting the game. As you can see from the featured image, this is done by superimposing directional arrows showing where and how much ball flight will be aided or impeded.
For instance, the home run Wilson Contreras hit during the Cubs’ final exhibition against the Twins gained an additional 15 feet of carry from the wind. If there hadn’t been any wind blowing at that moment, the ball would have traveled only to the warning track for a routine out. While we’ve always known different weather conditions affect the ball, now we’re able to see exactly to what extent the game is being altered.
Wind speed and direction are the most obvious factors because we can see their effects more easily, particularly when conditions shift throughout a game. Temperature is a factor as well, since a ball that travels 400 feet in 75 degrees will gain an extra eight feet of carry when it’s 95 degrees. Likewise, a home run hit 400 feet at sea level would travel 430 feet at Coors Field.
While it may not fundamentally alter our understanding of the game, I liken these developments to the first-down line when watching football on TV. Even if you know a team needs to gain 10 yards and you can visualize it on your own, it’s still pretty helpful to see that unobtrusive yellow line superimposed on the field. But that line is merely a reference point. These weather graphics are even more interesting and informative because they’re quantifying aspects of the game we could only guess at previously.
Because the data from Weather Applied Metrics is generated using weather stations installed all around Wrigley, you can only see these graphics for Cubs home games right now. However, I’d be shocked if this isn’t a regular feature of all broadcasts within the next two or three years.