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Baseball Games Postponed Due to Weather


For fans of professional baseball, the possibility of games being postponed due to wet or cold weather is one of several factors which can work to suppress attendance – especially in the more northern cities during the early part of the season.   The 2017 Major League season started with a relatively large number of games postponed due to inclement weather.  Through May 20th, twenty-three games had been postponed and rescheduled, compared to 25 during the entire 2016 season.  At least half of these postponements appear to have occurred during a chilly spell at the end of April into the first couple weeks of May.   Far more frequent than outright postponements are rain delays – where the game is eventually completed on the scheduled day.  I attended a game at Target Field in September of 2014 which included a rain delay – a first-time experience which I found quite enjoyable.

To Begin Play ….or to Wait

When weather is questionable, the home team controls whether to begin play or to wait.   Teams benefit from hiring good on-site meteorologists to guide such decisions.  This explains why you’ll occasionally see delays at the start of games — when it is not raining.  If rain is expected soon, the intent is to wait until the game can start without later being interrupted.  To avoid any bias on the part of the home team, once the game begins, the umpires’ judgment determines whether to halt the game due to poor weather.   The weather forecaster still can play a vital role because teams will decide when to use various players (especially pitchers) based on the expected weather.

April has the Most Postponements

Historically, April has the most weather-related postponements – with nearly 40% of the total occurring in that month.  This makes it possible for most games to be made up well before they produce significant playoff implications.  Climatologically, unless contending with a tropical rain system (such as remnants of Hurricane Harvey) it is most often during the early spring portion of the baseball schedule that we see long-lasting rain events.  Summer rainfalls, generally connected to thunderstorm activity, seldom last more than a couple hours.  This is usually too short a delay to wash out a baseball game unless team officials are very impatient!  Because such decisions are very sensitive to the exact weather conditions, baseball fans deciding to either head to the stadium or stay home will benefit from looking at a very detailed forecast — such as those provided at this site.  It is possible for September weather patterns to take on an early spring likeness and produce larger rain systems, but this has been rare in recent seasons as Septembers have been more often on the warmer and drier side of normal.

Covered Stadiums

Most cities with significant risks of wet weather – examples being Miami, Seattle, Houston, Toronto, and Tampa – have covered stadiums allowing those teams to avoid rainouts (except when the entire city floods as happened this week in Houston).  The Boston Red Sox are reported to have the most home rainouts of any team, averaging just over three per year for the last ten years (which corresponds to about 4% of games being postponed). In that time span, no other team averaged more than three postponements per season.

Winter Weather Arriving Early?

One possibility which does not get much attention (because it has yet to happen) is that of of true winter weather arriving early in one of the cold-weather cities prior to the end of the World Series.  Even though the past ten years have brought many warm and dry autumns, the northern Midwest can and occasionally does have cold and wet weather in October.  Now that the Twins play outdoors again (and have begun winning more often), the potential for wintery weather affecting post-season baseball in late October is higher.  Climatologically, mid-autumn snow would be most likely in Minnesota, but could also occur in Detroit or Cleveland.  In 1991, there was a close call at season’s end when a huge blizzard began in Minneapolis less than five days after the World Series concluded at the Metrodome!

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