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Secrets of Sox-cess

UML Experts Discuss the Personality of the Sox Team This Year and How Weather, Physics Will Impact the World Series

UMass Lowell students pose with Red Sox (and Spinners) swag at Campus Rec before Game 1
UMass Lowell students get ready for Game 1 at the Campus Recreation Center.

By University Relations Staff

As the Red Sox battle in their fourth World Series since 2004, championship fever is sweeping across the region. UMass Lowell has numerous connections to the game – from LaLacheur Park, where several members of the Sox played for the Lowell Spinners, the team’s Single A affiliate, to our Baseball Research Center, which studies the bats and balls used by Major League Baseball. And the UMass Lowell community is loaded with baseball experts – players and coaches, researchers, an official scorer and die-hard fans. Curious about the physics of going yard or the keys to this team’s success? Read on —and go Sox!


How does weather affect the play of the game?

“The general impact of weather on baseball is mostly about air density. Cooler and drier air is denser, which will tend to slow the ball down, making it a little harder to hit home runs. The increased density can also make curveballs more ‘curvy’ and harder to hit. Fastballs may be a little slower, but they will move around a lot more, as will sliders. Wind can always reduce or enhance the ability to hit for distance, depending on the direction and the strength of the wind. We might expect more home runs in Games 3 and 4 with the temperatures warm in Los Angeles.”

-Prof. Frank Colby, Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Photo of Ken Harring, head coach, during a River Hawks baseball game

What makes this year’s 108-win Red Sox team so good?

“What makes the Sox so good, besides having a ton of talent, is that there are no egos on this team. They have all accepted their roles and have one goal: win a World Series. But is this the greatest Red Sox team ever? Putting that label on them is tough. In my opinion, you would have to say the 2004 team was the greatest because of all the past demons they had to beat, including the Yankees. You had 1986, you had the Bucky Dent homer and the Aaron Boone homer. Add the media pressure and the constant mention of how long it had been – that team had to overcome a lot more. Before the playoffs started, I had the Red Sox and Brewers in the World Series. With the Sox playing the Dodgers, I think it will be the Sox in seven games, and Mookie Betts will be the MVP.”

-Ken Harring, head coach, River Hawks baseball team


What is the science behind hitting a home run?

“Home runs are a result of a sufficient combination of exit velocity, launch angle, spin rate, environmental conditions and fence location. Generally, a batter needs to produce a batted ball with a velocity of about 100 mph or more to hit a home run. That requires making contact somewhere near the sweet spot on the bat, which is about six inches from the top. Generally, the batter needs to make contact with the ball slightly below the center of the ball so that the ball leaves with a large amount of backspin, which causes an aerodynamic lift on the ball to counter the effects of gravity. Depending on the backward spin rate, the launch angle may be as little as 25 degrees or as high as 40 degrees to get the ball to carry for a home run. Wind velocity and wind direction can either help or hurt, and sometimes those winds can swirl around the ballpark, especially if the ball gets up high. The last big part is to hit the ball to the right part of the ballpark, as the distances to the fence and the heights of the fences (or Green Monster) can affect the desired trajectory.”

-Patrick Drane, assistant director, UMass Lowell Baseball Research Center
Spencer Ross headshot

How has social media changed the way we watch the World Series?

“The younger demographic, particularly post-millennials, are shifting their TV viewing habits away from traditional media toward social media, including YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. This has forced the sports leagues to reassess and adapt their live media strategies. This year, for instance, MLB signed an exclusive deal with Facebook to broadcast 25 games through the platform.

“Research by Statista shows that, in 2016, the median age of MLB viewers was 57 years old. Compare that with median ages for the NFL (50) and NBA (42), and MLB should be recognizing that they have a longer-term problem wherein they're going to have to take some risks when investing in a diverse viewership strategy. 

“On the other hand, the leagues are pretty good at understanding and addressing the current needs of fans. In addition to making rule changes that otherwise speed up the game and make it a little bit more exciting for younger fans who enjoy seeing high-scoring, fast-paced events, they've also tried to adapt their efforts on social media to make shareable GIFs and clips of plays more social media-friendly. They are slowly starting to understand that content consumption by their youngest consumers is radically different. Rather than sitting down at the TV for three hours at a time, the youngest fans are actually consuming content through devices.”

-Asst. Prof. Spencer Ross, Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Sports teams take on distinctive personalities. How would you characterize the 2018 Red Sox?

“I’m sure someone’s pressing up T-shirts with something pithier, but for me it’s the ‘Love Bunch.’ It’s all about love with these Sox – love for one another and love for the game. The days of ‘25 players, 25 cabs (Ubers?),’ characterizing the Red Sox of the 1970s and 80s, are long past. First-year manager Alex Cora, only 43 years old himself, has done a remarkable job creating a sense of fraternal love amongst this special bunch of homegrown tyros and free agent signees, and part of that is an open love for his players. Walk through the clubhouse and you’ll routinely hear exchanges of ‘I love you’ between Cora and his players. Then there’s their love for the game, and all the energies that love connotes – youthfulness, freedom of spirit and fun. Look anywhere in the park, and you can see Sox having fun – in the dugout, the bullpen, the outfield and even the basepaths. It’s that free spirited-ness, that ‘free love,’ that’s allowed these Red Sox to transcend expectations and their first-round playoff rut from the past two seasons. And, very simply, how can you not love Mookie Betts?”

-Frank Morris, part-time faculty member, English Department 

UMass Lowell Image

Lowell Spinners who played for the 2018 Red Sox

  • Mookie Betts (2012)
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. (2011)
  • Andrew Benintendi (2015)
  • Matt Barnes (2011)
  • Christian Vazquez (2009)
  • Brandon Workman (2010)
  • Tzu-Wei Lin (2013)
  • Brian Johnson (2012)
  • William Cuevas (2012)
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