Colorado Rockies: A path to taking that “next step” and winning the division
By Nick Bunney
Last week, I discussed how important of a year 2018 is for the Colorado Rockies. With the opportunity of establishing themselves as a year in, year out contender on the line as well as a chance to continue building respect with the national media, this season could work to either elevate the franchise or could possibly even (gasp) spell the beginning of its unraveling if poor performance forces our hand in “seller” trade talks at the deadline.
So what do the Rockies need to do to avoid the latter and launch themselves into a new realm of contention? How can the Rockies capture their first division title in franchise history and make a deeper run into October? Well, I was thinking about the areas the Rockies seem to struggle in and, on a hunch, I dove into the world of ballpark metrics to see if the Rockies were challenged by so-called “pitcher’s ballparks” as much as it seemed to me a year ago.
Now before I draw outcry from the folks out there who staunchly defend Coors Field and the Rockies ability to perform on the road, worry not. I am one of you. I believe that Coors Field is certainly a hitter’s park, but I also saw the Rockies achieve a 41-40 record on the road a year ago … good enough for a playoff bid. So I am not saying the team is a product of the ballpark they play in, but I am acknowledging that with the hitter-friendly nature of Coors Field, it is only natural to build a team that specializes in its most common arena. It’s the same reason teams like the Giants, who play in a pitcher’s park, tend to hone in on pitching talent perhaps a bit better than the Rockies have historically. You want your team to fit its ballpark.
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First I looked into ESPN’s Ballpark Factors, which uses a mathematical formula to determine the hitter and pitcher-friendliness of each ballpark during a given year. It’s essentially how the park “played” that year. For the 2017 season, I then broke the data into three groups: hitter’s ballparks, fair ballparks, and pitcher’s ballparks.
The top 10 offensive venues I considered hitter-friendly and includes parks such as Coors Field and Chase Field in Arizona. Numbers 11-20 were the fair ballparks and the bottom third I considered pitcher’s parks. Examples of prominent pitcher’s parks in 2017 were common Rockies haunts AT&T Park in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego.
Next, I analyzed how the Rockies fared in each of the three categories last season to see if I could glean any valuable information.