Pinball baseball is back at Coors Field. You may have read about in The Athletic or ESPN, seen cartoons about it or even seen it this year at a Colorado Rockies game. But we have the numbers that prove what everyone knows and it’s staggering.
In the past 11 games at Coors Field, either the home team or the visitors have scored at least double-digit runs eight times. This has caused the attention that many are giving Coors Field. But the realty is that runs per game have been creeping up for some time in Denver. When the humidor was installed, it dropped the scoring difference between a neutral park and Coors Field from 25 percent more offensive than the norm to seven. The humidor worked, at least for a while.
Over the past two seasons, Baseball-Reference.com entails Coors Field’s run environment to be 20 percent higher than average, brining baseball in Denver back to near pre-humidor levels. Though localizing the first 39 games of this MLB season reveals a Coors Field that hasn’t been seen since the prime pre-humidor years.
Tracking the humidor era below, 2019 clearly stands out above every other year for run scoring. In fact, runs in LoDo are up 3.52 per game from 2018 to this season. Now at 14 runs per game flat, no other Coors Field humidor year has seen a mark above 12.7 and over the past decade.
The change from 2018 to 2019 becomes even more clear when isolating the last five years of runs per game at Coors Field. The extreme abnormality which has some small sample size flaws to it is still, again, staggering.
Despite the small sample size, the Colorado Rockies have played half of their slated home games and the number is higher than Denver’s altitude. What’s rather amazing is that some of the worst pitching staffs in baseball history called Coors Field home over the humidor era, yet they couldn’t even get the runs per game mark above 13. Then a pitching staff that is among the top five in baseball when it is on the road has the mark at 14?
Is it the balls? Is it higher velocities? Is it the natural evolution of the sport? Is it the home runs and the violent all-or-nothing approaches? I’m not sure. I would lean towards no on all of these things though they might be contributing because the year over year change between homers per game across MLB and Coors Field more or less is falling in line but the run data is not.
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The runs per game marker at Coors Field over the last 10 years hasn’t been that far off of baseball’s average at about 10.5 per game. This year, two touchdowns spells a difference (3.5 runs higher than last 3.5). Across MLB, scoring is up a half run per game with both teams combined. Again, Coors is the abnormality.
One of the things that has made baseball in Colorado unique for a long stretch of time is how big the outfield is at Coors in an attempt to stem home runs. It works as Denver is not as home run friendly as people think … but the counter effect is a lot of singles falling into the biggest outfield in baseball. Batting average is up 30 points at Coors but this is the same as the league average elsewhere. What has elevated with home runs across baseball is slugging percentage. At Coors Field, the difference between slugging percentage in 2018 to 2019 is double that of MLB’s from 2018 to 2019.
It is tough to say what is happening at Coors Field. The weather has been cooler in Colorado this year and wetter, the pitching has been slightly worse than last and the offense slightly better for the Rockies. None of this really equates to the large numbers being put up, just all possible contributors.
Something is definitely happening in Denver through. Halfway through the Rockies season, their ballpark has been more berserk than usual. The players and team officials have noticed it too.
The only real thought here is that when you mess with baseball — as MLB has done making the ball more livelier — the already extreme is where the results will be eye-popping.
MLB essentially re-oiled the hardwood on the surface of dusty pinball machine that is Coors Field and offenses have hit the jackpot.
All stats in this story were tallied at the conclusion of Friday June 28’s games.