The Coors Factor: Does it REALLY make Colorado Rockies offense better?
By Kevin Larson
The first thing that you need to do is completely ignore splits when it comes to evaluating Rockies hitters. Yes, Coors is a blessing but in a majority of ways it’s a curse. Why is that?
With the altitude effect, pitches move less at Coors Field and balls generally fly further. This isn’t news to anyone who’s paid attention to Rockies baseball but it creates the unique circumstance that pitchers take different approaches here than they do in other ballparks, creating a situation where Rockies hitters are consistently seeing two different approaches between home and road series. This doesn’t happen with any other team.
If you pitch in the AL East, for instance, you’re liking adjusting your approach based off of the dimensions of the ballpark you’re playing in but ultimately you’ll still have control of all your pitches and the movement on each pitch will be similar. All pitches in your arsenal will be available to use, but your control won’t be altered. You probably aren’t throwing many pitches up and in at Fenway and you’re trying not to let many batters lift the ball into right field and Yankee Stadium. But your full arsenal is available.
At Coors, you can’t trust your breaking pitches as much. They’ll get punished. So Rockies hitters will generally see more fastballs at home and more breaking balls on the road. While this seems like a distinct advantage for Rockies hitters at home (and it can be), it’s much more detrimental on the road.
Ever wonder why it seems like they can’t just hit on road trips whatsoever? It’s not because they’re actually bad hitters and only merchants of Coors Field. It’s because of that constant adjustment in approach in addition to increased movement on pitches. It’s an extremely unique circumstance that no other team in the majors has to deal with.
It’s called The Coors Hangover. The Rockies will always have decreased production after a homestand because of it. And no other team has to deal with it. So while raw statistics will show you that Coors is an absolute advantage at home, they also leave out the fact that it’s just as detrimental on the road.
So you should evaluate Rockies players by looking at the whole picture and it should be done by using Park Adjusted stats like wRC+, OPS+ and DRC+ (pick your poison here) that better show how effective a player is actually hitting. These take away the positive advantages that Coors provides and adjusts fairly accurately for road games as well, essentially putting Rockies players on the same playing field as every other player in the game. It’s the best way to show how effective a Rockies player it hitting after removing any influences that Coors has on their raw statistics.