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Coors Field and why the Rockies are screwed.


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#1 satyadaimoku


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Posted 27 February 2007 - 09:12 PM

So, after looking at the away stats of players who came and went to Coors in the Helton thread, I wanted to look a little more closely at a possible reverse Coors effect on Rockies away games (partly because of the Helton implications, but mostly because I'll be spending the summer out in Colorado and I'm always looking for an NL team to follow). In a normal ballpark you would expect both teams' offenses to be enhanced or reduced by a fairly similar margin, with perhaps a small effect for the intangible impact of home field advantage or the ability to construct your team around your ballpark. But if Coors is not only enhancing offense, but distorting the game in a significant way, then Rockies hitters would perform disproportionately better at Coors, and disproportionately worse on the road. In other words, I'm looking at the difference of the difference between home and road stats between Rockies players and their opponents; a small difference suggests that Coors is merely a hitters park, helping both offenses equally, a large difference suggests a distorting effect on the game. Here's what I found:

2006 Rockies hitters at home: .825; OPS away: .724; OPS difference: .101
2006 Opponent hitters in Col: .803; OPS at home: .765; OPS difference .038

2005 Rockies hitters at home: .826 OPS away: .658 OPS; difference: .168
2005 Opponent hitters in Col: .822 OPS at home: .815 OPS; difference .007

2004 Rockies hitters at home: .881; OPS away: .718; difference: .163
2004 Opponent hitters in Col: .888; OPS at home: .793; difference: .095

2003 Rockies hitters at home: .875; OPS away: .704; difference: .171
2003 Opponent hitters in Col: .837; OPS at home: .820; difference: .017

2002 Rockies hitters at home: .871; OPS away: .646; difference: .125
2002 Opponent hitters in Col: .849; OPS at home: .780; difference: .069

Every year, Rockies hitters have shown a significantly greater Coors effect than their opponents. Given that each of these stats reflects thousands of plate appearances, this looks like a pretty significant result to me. Overall, Rockies hitters have out-produced their opponents at home in every 4 of the past 5 seasons, but have been outhit on the road every time. As a result, they are actually 31 games above .500 at home over the past 5 years - but 125 below .500 on the road, a difference of 156 games (by comparison, the Red Sox, who I typically think of as a much stronger team at home are 99 above at home, 25 above on the road - a difference of 74, or less than half the Rockies).

I could be wrong, but I don't think this is just a distortion of the beneficial effect of Coors. There might be some of that - getting used to the lower degree of movement in the Colorado atmosphere - but I don't think the impact would be this severe unless there was also some distorting effect pulling the production of Rockies hitters down when they play on the road. It's hard for me to believe that the 2003 Rockies offense had a true ability of .658; that would make them the worst offensive team in a long time, considerably worse than say the Pirates, who finished 2006 with a MLB worst team OPS of .723. It also makes intuitive sense to me that it would be much harder to adjust to suddenly seeing pitchers with more movement on their pitches when they go down to sea level than to adjust to suddenly having less movement on pitches when you play in Colorado.

If I'm right about that, the Rockies are screwed as long as they remain in that ballpark. If they want to compete, they've got to replace it with a dome stadium with controlled atmospheric conditions. I hate domes, but otherwise, they are playing at a significant disadvantage.

Edited by satyadaimoku, 27 February 2007 - 09:32 PM.


#2 ScotianSox

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Posted 27 February 2007 - 11:14 PM

This is excellent work, I brought this up in the HoF thread, trying to defend Larry Walker, but didn't back it with any analysis.

Every year, Rockies hitters have shown a significantly greater Coors effect than their opponents. Given that each of these stats reflects thousands of plate appearances, this looks like a pretty significant result to me. Overall, Rockies hitters have out-produced their opponents at home in every 4 of the past 5 seasons, but have been outhit on the road every time. As a result, they are actually 31 games above .500 at home over the past 5 years - but 125 below .500 on the road, a difference of 156 games (by comparison, the Red Sox, who I typically think of as a much stronger team at home are 99 above at home, 25 above on the road - a difference of 74, or less than half the Rockies).


Probably the biggest difference in baseball? almost a basketball like swing.

It's hard for me to believe that the 2003 Rockies offense had a true ability of .658; that would make them the worst offensive team in a long time, considerably worse than say the Pirates, who finished 2006 with a MLB worst team OPS of .723.


Not to mention the even worse 2002 OPS of .646.. there's no way somethings not up. Makes Larry Walker's .917 Home OPS that year look superhuman.

It also makes intuitive sense to me that it would be much harder to adjust to suddenly seeing pitchers with more movement on their pitches when they go down to sea level than to adjust to suddenly having less movement on pitches when you play in Colorado.


I honestly believe this. The only other options would be that Coors makes hitters significantly change their approach, the or the Rockies employ a historically terrible lineup, as you said.

If I'm right about that, the Rockies are screwed as long as they remain in that ballpark. If they want to compete, they've got to replace it with a dome stadium with controlled atmospheric conditions. I hate domes, but otherwise, they are playing at a significant disadvantage.


I am not totally convinced it is a disadvantage. It probably is, but with the right team construction perhaps they could make it advantageous. They are at a definite disadvantage on the road, but also a significant advantage at home. I find this very very interesting, I hope the analysis continues on this topic. I'm not sure how park factor is calculated, but if htis is true, does reverse effect, in itself, inflate the park factor? So adjusted stats would be depressed in both cases?

Edit: Another obvious potential reason is that the Rockies have an above average pitching staff OR a pitching staff that is suited for and above average at Coors. Also, slugging percentages might provide more insight than OPS (I might be able to find time for this in the next couple days myself).

Edited by ScotianSox, 27 February 2007 - 11:24 PM.


#3 paulftodd


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Posted 28 February 2007 - 02:05 AM

I had studied the effects of players who played between 1960-1995 who had 3000 more more PA at Home and 3000 PA away using the Baseball Musing database. The average home OPS was 795 while the away OPS was 757, keep in mind that players with these number of PA are better than average players. So playing at home gives all players a 038 advantage than on the road. This study included almost 2 million PA's so I feel is significant. This probably holds true for the current era but may be even higher due to the number of hitter friendly parks introduced since the early 90's and the juiced ball/steroid effect.

Anyways, the average NL OPS over the last 5 years was 750, if the 038 adjustment is legit. a 731 OPS on the road is league average. The 10 year average for the Rockies as a team on the road is 705 OPS (724 in 2006). Pittsburg had the worst road OPS in MLB in 2006 at 677 as well as the worst overall OPS

The averages over the 5 seasons reported show opposition hitters had a 044 OPP advantage at Coors than they did in their home park instead of -038, suggesting the real effect of Coors was a 082 OPS advantage. The Rockies had an average of 146 OPS advantage, adjusting for expected and it is 108, or 026 OPS advantage compared to opposition hitters.

This is somewhat to be expected as I would imagine the Rockies to stack their lineup with guys who put the ball in the air relative to the average lineup, and to use pitchers who keep the ball on the ground relative to average. Teams obviously construct their roster with players who can make the best use of the park they play half their games in.

The altitude effect on players used to playing at sea level may be a factor, but seems it would be more of a factor with sports like NBA, and Football where aerobic conditioning is more important, but I can see how opposition pitchers may get fatigued earlier in the game giving Rockies hitters yet another boost.

As far as the effect on breaking pitches home vs on the road, it certainly gives hitters an advantage at Coors. As for being at a disadvantage on the road, I guess it is the difference between facing Johan Santana one day and then facing Joel Pineiro 2006 the next, there is such variation between pitchers I just do not think it is that important, especially given that the average home stand is only 6-10 days. I see no reason hitters can not adjust to seeing more effective pitches to the extent that their skills permit. Maybe if they played the first half at Coors and then the 2nd half away I would buy into this theory more.

edit math

Edited by paulftodd, 28 February 2007 - 02:07 AM.


#4 OttoC


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Posted 28 February 2007 - 07:24 AM

I'd be inclined to look at opponents' OPS in Colorado vs. opponents' OPS not in Colorado rather than OPS at home vs. OPS in Colorado.

#5 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 28 February 2007 - 11:26 AM

Great work guys. Very interesting. Put it in the wiki under Coors Field or something -- shouldn't be lost here.