It's a topic that has long annoyed Rockies fans, but this season it needs to be discussed: Coors Field is an insanely hitter-friendly ballpark, and it's as extreme as it has been in a long time.
Heading into Tuesday, hitters are collectively slashing .307/.370/.526 in Coors Field this season. The league average slash line is .252/.322/.431, so we're looking at a difference of 55 batting average points, 48 on-base percentage and a ridiculous 95 points of slugging.
An average of 4.8 runs per game per team is being scored this season. Coors Field is seeing 6.94, per game per team. Here's the leaderboard in various offensive stats:
- Coors Field, 569
- T-Mobile Park (Seattle), 483
- Coors, 918
- Globe Life Ballpark (Texas), 785
- Coors, 190
- Fenway Park (Boston), 184
- Coors, 34
- Comerica Park (Detroit), 26
- Coors, .307
- PNC Park (Pittsburgh), .271
- Coors, .370
- SunTrust Park (Atlanta), .347
- Coors, .526
- Camden Yards (Baltimore), .479
You'll notice I didn't include home runs, because Coors Field actually is not leading in longballs. We constantly have to go through this, but it's not so much a home run park as it is friendly for singles, doubles and triples due to the spacious outfield, which was done in order to prevent extreme home run numbers. It's not difficult to homer, but the issue is more with the batting average on balls in play and extra-base hits.
It's generally always the top hitters park in baseball, but it hasn't been this extreme in a while. Last year, for example, the collective line in Coors Field was .276/.340/.475. That's acceptably a hitter-friendly park. What's going on right now is pretty ridiculous to the point of being laughable.
The humidor was installed prior to the 2002 season. The highest single-season numbers since then, not including this season:
Average: .306 (2012)
On-base: .381 (2004)
Slugging: .504 (2004)
Most seasons were in the .280s in average with a slugging percentage somewhere from .450-.479. This season has the post-humidor high in average and would shatter the slugging mark.
Pre-humidor, here are the highs:
Average: .327 (1999)
On-base: .395 (1999)
Slugging: .557 (1999)
This season isn't necessarily like the pre-humidor days, but it's been closer to that than the post-humidor years.
Now, does this really matter?
In most ways, for me, it doesn't. You just accept there will be a lot more offense when games are played in Coors Field than elsewhere.
How we judge players, however, it absolutely does. Context is needed. There's always a segment of baseball fans who refuse to accept this, but it's reality. You need ballpark-adjusted numbers for context. Let's take All-Star David Dahl, for example. He's hitting .317/.362/.552 on the season with 22 doubles, four triples and 12 homers. That looks exceptional. But check this out:
Home: .373/.428/.627, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 7 homers
Road: .259/.293/.475, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers
Dahl has a 117 OPS+, 1.4 WAR and 118 wRC+. Non-All Star Juan Soto is hitting .297/.402/.534 with a 137 OPS+, 1.7 WAR and 141 wRC+. Gimme Soto.
Now, this goes both ways. Just as we need to be tougher on the hitters in our analysis, we need to go easier on Rockies pitchers. Just looking at German Marquez's 4.29 ERA, Jon Gray's 3.84 and Antonio Senzatela's 4.83 might cause casual fans to scoff and talk about how bad the Rockies' rotation is, but their respective ERA+ figures are 124, 138 and 110. They are all above league average while Marquez is very good and Gray is outstanding. He's actually eighth in the NL in ERA+ behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, Mike Soroka, Max Scherzer, Luis Castillo, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Tanner Roark. Marquez actually leads the NL in hits and earned runs allowed, but he's been worth 3.3 WAR. He's very good!
Further context is needed with regard to the hitters, too. The Rockies are routinely the worst hitting team in baseball on the road. It comes with the territory. They are used to so many balls in play falling in for hits that when they go on the road where the ball doesn't carry nearly as much and there is far less room for balls in play to fall, they are awful at hitting away from Coors. This further needs to be factored in, so while I ding Dahl enough that I'd pick Soto over him for the All-Star Game, I'm not going to act like this road slash line means that's how he'd hit all the time if he went to a different team. Take how well DJ LeMahieu is hitting for the Yankees. Adjustments can be made once a player has left.
Still, we have got to stop saying things like "Nolan Arenado is so underrated!" when he's finished in the top five of MVP voting the last three years and he starts the All-Star Game most years at a loaded position. He's perfectly rated as one of baseball's best players. No need to pile on with the "he's underrated" nonsense. He's not. He's been between 124 and 131 OPS+ each of the last five years and only finished in the top 10 once (10th, last season). That's a very good hitter who benefits from his home park. People will say I'm "hating" or something but I'm actually just calling it as it is. He's awesome, but there's no need to go overboard without acknowledging the reality of Coors Field.
And, boy, the reality this season is Coors is more extreme than it has been since 2001. Let's keep this in mind when judging the Rockies' hitters and pitchers.