Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Winning at Coors, How the Colorado Rockies Should Be Configured

Various studies have shown that a batted baseball at Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play, will travel between 7-11% farther than in any other stadium in the majors. Studies have also shown that infielders lose about a foot of range and outfielders about 9 feet of range due to the high altitude effects on a batted ball. Other studies have shown that a fastball will reach the plate faster at Coors, while curveballs will not curve as much at high altitudes.

How should the Rockies configure their team to take advantage of these facts?

The great thing about park effects, is that they are unique to the home team. The home team can configure its team to maximize the park effects, but their opponents cannot. Yankee Stadium is a great park for lefty players. The short right field dimensions make it a great place for left-handed hitters. The large right-center field dimensions in Yankee Stadium make it a great park for left-handed pitchers. Over the years the Yankees have taken full advantage of this by stocking their teams with left-handed hitters and pitchers. The opponents of the Yankees cannot stock their teams with leftys, because they only play a relatively small number of games each year in Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox, with a deep right field and a short left field in Fenway, would be crazy to stockpile leftys.

The Rockies are the only team in the majors that plays its games above 1,100 feet. They have the most unique elements stadium in the majors. Instead of trying to make their stadium like everyone else's, doctoring baseballs so they won't travel as far, the Rockies should fully embrace the uniqueness of their stadium and turn it to their advantage. If they did so properly, they should have the greatest home field advantage in the majors.

A batted ball travels farther and faster in Coors, so the Rockies need to stockpile players who can hit baseballs fast and far. Slugging Percentage is the key stat for their hitters. The Rockies should have a lineup filled with high slugging percentage hitters. Every year, the Rockies should be at the top of the slugging percentage stats. (Last year they were 17th) Every time the Rockies do not play sluggers, they are conceding the most important advantage they have to their opponents. Every hitter the Rockies draft, or acquire in any other way, should be a high slugging percentage player.

What about pitchers?

Since a batted ball travels faster and farther in Coors, the Rockies need pitchers who can limit how many balls are being hit. In addition, because a fastball will travel faster to the plate in Coors, and a breaking ball won't break as much, the Rockies need to stockpile high strikeout fastball pitchers.

Last year, Rockies pitchers ranked 17th in strikeouts, with 981. That was 275 strikeouts behind the league leading Cub pitchers. If Rockies pitchers could strikeout 275 more batters a year, that would limit the number of batted balls traveling faster and farther in Coors against the Rockies. Every time the Rockies pitch low strikeout pitchers in Coors, they are conceding an advantage to their opponents. Every pitcher the Rockies draft, or acquire in any other way, should be a high strikeout fastball pitcher.

The Colorado Rockies play in the greatest power park in the major leagues. In order to fully take advantage of that fact, the Rockies must stockpile their roster with power players. Hitters with high slugging percentages and fastball pitchers with high strikeout ratios.

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