“Joe Talkin’ To Me?!” NL Takeover: What Happens in Coors, Stays in Coors; Park Factors
After covering the AL and NL West all season and not getting to write a word about the Marvelous Mets Threesome of The Dark Knight, The DeGrominator, and Thor, I was going to write a self-serving article talking about the Super Friends (yes, I am a Mets fan). But after this week’s edition of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show #52, while we were discussing the impact on Troy Tulowitski’s stats from his trade to the Blue Jays, it hit me like a Mike Tyson hook…these guys do not quite understand the impact Coors Field has on a hitter’s numbers. And it has an impact on a hitter’s numbers. Any hitter’s numbers! My colleagues swear the difference between Coors and the Rogers Centre is not that great and the difference will be offset by the tremendous Blue Jays lineup.
Sorry to call you out like this fellas, but this is information any fantasy owner needs to know. Information that has won me leagues.
It is no secret that Coors Field is an excellent hitter’s park. As a matter of fact, ask the casual fan what the best hitter’s park in MLB is and you will likely get Coors Field as your answer. But just how profound is this building on batter statistics?
Coors Field History
From the planning of Coors, which opened in 1995, there was worry that the stadium would give up too many home runs due to the thin, mile-high air. Designers tried to combat this by creating one of the largest outfields in the game today, measuring 347 down the left-field line and 350 down the right-field line. This cavernous outfield failed miserably at holding baseballs (until the humidor, more on this later).
In the first year of Coors’ life, the stadium fell 7 HR short of the all-time record of 248 HR hit in Wrigley Field, home of the Angels in 1961 (yes, Wrigley, it was the only year this bandbox was used for MLB). The stadium fell 7 HR short with a three-year old expansion team, losing nine home games that year due to the 1994 strike. But don’t fret. In 1996, the first full year of Coors, the HR record fell as 271 HR left the ballpark. In 1999, 303 HR left Coors which still stands as a likely unbeatable record (unbeatable because of the humidor, more later).
Not only did Coors lead all stadiums in home runs every season from 1995-2002, but often placed first in doubles and triples as well. This is the part that gets overlooked. Doubles and triples are surrendered at record paces as well due to a near impossible amount of space to cover in the outfield. Fly ball outs often turn into bloop singles as outfielders are forced to play deeper than normal, guarding against the extra-base hits.
Scientists have since determined that the balls fly out of Coors at record levels due more to the dry air than thin air. This lead to the now famous humidor room in 2002. Balls are kept in a humidor because balls stored in drier air are harder, creating more elasticity upon contact. Since the inception of the humidor, Coors HR totals have decreased considerably. Coors is not destroying the competition anymore, but is still among the league leading parks in HR surrendered annually.
I know what you are saying, “The home run numbers were impressive, but that was almost 15 years ago.” This goes back to the cavernous outfield. Even with a humidor, outfielders still need to cover that vast patch of grass, leading to tons of hits, which = base runners, which = runs. In the past 14 seasons since the humidor was created at Coors, the Rockies have lead the league in home batting average 9 times and finished 2nd 4 times. In the same span of time, they finished last in road batting average 4 times, and 11 times never finishing better than 24th. Those splits are very real, and to be taken seriously. The road statistics, away from the drunken funhouse called Coors, are the real representation of the type of hitting ball clubs the Rockies had annually. They have had some awful teams that put up impressive fantasy statistics at home.
Other than the wide open space to deposit baseballs in the outfield, the air hurts pitchers. The thin air creates less friction on the baseball, meaning less movement. Less movement leads to more hard hit balls as pitchers curves don’t curve quite as much and their fastballs don’t have that late movement.
Park factors use 100 as a mean. Anything over 100 is in favor of the hitter. Anything under 100 is in favor of the pitcher.
“Park Factor: +144 (143 R, 145 HR)
This means that in the years 2010-2013, Coors Field produced 143 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average MLB park, and 145 HRs for every 100 homers, for a mean Park Factor of 144.
This is an extreme hitter’s park.”
The next best park during that span was US Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, with a park factor of 125. This is a park factor 5 points higher per season than the second best ballpark. This is a cumulative park factor over a few seasons.
Let me break down the park factors for you over an extended period of time. Getting back to Troy Tulowitzki, I will mention the Rogers Centre for comparison.
Here are the park factors by year since 1995 when Coors opened it’s doors:
|Coors Field||Rogers Center|
I do not need to break down the numbers, you just read them and I won’t insult you. I do want to point out that Coors Field has never been close to favoring pitching, while the rogers Centre has been even or favoring pitching 11 times. Even in the years when the park factor favored the hitters in the Rogers Center, it barely favored the hitters. The lowest park factor Coors had was 108 in 2007, 4 points higher than the highest park factor of 104 that the Rogers Center had several times. It should be noted that the Rogers Centre is considered a hitter’s ballpark.
***ALERT…One of these ballparks featured a DH, usually a slugger, for most of it’s games. The other ballpark featured a pitcher batting, usually an automatic out, for most of it’s games.
Coors led MLB in park factor every year prior to the humidor era, and since 2002 have led MLB every single season. EVERY SEASON IN EXISTANCE! Good teams. Bad teams. Teams that hit over .300 at home and were dead last in MLB on the road. The Rogers Centre has cracked the top 10 just twice since 2002, again, often favoring towards being a pitchers park.
Furthermore, if you refer to baseballmonster.com, since 2000 (aka the humidor era), Coors batters are striking out 15% of the time, 6% more than the next highest ballpark. Still, COORS LEADS IN BALLPARK FACTOR EASILY YEAR AFTER YEAR!
Let me say this; Tulo is the most well rounded and best SS in MLB today, as always, with the caveat of “when healthy”. Unfortunately for Tulo, “What Happens in Coors, Stays in Coors”.
There is not a hitter alive who does not benefit from Coors Field, and Tulo is no exception. At Coors, he slashed .321/.394/.559, good for a .953 OPS. Away from Coors he slashes .276/.349/.468, good for a .817 OPS. These are fine road numbers, numbers I would gladly take on my fantasy team.
These road numbers are the true representation of the player Tulo is. The Coors numbers represent some wacky stuff that ONLY goes on when baseball is played a mile “high” (wasn’t even legal when they thought baseball would play normal there). Coors has inflated him to a fantasy god, “when healthy”. His safety net is now gone as he heads to a normal ballpark.
Tulo hit a HR every 20 AB playing in Coors and a HR every 27 AB on the road. That means it takes him roughly 1.5 games longer to hit homers away from Coors, which would be 10 total HR in 150 games away from Coors. They are all away from Coors now.
Tulo does have a tremendous lineup to help him which could keep his RBI and R on par, but there is no lineup that can give you the kind of protection that will add nearly 50 points to your BA, OBP, and nearly 150 points to your OPS. You gotta go to the mob for that kind of protection. Keep in mind, everybody hit in the lineup around him in Coors too. In addition, the park factor for the Rogers Centre this season does not even favor the hitter, while the park factor Tulo is leaving in Coors was 15 points in favor of him.
There is zero chance, over the long haul, that Tulo produces anything close to what he did in Coors. He will still be a fine fantasy SS, possibly the best.
How To Use This To Win
Pretty obvious…ALWAYS US COORS HITTERS AND NEVER USE COORS PITCHERS (except Kershaw).
If you have ever had that one position on your team that is not settled, that you keep picking up and dropping guys hoping one sticks, just remember…ALWAYS USE COORS HITTERS. Pick up and add who ever is at Coors and use them until they leave.
If you have a player hurt and need to go to the wire to find a replacement hitter…ALWAYS USE COORS HITTERS.
I have gone almost entire seasons using this strategy at a certain position I was weak in. It works. If Alvaro Espinoza is going to bust out with 3-for-4, 5 RBI, and 3 R, it will be at Coors.
Just remember, NEVER USE COORS PITCHERS (closers are OK).
(Click the BLUE link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 9th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio sponsored by the Sports PaloozaRadio Network. You are welcome to call in and ask questions at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will include minor league call ups that could effect your fantasy playoff roster amongst other current baseball information.