Changes Are Coming to Coors Field

Any opportunity to talk about Coors Field is a good opportunity, and, hey, wouldn’t you know it, but the Rockies’ home ballpark is undergoing some alterations that’ll have an effect on the gameplay. I’ve only just heard about them, but they’re relatively uncomplicated, and they should be in place in time for the start of the regular season. Baseball’s best argument against the idea that high-scoring baseball is exciting baseball is about to feature some higher fences.

I’m kind of a dork about park effects, and that’s why I find Coors so fascinating in the first place. They’re always trying to figure out if it’s possible to play some sort of normal baseball at altitude, and now we can get into the latest thought, as provided by Nick Groke. The Rockies are working to reduce the number of cheap dingers. It won’t not work. That much we can already say.

About the higher fences — here’s the critical information:

The Rockies will raise their outfield wall between right-center and right field by 8 feet and 9 inches, to match the height of the out-of-town scoreboard, at 16 feet-6 inches in height. A green-coated, chain-link fence will sit on top of the existing green-padded wall in front of the visiting and home bullpens.

The outfield wall height also will increase down the left field line, by 5 feet, to 13 feet. That extended fence will be in front of the tunnel next to the bleachers.

The change in right field is going to be a great deal more significant than the change in left field, but in case you’re having a little trouble visualizing all these, here is some help. The right-field situation:

coors-change

And, the left-field situation:

coors-change-2

You’re talking about a smaller height increase in left, over a smaller distance. In right, they’ll be raising the fence in front of both of the bullpens, matching the high wall more down the line. There’s no way for this to not decrease the number of homers. That part, in general, is set in stone, and what’s left to wonder is the magnitude of the change.

Sure, I could try to work something out from here, but look, I don’t need to! The Rockies have gone to the trouble, and this is from a little later in the article:

The Rockies, Bridich said, determined that right-center field and down the left field line were high-home run areas. They used a formula that accounts for the launch angle and exit velocity of hits off the bat to figure out how to reduce easy homers. By that measure, total home runs at Coors Field could fall by 5-6 percent.

Let’s work with a 5% decrease. I’ll trust the Rockies on this one. And clearly, Coors Field has been inflating homers — over the last five years, Rockies home games have featured 983 dingers, while Rockies road games have featured 743 dingers. I know that the Rockies play a lot of road games in pitcher-friendly environments, and I know that Rockies hitters struggle to an unusual degree when they’re away from home, but that gap is enormous, and the bulk of it is the Coors effect. If we take away 5% of 983, we get 49 homers. Let’s think of those as 49 homers that wouldn’t exist. Carlos Gonzalez thought of one homer in particular that wouldn’t have been a homer with a higher fence:

What’s going to happen here, in terms of how Coors plays? Some home runs will go away, surely. By the estimate above, working retroactively, we would’ve taken away 49 homers over five years. Already you might be able to see that’s not really that much of a decrease. But there’s even more here, because it’s not like those batted balls suddenly become un-valuable. I have to imagine every single would-be home run affected by this will instead turn into a double or triple. It’s not like they’re going to turn into outs. And doubles and triples are worth a pretty big fraction of the value of a homer.

Just keeping the same ratio as has been established, we’re looking at what would’ve been 49 fewer homers, 42 more doubles, and seven more triples. Using the league-average figures from the last five years, the run value of a homer is 1.65, the run value of a triple is 1.27, and the run value of a double is 1.00. Running the basic math, you lose 81 runs by subtracting the homers, but you gain back nine runs with the triples, and you gain back 42 runs with the doubles. Which means it would be a reduction of 30 runs, in all. That’s over five seasons. I’m just running estimates here, but a few points in either direction won’t change anything significant. Here’s what’s actually happened: there have been 11.3 runs per game in Rockies home games, and 7.9 runs per game in Rockies road games. Using the math above drops that to 11.2 runs per game in Rockies home games.

It’s something, for sure. Every pitcher in the world would rather allow a double than a homer. But this pretty clearly shouldn’t be a game-changer, except in the most literal sense of the word. Every so often, a would-be homer will instead be a double or a triple, but doubles and triples are still valuable. It’s not like the Rockies are over-selling this; they know they haven’t solved Coors Field with some higher fences. But you get to see how difficult a project it is to try to make Coors work like any other ballpark.

The home runs are part of it, absolutely. Normalizing Coors Field means normalizing homers, and this’ll be some kind of small step. But there are other huge issues:

BABIP, last five years

  • Rockies home games: .333
  • Rockies road games: .297

K%, last five years

  • Rockies home games: 17.1%
  • Rockies road games: 20.6%

I don’t know what you can do about the strikeouts, since pitches just move differently in Colorado and since hitters are more incentivized to make contact. And the BABIP in large part comes from the gigantic size of the outfield, which you need to try to keep homers down. Raising the fences actually only makes the BABIP issue slightly worse, which counters the home-run drop. Coors Field is complicated. You know all this. Maybe it’s not that much of an issue in the end, but it’s a big giant outlier that can make it difficult to attract, develop, and/or keep organizational talent.

The Rockies know they aren’t fixing that much here. They might go on to do more later on. We’ll just have to see what adjustments they might decide to make down the road, but for the time being, maybe this’ll make pitching in Colorado ever so incrementally less unpleasant. No one wants to give up a double off the wall, but when you have to pick between that and a stupid cheap homer, you’ll take the two bases, and maybe you curse just a little more under your breath.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ryan13636
Member
Ryan13636
2 months 22 days ago

I’m going to have to disagree with the “any opportunity to talk about Coors is a good one”. This article was useful, but about 90 % of the time Coors is simply used as an excuse for lazy analysis.

stuck in a slump
Member
stuck in a slump
2 months 22 days ago

The only way you’re going to normalize Coors Field is if you build a dome on top and pressurize the building to sea level. But then you’ll risk losing the amazing views that it has.

Nate
Member
Nate
2 months 22 days ago

Glass dome.

TrevorCap
Member
TrevorCap
2 months 22 days ago

That sounds incredibly impractical, difficult to build, design, and especially maintain. I think construction should begin immediately.

Walter
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Walter
2 months 22 days ago

Only if we can get the tax payers to front the bill.

Richie
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Richie
2 months 22 days ago

Since when don’t we?

dl80
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dl80
2 months 22 days ago

A BioDome. Buuuud-dddy.

AaronC
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AaronC
2 months 22 days ago

Two teams enter. One teams leaves.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
2 months 21 days ago

Then the other team leaves after being declared a winner.

Johnston
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Member
Johnston
2 months 22 days ago

The view really is amazing. I think it’s the best in the MLB.

Nate
Member
Nate
2 months 22 days ago

They need to put a roof on. Then pressurize and humidify the stadium, like a giant airplane. Problems solved.

lostatlimbo
Member
lostatlimbo
2 months 22 days ago

Is it really that big of a deal? Every stadium has their quirks – some are very windy, some have odd dimensions, some weird light/shadow play. They’re each unique, and while Coors effect is more drastic and notable, everyone knows what they’re dealing with. You can’t tell me a pitcher is that much more concerned with altitude than the quality of the defense behind them.

Its not like it hurts their Free Agency hopes when every team is well aware of their home/road splits.

Beer
Member
2 months 22 days ago

“You can’t tell me a pitcher is that much more concerned with altitude than the quality of the defense behind them.”

Good one!! Hahahahahahahahaha real good one!!!!!!!!!

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
2 months 22 days ago

Is it really such a big deal? Each stage has its bugs – some windy with an odd size, something strange light / shadow play. Each is unique, and while the effects of Coors stronger and more concrete, they all know that lens. Do not tell me how, but it is more concerned about quality than the height of the last defense.

It’s not like it hurts hope without intermediaries when each team is also familiar with the Split / tracks.

Weston Taylor
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Weston Taylor
2 months 22 days ago

wut

Richie
Member
Richie
2 months 22 days ago

The thinner air in and of itself takes a bit of a toll on pitchers, too. Fatigue-wise.

Weston Taylor
Member
Weston Taylor
2 months 22 days ago

This should only be something that happens to visiting pitchers. If not, the training staff needs to be fired.

foomanfish
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foomanfish
2 months 22 days ago

Did any other stadiums change their walls or dimensions this offseason?

jianadaren
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jianadaren
2 months 22 days ago

“And the BABIP in large part comes from the gigantic size of the outfield”

For clarity though, that large outfield absolutely does not increase scoring. I feel that goes without saying but there’s a growing sentiment among Rockies fans that the key to reducing scoring would be to shorten the fences. Can you set them straight?

Ryan13636
Member
Ryan13636
2 months 22 days ago

Moving in and heightening the walls would absolutely decrease scoring. Outfielders play extremely deep in Coors now, which leads to a ton of extra hits falling in front of them.

Atreyu Jones
Member
Atreyu Jones
2 months 22 days ago

Moving in the walls alone would increase scoring. The opposite is a myth because people see all those hits drop in.

Sure some of them would be caught with closer fences, but that would be outweighed by doubles during into homers, and fly-outs turning into wall-balls etc.

Ryan13636
Member
Ryan13636
2 months 22 days ago

I suspect I know quite a few more Rockies fans than jianadaren, and I know nobody who wants to move the fences in without raising them. I’ve never even heard the possibility discussed.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 months 22 days ago

You’d have to make it a ‘Green Monster’ from foul pole to foul pole. And man would that then be a weird game.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 22 days ago

Though if you go with the glass dome idea, you can just build the wall all the way to the top. That would reduce home runs by almost 100%.

jianadaren
Member
jianadaren
2 months 22 days ago

Raising the walls, yes, subtly. Bringing in the walls, no. That’s a myth.

It’s based on the incorrect the idea that closer walls will result in more fly outs.

Ryan13636
Member
Ryan13636
2 months 22 days ago

Yes, outfielders not being forced to play ridiculously deep without significantly increasing home runs would absolutely reduce scoring. Fewer bloop hits = fewer baserunners = less scoring. How can you fail to understand this?

jianadaren
Member
jianadaren
2 months 22 days ago

Because what you’re describing is impossible. There’s no possible fence placement that will encourage (let alone force) outfielders to play shallow enough to significantly reduce bloop singles without massively increasing home runs and reducing catches.

Think about it. The only reason they’d play shallower would be if the balls behind their head became uncatchable. Because those balls that used to be caught near the warning track are now home runs.

It’a not the deep fences that cause deep outfielder placement! It’s the fact that there are deep balls hit (caused by the air). You won’t reduce scoring by making those balls uncatchable.

It’s frankly amazing that any intelligent person could believe that.

free-range turducken
Member
free-range turducken
2 months 22 days ago

Let me see if I follow their train of thought:

1. Bringing the fences in will reduce scoring.
2. Making pitchers happy will make them more likely to play for the Rockies.
3. Any extra home runs that happen will make pitchers happy, since they prefer to pitch with the bases empty (see below).
4. Dehumidifying the baseballs will lighten them up, which will make the pitchers’ arms less tired. This is bound to make them happy.
5. On hot summer days, set up a 50-foot wide fan to blast lots of cool air from behind home plate towards the pitchers mound, making them positively gleeful.

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Right, moving out fences always decreases run scoring. It decreases it a lot when the fences are close to begin with. Raising or lowering fences does almost nothing, as this article explains, especially when they are close.

jfree
Member
jfree
2 months 22 days ago

The issue isn’t ‘moving in the fences’. It’s moving OUT home plate and raising fences. Makes the outfield smaller (Coors outfield is 33% larger than the smallest outfield (Fenway) – but still covered by only 3 OF not 4. And increases the size of foul territory to normal – which leads to more outs.

jianadaren
Member
jianadaren
2 months 22 days ago

That one is interesting. Because more foul territory is unambiguously bad for scoring, but less fair territory is unambiguously good for scoring.

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Less runs, that’s definitely what 2016 baseball needs.

Jim
Member
Member
Jim
2 months 22 days ago

With a big lead, some pitchers would prefer to pitch with the bases empty, thus preferring a home run to a double.

Dave Stewart
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Even I think that’s 110% totally stupid.

Ruben Amaro Jr.
Member
Ruben Amaro Jr.
2 months 22 days ago

Same here.

Phillies113
Member
Member
2 months 22 days ago

what

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

That is true in the very last inning of course. And of course, if a pitcher prefers a HR rather than a hit, he can merely balk the runner home.

Phillies113
Member
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Oh, psh, duh. I completely overlooked the extremely important caveat “With a big lead” because I am dumb. Yes, I agree with the original premise.

Carry on.

Bip
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Member
Bip
2 months 22 days ago

What’s stopping him from just ignoring the runner? The runner might advance, but there’s a whole term just for when the runner advances and the fielders don’t care.

JediHoyer
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JediHoyer
2 months 22 days ago

Why did the stadium get hot after the game?…. All the fans left.

Bernie Sanders
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Bernie Sanders
2 months 22 days ago

Stealing jokes from Will Smith without expressed written consent is tantamount to what Donald Drumpf does to speeches from Mussolini.

Crash37
Member
Member
Crash37
2 months 22 days ago

2 words: GIANT FANS. And I’m not talking about the NoCal baseball rooters sitting in the OF gushing about Barry Bonds all game, although that may create enough wind to blow some baseballs back into play as well.

gnomez
Member
gnomez
2 months 22 days ago

“The people have spoken. Viva la resistance!”
“You pushed the resistance leader into a giant fan.”
“He was a traitor and a scoundrel.”
“He was trying to stop you from pushing other people into a giant fan.”

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

The Rockies spent so much time figuring out how many HR this would take away, but they didn’t realize that it would make almost no difference in terms of overall run scoring?

As well, it is likely that any attempts to make Coors Field play like other stadiums is a net disadvantage for the Rox, as it would likely reduce their massive home field advantage (which is a lot more than their road disadvantage – AKA the Coors Field hangover effect).

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
2 months 22 days ago

I have it at roughly 2:1. I found around a 10% increase at home and around a 5% decrease when they go on the road. Of course the fences have very little to do with that as you know. http://theprocessreport.net/examining-the-coors-effect/

jfree
Member
jfree
2 months 22 days ago

There is no massive home field advantage. Baseball is NOT an aerobic sport and that is where the huge home field advantage is for the Broncos and Nuggets (and Olympic sports – which is why they train at altitude). Every batter at Coors benefits from pitches that lose all their ‘stuff’ and become like mere batting practice.

And realistically, most visiting pitchers don’t spend one millisecond trying to ‘figure Coors out’ because success/failure there doesn’t matter one whit for their career. Do you think Kershaw lies awake at night trying to figure out how he can reduce his Coors career stats – 4.63 ERA and 1.3 WHIP? No. If he ever does, then the Dodgers will simply stop pitching him at Coors and throw in a spot start for some mediocre twice a year or so.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 22 days ago

I’ve always felt they should go the opposite way and embrace the altitude, turning it into a big home-field advantage. Get rid of the humidor, bring the fences in and put together the best offensive lineup possible.

They’ve never been able to develop strong pitching through their system (Ubaldo Jimenez being by far their best home-grown starter), which probably has a lot to do with the discouragement of pitching half your starts at Coors. And since they’re super unlikely to attract an ace via free agency, they may as well just populate their pitching staff with cheap, fringy guys with maybe a few quality hard-throwing relievers for the bullpen.

That would free them to focus on assembling an everyday lineup that would be scary in any ballpark but downright demoralizing to any pitching staff visiting Coors.

The Ancient Mariner
Member
The Ancient Mariner
2 months 22 days ago

Forget the fences. If the Rockies want to help their pitchers, they should put a big, flashy, Marlins-Park-style sculpture in center field. Get rid of that nice, even green batting eye that lets the hitters get comfortable, and put something in their line of sight that will interfere with their focus.

Rob
Member
Rob
2 months 22 days ago

And that will be easy! Copy the one the Marlins have, paint it brown and swap the rotating fish for rotating deer! And, never turn it off! The Rockies hitters will eventually acclimate and perform just as well! I can feel the run suppression already!

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

And “left field line high HR area?” Most lines are not high HR area. Most HR’s are hit to the gaps. I’ll have to look that up…

Richie
Member
Richie
2 months 22 days ago

I’ll trust the Rockies have done their homework here, but also look forward to checking back in for your research, MGL.

Only other reason I can think of is that raising the fence in front of the tunnel impedes no views. But why would you not then just say so?

Hurtlocker
Member
Hurtlocker
2 months 22 days ago

Use a superball and you have to actually hit it out of the stadium. Players can also run up the bleachers, fans can trip said players at will. Wouldn’t that be fun?

gnomez
Member
gnomez
2 months 22 days ago

Disappointing. At this point they should just go full Gateway Grizzlies: 301 down the right field line with a 4-foot wall from center to the foul pole. GCS Ballpark has joke dimensions.

Johnston
Member
Member
Johnston
2 months 22 days ago

Damn, I might have been able to hit 40 HR playing in a home field with those dimensions! Lucky lefties!

ginsugarland@gmail.com
Member
ginsugarland@gmail.com
2 months 22 days ago

Dante, is that you?

nate0605
Member
nate0605
2 months 22 days ago

What would happen if the Rockies tried to put 3 Kiermaiers in the outfield? Any reduction in runs, or is it still simply too much ground to cover?

I mean, it couldn’t fail any harder than going after sinkerballers and ground balls, right?

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Well, if you put better fielders in any outfield, you sort of save some runs. I think that’s the way defense works. ;)

tz
Member
tz
2 months 22 days ago

MGL, I’m dying to know whether this applies to Fenway in particular.

I had always thought that a huge part of Carl Crawford’s value was wasted by Fenway’s small LF area. Though after last season’s LF debacle, I’m not so quick to discount the value of a good LF glove at Fenway.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 22 days ago

Oops, meant as a reply to your post below.

MGL
Member
2 months 22 days ago

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that good or bad fielders can be leveraged in small or large outfields. In other words, putting in Jason Heyward for Kyle Schwarber gains you just as many runs in Coors Field as it does in Wrigley Field.

jianadaren
Member
jianadaren
2 months 22 days ago

Is that because that leverage would already be captured by the metrics or because the different fields simply don’t significantly influence the amount of defensive opportunities.

JediHoyer
Member
JediHoyer
2 months 22 days ago

I don’t believe there is evidence it has 0 effect either. Im sure if you take the guys with the 3 highest range factors in the of you will get to more balls. A poster earlier mentioned of’s play deeper in coors but guys with big range can cheat a little and reduce thst babip.

jfree
Member
jfree
2 months 22 days ago

The problem is that any evidence you can gather from other fields is completely irrelevant to Coors – and vice-versa.

Every hitters park is a small outfield – except Coors. Every pitchers park is a big outfield – except Coors has a bigger outfield than all of them too. And altitude changes the hang time at Coors – and only at Coors – so you can’t compare anything based solely on hit location because the hang time (and the effect of that on a fielders range) is also different at Coors.

francis_soyer
Member
francis_soyer
2 months 22 days ago

Keep the humidifier and bring the fences in.

The HRs are not the issue, the big outfield is. Bring the fences in to make the field more like others, and then adjust the humidifier to get the ball to travel as far as it would at sea level.

This seems easy as long as a humidifier actually works ( and is operated by the league, not the team ).

Antonio Bananas
Member
Member
Antonio Bananas
2 months 22 days ago

I’m no physicist, but from the trajectories we’ve been shown of home runs and how steep their downward plane is, will raising the wall really affect any HR other than ones that just snuck over the wall?

To normalize the stadium, why not just make it bigger? Ball flies X% further, make it X% bigger.

chaokang
Member
chaokang
2 months 22 days ago

Imagine jetpacks to outfielders to reduce BABIP and something distracting behind pitchers to increase K’s.

It’s easy if you try.

HappyFunBall
Member
HappyFunBall
2 months 22 days ago

You’re saying that outfielders with jet packs wouldn’t be distracting enough?

chaokang
Member
chaokang
2 months 22 days ago

fair point

BigChief
Member
Member
BigChief
2 months 22 days ago

I was probably smart that Lennon cut this line from his song before recording.

maguro
Member
Member
maguro
2 months 22 days ago

Disagree. I think I would’ve been a big improvement.

Noah Baron
Member
Noah Baron
2 months 22 days ago

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about making Coors Field a fair ballpark. The solution in my mind is relatively simple:

1) Have fences that are further away than average from home plate.
2) Have fences that are SIGNFICANTLY higher than average. Almost Fenway-esque fences.

Regardless of altitude, you’d get a big reduction in home runs, because the ball traveling further doesn’t help too much when you have to get above a 30-40 foot fence. And while those home runs would mostly turn into doubles, that’s probably less of a BABIP increase than having fences that are abnormally far away, which conversely would make the outfield far too expansive (and increase BABIP significantly).

In this scenario, you’d get the best of both worlds: significantly fewer home runs because of higher fences without a massive BABIP increase that comes from deep fences. If the fences are high enough, it might even play as a neutral ballpark.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 months 22 days ago

Every foot you raise the fence puts each fan on the other side of it another foot farther away from the action. If/when sitting atop the ‘Green Monster’ stops being cool, those’ll be the worst seats in the house.

Atreyu Jones
Member
Atreyu Jones
2 months 22 days ago

That is somewhat mitigated by the fact that being elevated gives a somewhat better view. That’s why watchtowers are towers.

Green Monster seats are overrated, but not because of how high they are. The luxury boxes and infield roof seats are good, and they are just as high.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 21 days ago

What about having the outfield gently slope upwards from say 150 feet from home plate up to the fence? (Kind of like making the whole outfield a gentler version of Tal’s Hill).

This way, you can make it harder to homer AND no more difficult for an OF to rob the other team of a homer.

ashlandateam
Member
ashlandateam
2 months 21 days ago

I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone is trying to REDUCE scoring in any ballpark at this point. Scoring is fun; Coors field is fun. We should be (and have been, in SD and Seattle and Miami) trying to figure out how to increase scoring, not decrease it. Coors should be left alone.

Anonymous
Member
Anonymous
2 months 21 days ago

The best solution is obvious:

Push the walls back further (to normalize HR rates) and add a 4th outfielder ( to cover the extra field.)

Dominikk85
Member
Dominikk85
2 months 21 days ago

I don’t think the altitude problem can be solved, you can increase park size but that increase Babip. Maybe a large foul territory would help some but not much.

I think as long as the Rockies play high up there they won’t win. Not so much because of the road hangover but because of pitching. Of course opponents pitchers have to pitch there too but by pitching 81 games there pitchers not only give up more runs but also throw more pitches per inning which wears them down.

Has anyone researched how many more pitches the Rockies staff throws per season than the average pitching staff? I guess those pitches add up especially in the second half of the season.

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