Coors Field and BABIP

This morning, the Rockies traded away Jason Hammel, a starter who has posted relatively high BABIPs over most of his career. While his .280 BABIP last year doesn’t look so bad, the distribution of when those hits came (.272 BABIP with bases empty, .291 BABIP with men on, .300 with RISP) – along with the .327 overall mark he posted in the prior two seasons – led to the Rockies souring on his abilities and shifting him to the bullpen in August. Hammel was just the latest in a string of pitchers who have fallen out of favor with the Rockies due to high BABIPs, as the team traded away Ubaldo Jimenez and Felipe Paulino during stretches of allowing hits last year, and had decided not to bring back Jeff Francis last winter due to his proclivity for giving up base hits.

Eventually, though, the Rockies are going to have to realize that it’s not the pitchers, it’s the park. Here are the BABIPs for all pitchers at Coors Field for each of the last 10 years, and where that ranks relative to the other parks in that specific year.

2011 – .312 (29th)
2010 – .326 (30th)
2009 – .317 (29th)
2008 – .315 (29th)
2007 – .316 (26th)
2006 – .321 (28th)
2005 – .333 (30th)
2004 – .336 (30th)
2003 – .315 (t-30th)
2002 – .321 (30th)

While the installation of the humidor before the ’02 season has reduced the amount of balls flying over the wall, it hasn’t really done anything to change the fact that Colorado is far and away the easiest park in baseball to get a base hit. The air still helps the ball carry better than it does at sea level, and the fact that Coors Field boasts an extremely spacious outfield makes it much easier for balls to fall between defenders, who are being asked to cover a massive amount of territory. In fact, the inflation of BABIP is the defining characteristic of Coors Field, and is the primary driver of higher offensive levels in the park.

The Rockies can’t keep giving up on every pitcher they have who gives up a lot of hits. It’s just part of the atmosphere they have to deal with, and they have to adjust their expectations accordingly. Getting frustrated and dumping every pitcher who posts a high BABIP in Colorado is simply going to lead to the team getting rid of a lot of good pitchers.

With Guillermo Moscoso, Jamie Moyer, and now Jeremy Guthrie, the team has now acquired three pitchers who have lower than average career BABIPs. Clearly, the team is trying to stop giving up so many base hits, and they’ve now targeted guys who have a history of keeping guys from getting hits in other cities.

Bringing in pitchers who rely on preventing hits and asking them to overcome the altitude seems like a questionable strategy at best, though. Maybe they’ve finally figured out the type of pitcher that can overcome their home park and they’ll get the last laugh, but I’d say it’s more likely that these guys see their BABIPs rise sharply due to their new environments, and the Rockies will throw more mud at the wall next year in an attempt to see what sticks.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Simon
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Simon
4 years 7 months ago

Does this maybe explain their apparent targetting of flyball pitchers this year? I’d be interested in whether it was possible to break down the BABIPs for different types of batted ball in Coors to determine whether the increased BABIP was solely or primarily due to the size of the outfield and the ball carrying better.

Brandon
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Brandon
4 years 7 months ago

I dont understand why you are making the connection that the Rox made the decision to move on from the pitchers quoted BECAUSE of their BABIP… it seems like their are a myriad of other reasons that are reasonable for each individual circumstance… are you operating on info that this is a particular goal of O’Dowd’s?

jrogers
Member
jrogers
4 years 7 months ago

Brandon (and Mike below): I don’t think he’s saying O’Dowd looks at BABIP and says “we need to get rid of this guy”; rather, it seems like the Rockies are discarding pitchers who have given up a lot of hits for guys who haven’t. But the driving force behind these stats is more the Coors park setup than the pitchers’ talent, that’s the point.

Colin
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Colin
4 years 7 months ago

AKA a polite way of saying O’Dowd and staff are doing things completely butt backwards.

Brandon
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Brandon
4 years 7 months ago

Yeah I understand and appreciate the civility… I guess we can say that (obviously) Coors will raise a typical pitchers amount of base hits given up, but to just simply say that O’Dowd is overreacting to this in his deals really is not responsible in my mind… lots more to it.

O’Dowd did not trade Jimenez because his BABIP went up, it was a combination of the team needing to restock its pitching prospects combined with the belief that Ubaldo was regressing across the board (3mph on his fastball for example)…

I am fine with someone criticizing each of these deals, but I think it irresponsible to assume O’Dowd is operating under the above premise…

Mike
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Mike
4 years 7 months ago

Or maybe they soured on him because his FIP always underestimates his ERA, he didn’t post 5K/9 last year, and had a ~3.6BB/9.

All of that adds up to a pretty bad pitcher…but yeah, probably just BABIP right?

And where does Ubaldo fit into this BABIP argument? His BABIP was right around .300 when they traded him away and he had posted .280 (2009) and .271 (2010) BABIP’s in the years prior. Paulino and Francis are not necessarily world beaters either, and Francis was pretty underwhelming with KC…

The premises for your argument are just false…there is no evidence that the Rockies are trading away pitchers due to BABIP, but hey, why not make an article out of it?

Nick44
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Nick44
4 years 7 months ago

“his FIP always underestimates his ERA”

I mean, you know what you are saying with that comment right?

Plot (ERA – FIP) vs BABIP.

(Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

The premise for the article is not false, it is unknown. Your premise that FIP underestimating ERA has nothing to do with BABIP, however, does not fit with established data.

Mike
Guest
Mike
4 years 7 months ago

732 Career IP

4.99 ERA
4.38 FIP

If you think the difference is all BABIP driven, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

And I don’t know how arguing an unknown premise is any better than arguing a known one.

Also never said anything about BABIP having nothing to do with the FIP – ERA discrepancy, but you’re falsely assuming that every pitcher will regress to the same BABIP. Hammel’s BABIP of .314 is well within normal ranges for a subpar pitcher.

Anything else?

Mike
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Mike
4 years 7 months ago

Sorry, any better than arguing a *false* one.

Ryan
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Ryan
4 years 7 months ago

It couldn’t be that Hammel hasn’t been able to provide 150, or more, innings of good pitching at any time in his career, would it? Even in his 3.9 WAR seasons, he hit major walls.

The way the Rockies’ pitching rotation is shaping up this season, the consistent 200+ inning guy is more valuable to the team.

Nate
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Nate
4 years 7 months ago

…so they sign the 83-year old? Ryan what’s your prediction for 2012 IP by Moyer?

B N
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B N
4 years 7 months ago

I think the odds of Moyer pitching 2012 innings this year is pretty low, but statistically higher than zero if you assume a normal distribution. ;)

Ryan
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Ryan
4 years 7 months ago

In the Big Leagues? Maybe 30?

I see Moyer either being a White/Nicasio/Pomeranz stopgap to start the season, or a go-to AAA option for a young player, who earns the job out of Spring Training and falters.

I see his signing as someone to be a positive example in camp, not a key figure in a successful 2012 season.

Baltar
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Baltar
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t understand why 200 IP from a lesser pitcher is better than 150 IP from a better pitcher, but I am open-minded. Please expain.

Matthias
Member
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I feel you. I think that’s the beauty of the logic behind WAR. One pitcher goes 200 innings with a +2 WAR, while another goes 150 innings with a +2 WAR and some minor leaguer fills in the other 50 IP with 0 WAR. The idea is to show that the pitchers contributed approximately equally to the team.

Though there may be a reasonable argument that “spreading out” WAR is more valuable. A guy who strikes out 20 in one game is getting a lot of WAR value, but there have to be diminishing returns at some point (within one game). 150IP and 200IP are probably not different enough for this to matter too much, but who knows?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
4 years 7 months ago

The WAR argument is fine, unless those innings are accumulated throughout a full season, never getting through the 5th inning. It’s taxing on your bullpen, and the effects aren’t as conveniently surmised in WAR statistics.

I think Jason Hammel is an extremely effective pitcher most of the time, as is reflected by WAR, but the fatigue, “dead arm”, and nagging injuries he’s always working through don’t keep him out of games in lieu of another supplementary pitcher (as argued); he simply pitches poorly, forcing the team to scramble an overextended bullpen every start.

With so many young prospects in line for rotation spots next year, the “veteran starter” on the staff HAS to be a 30+ start, 200+ inning guy. The bullpen simply can’t eat all the innings Hammel can’t get through.

Jason
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Jason
4 years 7 months ago

I don’t think its the spacious outfield that yields the higher BABIP. IIRC many players have said that pitchers can’t get as much movement on their pitches due to the low air densisty.

razor
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razor
4 years 7 months ago

It’s both…but that outfield in Coors Field really is crazy. The outfielders also play way deep, which just increases that singles chance. Too much ground to cover + also playing deep = lots of hits. It’s that simple.

the hottest stove
Guest
the hottest stove
4 years 7 months ago

A couple of lesser mentioned factors of the thin air are that the ball actually approaches the fielders more quickly, falls in as a hit more quickly, and hooks foul less frequently in the corners….All of these in addition to the larger field and less movement on pitches means bad news for pitchers….

The Real Neal
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

We have a winner. It’s the speed at which the balls fall that is the greatest driver for the higer BABIP. This news is about 15 years old, by the way, and the Rockie’s front office is well aware of it… they live there, and all.

I’ve never really understood the “large outfield is more ground to cover” bit. Play your outfielders like you do at Wrigley Field, and if it goes over their head, say “Well, that would have been a homer at other ballparks”, and quit worrying about it.

bstar
Guest
bstar
4 years 7 months ago

I remember hearing once that all batted balls(in this case, line drives and fly balls) in Coors Field fly 7% farther than at sea level. So line drives that a shortstop has to jump for to catch are going over their heads, less-harder-hit line drives in the gap have a better chance to get by the outfield and to the wall, etc. I wonder if this 7% is now lessened due to the humidor effect.

I always thought the sanest thing to do would be to bring the fences in a little, lessening the outfield space, and making higher outfield walls to keep the HRs about the same.

Blake
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Blake
4 years 7 months ago

The problem the Rockies had with Hammel was his proclivity to implode. The man would either put 0’s or crooked numbers on the board. His inability to get himself out of jams was his undoing last year. Giving up basehits is bad but giving up basehits with RISP gets you tradedltradedl

The Nicker
Member
Member
The Nicker
4 years 7 months ago

There’s a second effect here, which is that Colorado outfielders take big UZR hits by playing so much at Coors Field.

Look at guys like Willy Taveras, Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday as Rockies and then elsewhere. If you’re wondering why Dexter Fowler looks like a good CF but UZR says he’s not that’s probably why.

razor
Guest
razor
4 years 7 months ago

Agree with this…and I’d like to see a home/road split for Colorado outfielders regarding their UZR ratings. Of course, it might take six years for the sample size to get where it needs to be and by then the players skills have likely changed some, but I’d still like to see those splits.

The Real Neal
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

I’ve always wonderd (and once asked MGL, who didn’t seem to get the question), how the outfield zones are handled with the ZR system. Either the zones have to be bigger or smaller for larger and smaller parks, or their need to be fewer. The Rockies defenders get the double whammy of larger zones, and faster falling baseballs.

Nick44
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Nick44
4 years 7 months ago

This.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 7 months ago

“as the team traded away Ubaldo Jimenez and Felipe Paulino during stretches of allowing hits last year, and had decided not to bring back Jeff Francis last winter due to his proclivity for giving up base hits.”

cmon dave, you’re not an idiot; surely you know there was much more behind those decisions than “they were giving up a few more hits than normal”

Bobby Ayala
Member
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Good write up Dave, it was interesting to see the Coors Field BABIP history.

I think it’s a stretch to say that hits allowed is the primary focus of the Rockies, unless you mean a general sense of improving their pitching. Hammel, Paulino and Francis aren’t very good and don’t project to get better. They traded Ubaldo at the end of his peak value for a king’s ransom. Moscoso is a great young pitcher (with an above-average minor league BABIP). Guthrie might enjoy a nice NL boost and get flipped for a prospect.

48 year-old Moyer probably shouldn’t be used as evidence for this argument.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 7 months ago

Guthrie will give up 40 HR next year. That should lower his BABIP.

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