Coors Canaveral. The Blake Street Bombers. Wild games that end 16-15 or 18-17. These are images most people get when thinking about baseball played a mile high, even though the now famous humidor has been in use for seven seasons. Managers, analysts, fans and even players - especially Jason Kendall and Jeff Cirillo - have more than acknowledged the effect the humidor has had on tempering offense at 20th and Blake. Yet it still is seen very much as a launching pad.
The science and politics of the Rockies’ elevation have long fascinated me. Just how can you quantify the advantage hitters get offensively at Coors? A strong case can be made that "The Coors Effect" counted against the Rockies in the 1995 and 2007 MVP voting. There are a slew of attempts at quantifying the effect with Park Factors. A recent report by Dave Cameron at fangraphs.com assigns Coors Field a park factor of 1.09, which means there were 9% more runs scored at Coors than the average stadium over the past five years. The next highest is only 1.05 at Chase Field. Is this the best way to look at it? Does Coors really give an offensive advantage twice that of any other field? Heck no! A team with a struggling pitching staff and strong offense is directly hurt by this method, as it only takes into account total runs scored. It is more of a measure of how balanced a team is at home than anything. Cameron acknowledges this method’s flaws by showing that Turner Field “went from being something like Petco Park to being more like Fenway Park” from 2002 to 2003.
ESPN has an accessible table of park factors that also take into account how the team performs on the road. However, this method is still faulty, giving too much power to the actual players’ abilities. To wit: Petco Park was ranked second in 2005; Chase Field jumped from 30th in 2007 all the way past Coors Field to 2nd in 2008. Coors has finished 1st twice since the humidor’s debut. This method also does not address a team who plays a higher percentage of road games at pitchers’ parks than hitters’ parks. The ideal system would involve the park factors of road stadiums, which would involve multiple iteration calculations.
What’s the point? David Gassko at The Hardball Times says it well:
“The problem with park factors… is that they are based on sample data, which can be strongly affected by randomness. That can be a serious issue when we try to make conclusions from a number that seems significant, but really isn’t.”
Park Factors are a relatively new and very inexact science. They are becoming more and more complicated with increasing attempts to improve accuracy. Coors Field is and always will offer advantages to hitters. However, take some statistics with a grain of salt (especially Cameron's) by recognizing the incompleteness in analysis.
Troy Renck lobbies for optimism from casual fans in his latest article. Renck recognizes the pessimism fans have after losing Holliday and Fuentes following a disappointing season; he cites comeback years by Atkins and Tulowizki as well as overall improvement in the rotation as reasons to expect a competitive team. There isn’t anything that Purple Row-bots wouldn’t already know in the piece – it’s more than likely an attempt to reduce the number of underinformed angry mail he has received since Holliday was dealt. Judging by the comments so far, he doesn’t sell many people.
Cardinals OF Skip Schumaker was completely convinced he would be playing his home games at Coors Field in 2009. Schumaker said he thought the blockbuster deal including Ryan Ludwick, Matt Holliday, and himself was a done deal. While the package O'Dowd received from Oakland is widely considered better, Schumaker would have provided the Rockies with an established major league leadoff hitter, which is current a weakness.
Lastly, I'll leave you by highlighting a quote from an unnamed Rockies player via Troy Renck: “Too bad we couldn't have this rotation last season.”