Thursday Rockpile: Coors Field is slumping, but who or what's to blame?

The Rockies as a professional sports franchise rank 8th of 122 by ESPN the Magazine. The rankings are based at least in part on return to the fans of the franchise for money spent. Without a 2011 turnaround (which I still expect, by the way)  I would expect a fairly precipitous drop for the team on next year's list, particularly given that those deviant betting Rockies fans among us are losing more money than those of any other MLB team. This would be a function of the lost home field advantage for Colorado in 2011, where the Rockies remain under .500.

The absent HFA in 2011 has been noted by some as evidence that there were in fact shenanigans at work when the Giants accused the Rockies of humidor malfeasance last season. 

Let me start with three basic points:

 

  1. There is such a thing as a home field advantage for all teams.
  2. Due to their most extreme environment, the Rockies from their inception, even prior to the humidor have had the largest home field advantage in the MLB.
  3. The Rockies to date have no home field advantage in 2011.

 

So right off the bat we know that something's amiss. Eliminate anything you know about the humidor and point #1 and #2 should still indicate that point #3 would be unsustainable. So start with that, that there's something beyond any correction to humidor protocol keeping the Rockies down at Coors Field this season. The author of the linked blog above suggests that there's no other reason he can think of why the Rockies would completely lose a home field advantage, and yet logic dictates that even if the assertions were true, there must be something adding to the Rockies woes.

Just as adding possible suspects lowers the chances of a criminal conviction in court, this last point of something else being involved in turn leads to reasonable doubt that the humidor has anything to do with the missing HFA at all, as if other forces are partly to blame, could they not be entirely responsible? 

So let's go over some other potential suspects in The Case of the Missing HFA:

  • Weather - Changes in temperature and playing conditions will affect some players more than others, and it's going to affect hitters more than pitchers, at an extreme hitting park like Coors Field, this is important to note. The sample from late last September to the end of May is going to have an abnormally high number of games with adverse weather conditions.
  • Personnel - Since the aforementioned linked blog post was written, the team's home batting average has already risen to .273 from .252, beyond some of the other things I'm listing here, it's notable that this coincides with getting two abysmally hitting players at Coors, Dexter Fowler (.227 home batting average) and Jonathan Herrera (.200 at Coors) out of the everyday lineup and replacing them with two players taking advantage of the friendly confines, Charlie Blackmon (.393) and Chris Nelson (.409.) 
  • BABIP Dragons - Herrera's poor plate performance at Coors isn't entirely his fault, just as Troy Tulowitzki's .269 home batting average isn't something you should count on going forward the rest of the year. Before the start of this current homestand, the Rockies as a team had been way below a typical Coors Field BABIP, and while some of that might have had to do with the quality of players on the field, cases like Tulo show that this wasn't always the case. Bad luck has had at least something to do with it, you can't get around this.
  • Small Sample Silliness - Most fans don't realize that the amount of data they use doesn't come close to a sufficient sample to go beyond random noise. Because twelve coin flips in a row land on heads doesn't necessarily point to a coin being weighted. it could just be you got that fluky stretch. If you happened to call that the dozen flips would land on heads, it adds to the suspicion that something's amiss, but it proves nothing, and it could still be random. As far as the odds against, this doesn't come close to that level. The timing of the Giants claim of Rockies cheating and this stretch of the team's HFA dipping to zero is admittedly suspicious, but it's entirely circumstantial.
  • Umpiring -recent study found that a lot of the typical HFA for all sports teams is a result of beneficial umpiring favoring the home team. As somebody who's inclined to believe that there wasn't anything to the humidor claims, this is an area where I think the Giants gamesmanship may have served them anyway, as umpires at Coors Field may be more cognizant now and less inclined to the typical home favoritism. So the Giants can still enjoy the Brian Wilson/Jonathan Sanchez strike zone at their home yard, but because umpires have stepped their wariness up in Denver, the Rockies no longer are getting those borderline calls for Ubaldo Jimenez et al at Coors.

None of this rules out the possibility that the Rockies were trying to game an advantage with the humidor, but without a scrap of hard evidence, without even a credible hearsay witness who claims knowledge that these shenanigans took place, the conspiracy remains an extremely dubious proposition to me. 

*********

Esmil Rogers has suffered an arm unrelated setback in his injury rehab, with tightness in his ribcage keeping him from making his next one or two scheduled starts. With Juan Nicasio and Aaron Cook pitching well, there's plenty of time to wait on Rogers.

Former Rockies catcher Michael McKenry is getting a shot at the bigs in Pittsburgh thanks to former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and former bullpen catcher Mark Strittmatter.

Baseball's shadowy realignment plans have been taking speculators various directions, and one possibility has the Diamondbacks as the team will wind up switching leagues. This when the Rockies and D-backs nascent rivalry is starting to get interesting again doesn't sit well with me. Another direction taken in the discourse could be the expanded use of the DH, something which I'm also not in favor of, as I don't believe the DH experience enhances the game in most AL cities. I guess this makes me a realignment curmudgeon and traditionalist. That said though, I do think realignment has to be the precursor to MLB's next expansion, something I expect to start getting discussed near the end of the decade after the Oakland and Tampa Bay situations are addressed.

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