My conception of the adjusted fences at Coors Field.
On Wednesday, Rockies Owner Dick Monfort and GM Dan O'Dowd were interviewed by Peter Burns of Mile High Sports Radio. In the final segment a question was asked by our own Traindogger about changing the dimensions of Coors Field to reduce runs scored. The Rockies owner replied that it was considered back when Josh Byrnes was with the Front Office, but the idea had been put aside since his departure. Incidentally, since moving on to become the GM of San Diego, Josh Byrnes has implemented a change in Petco park's dimensions. A stadium notorious for suppressing balls hit into the outfield, the Padres have spent this offseason bringing in the outfield fences to allow for more home runs.
In my own research I utilized Fox Sports Hit Chart to discover where balls were hit in Coors for the 2012 season. To avoid a small sample I used the Rockies main starters last season as well as at least one star player from each of the NL West rivals; players such as Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, etc. Overall the players chosen provided over 1500 At Bats in Coors Field last season. and this was the chart that was produced:
Red squares represent outs and blue squares are hits or home runs. One of the things that surprised me most about the chart was how many deep outs were made, nearly at the fence. It seems outfielders are playing very deep in Coors Field. Except for the gaps and right field, there are very few balls hit over the heads of Rockies outfielders, besides the ones that clear the wall at least. The biggest issue however, is the gap between outs made in the infield and those made in the grass. There is 150' of open space where balls tend to fall for a hit, ample room for Texas Leaguers and Scrappy Specials. In the chart below I outlined in red the zones where the outfielders normally get to the ball, notice the gap.
This data coincides with other aspects showing how difficult Coors Field is for pitchers. While many people think of home runs, it's actually not the worst field in the majors for hitting balls into the stands. In 2012 Coors Field held a park factor of 1.579 in Runs scored, meaning runs were scored one and a half times more than an average MLB park. What causes these runs to score is the key however. Coors is by far the worst park for base hits and triples, it also ranks second in doubles allowed. While it does allow a lot of home runs, it's actually ranked lower than Miller Park and Cincinnati's park.
These base hits and extra-base hits are in my opinion the biggest culprit for the amount of runs scored at Coors. My suggestion is to reduce the gaps by bringing in the fences in right-center and center field and raising them to a height of 14' to match the out-of-town scoreboard. Fences that currently stretch to 375' before going to 415' would be reduced to 360' and 400'. Honestly the fences should be raised to 14' in left field as well, since some of the cheapest home runs in the majors last season were hit in that direction, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker. Bringing in the fences would reduce the number of cheap home runs and allow fielders to play closer without worry of a ball hit over their heads or into the gaps. The probable outcome is fewer base runners for when a home run is hit and more chances for the Rockies defense to get out of the inning.
The result of bringing in the fences could affect the Rockies positively in other ways as well. I imagine the Rockies could add a walkway with a mountain-meadow inspired stream teaming with rainbow trout winding along the expanded wall. By adding an access into and through the center field fountains area, the aesthetics of the field would be increased. Also the Rockies could add a Camarena loft type of outdoor seating area, charging premium ticket prices to sit and eat in this area and thereby providing an additional revenue stream.
I believe further research is needed on this topic. Perhaps using geometrical analysis of balls hit using ESPN's Home Run Tracker. For now I propose we move in the fences, raise the walls and add a little more beauty to Coors Field.