The problem with Coors has been well documented, worst starting pitching ERA since the swinging 20's, largest road/home ERA in the history of the humidor, etc. So what is the cause of all these pitching failures? Recently Dan O'Dowd wondered out loud if Coors is playing differently and Todd Helton says the ball is flying further than normal. Their insinuations would indicate Rockies pitchers are giving up homeruns at a higher rate than usual. Which, looking at the numbers, they are.
This season the Rockies are allowing 1.31 HR's per game, the 2nd highest season since the humidor was installed in 2002. That season the humidor was considered by many outsiders as a gimmick, however it lowered the team ERA and HR's allowed, but only slightly. A true drop in homeruns wasn't seen until 2003 and the numbers continued to be depressed until a sudden spike occurred this year. So what's the cause of these homeruns, is it due to young pitching? This theory definitely has some merit, but we need to compare 2002 to this year to see other coinciding facts. The state is on fire:
via Drew Pomeranz Twitter feed (Tuesday's Sky Sox game was postponed due to smoke and ashes)
Nine of the top ten largest wildfires in Colorado history have occurred in 2002 or 2012. Only the Mesa Verde fire in 2000 happened on a seperate year.
Largest wildfires in Colorado history (acres burned):
2002 Hayman Fire, southwest of Denver - 137,760 acres; 5 deaths, 16 injuries, 600 structures
2012 High Park Fire, Larimer County - 87,250 acres (active); 1 death, 200+ structures
2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, near Durango - 71,739 acres; 1 death, 52 injuries, 56 structures
2012 Last Chance Fire, Washington County - 44,100 acres; 11 structures
2002 Spring & Fisher/James John fires (Trinidad Complex) - 32,896 acres; 6 injuries
2002 Burn Canyon Fire , Norwood area - 31,616 acres; 9 injuries
2002 Mount Zirkel Complex, Steamboat Springs area - 31,016 acres
2012 Heartstrong Fire , Yuma County - 24,000 acres; 3 injuries, 2+ structures
2012 Little Sand Fire, Pagosa Springs area - 22,010 acres (active)
2000 Bircher Fire , Mesa Verde area - 19,709 acres
Not only is the state on fire, but 2002 was a record year for drought in Colorado. That year approximately 95% of the state was in a drought. It was the worst drought conditions in recorded history for the state. Snowpack this year was nearly equal to 2002 and Colorado receives 80% of it's moisture through snow runoff.
So what does this mean and how does it affect baseballs? It shows Colorado is really dry right now, typically Colorado is one of the driest states in America, it's 35% average is second only to Arizona's 25% and on Monday the humidity level was 18%. With less water in the air things dry out quicker, including forests that result in statewide forest fires and baseballs which results in four man rotations and 75 limit pitch counts. Do you remember 2002, there's one image of Larry Walker that stands out in my mind from that season. He's being interviewed before a game and says something to the effect of, "How can you expect us to play a game when people's houses are burning?" This is 2012 and once again the state is on fire and it's changed the way balls fly in Coors Field.