Walking on the road to victory: How the humble walk will improve Colorado's road offense

USA TODAY Sports

Aggressive hitting is fine at home but a more patient approach on the road will be a key for the offense to rebound on the road in 2013.

In this follow-up to my introductory overview into how walks affect the winning percentage of the Colorado Rockies, I am going to focus on the offensive side of the situation. More specifically, how walks will affect the Rockies' offensive success on the road.

Throughout each season, most Rockies fans love the offensive production at home (and free Tacos) but also grow frustrated at the lack of production on the road. None of us expect the team to hit the same number of home runs, or even score the same number of runs while away from Coors Field, but the pitching staff needs the offense to score some runs on the road.

Last year the Rockies were 7-40 on the road when they scored three or fewer runs while they were 22-12 when they scored four or more runs. So the question becomes, how can the Rockies offense, which was potent in 2012 (at least at Coors), become more consistent on the road? I believe the answer lies in taking pitches and battling for more walks.

Batting at Coors Field encourages aggression at the plate. According to Baseball Prospectus, Coors Field had a runs factor of 125 for left handed batters and 117 for right handed batters last year, leading the league on both sides of the plate. This means that compared to a neutral park, a league average lineup at Coors Field will produce 25% more runs and a left-handed lineup 17% more.

Rockies hitters took advantage of their home park in 2012, hitting 34 more home runs and 42 more doubles on their way to having a slugging percentage 25% higher at home than on the road. Making contact of any sort was better for a Rockies hitter at home than on the road (home BABIP of .348, road BABIP was just .292). Simply put, hitting the ball does not provide the same benefit on the road than at home, 25% less for slugging and about 20% less for getting a base hit. Swinging and missing is never a good idea, but the Rockies are also worse at this on the road than at home. They struck out 121 more times on the road than at home last year, which is close to their average difference in the last eleven years.

The numbers above are interesting, but they only shed a little light on the issue and only focus on last year. If the team strikes out more on the road and gets out more often when they hit the ball on the road than at home, maybe the Rockies have been more successful on the road when they have walked more.

Using home/away split data from espn.com, I decided to find out if this hypothesis was true. First off, I must point out that I came to this idea based on the correlation I found between Rockies wins and the number of walks they had over the eleven year period since the advent and use of the humidor as shown here:

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The correlation factor of walks to wins of .8129 (on a continuum of 0 to 1, where 1 implies a direct correlation) for the Rockies from 2002-2012 is by far the closest related offensive statistic of the ten that I looked at for the team. So, while it can be argued which one causes the other, it is clear that walks and wins are related, but are they even more important on the road?

When the data is split between home and road numbers, the relative importance of walks on offense is even more pronounced. The number of runs scored at Coors Field by the Rockies (2002-2012) has not been relative to walks near as much as slugging percentage. For those who like numbers, the correlation of slugging percentage to runs at Coors Field was .892 while walks to runs was only .146. Slugging was even more important than OBP which had a factor of .866. For this reason at Coors Field I say, "swing away Rockies".

The road numbers tell a different story. While slugging is still important (.828), OBP becomes a bigger factor (.950), and walking becomes statistically significant (.729). Getting extra base hits still is important to getting runs, but they are harder to get and getting on base, via walk or hit, becomes a bigger factor for the Rockies on the road. While this may seem obvious as a general statement, the numbers begin to paint a specific picture of how important it is for the offense to work counts on the road and get on base.

While this closer look at the numbers did not show walks as the definitive factor to increasing runs, and therefore wins, on the road, it did show their relative importance and how much more important patience is for the Rockies on the road than at Coors Field. While the Rockies have averaged nearly 300 walks at home since 2002, they have only topped this number twice on the road, ('07, '09) which happened to be their two best seasons on the road and their last two playoff years.

It will be fun this year to see if Cargo, Tulo, and Rosario will bring back the glory years of the Blake Street Bombers and all surpass the 30 home run mark. However, for the reasons shown above, I for one, am going to be rooting for a few more walks when the team takes to the road.

Authors note: this article looked at correlation, not necessarily cause and effect. I will post later articles that look into this and look forward to your comments on ways to focus later articles and if others feel that these numbers have statistical significance. I do plan to look at Rockies pitching and walks as well as look at pitch counts and how being patient can get to the other team's bullpen and if this improves winning percentage.

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