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Projecting Coors Field in 2007, Part 2: 2006 Season in Review

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As usual, I get behind in my various projects and grand designs for this blog, so this post will be sparse on comment and long on conjecture, but I just want to push forward a couple of things I'm looking at.

First Point: I don't buy the popularly circulated humidor on/humidor off theory to describe the last couple of months in the season.

The main reason why is because if true, I wouldn't expect to see the Rockies' road RA average spike in conjunction with the home RA spike pointed to as the time when Coors Field started playing like Coors of old. By homestand, these are the runs allowed per game by Rockies pitchers:

Runs Allowed per game for each homestand:

  1. 6
  2. 5.89
  3. 2.8
  4. 2.67
  5. 6.33
  6. 2.83
  7. 5.5
  8. 2.6
  9. 5.14
  10. 6.33
  11. 6.75
  12. 8.2
You can see the rising tail at the end there, but check out the runs per game for each road trip:

Runs allowed per game for each road trip:

  1. 4.17
  2. 4.56
  3. 4.83
  4. 4.67
  5. 4.57
  6. 3.67
  7. 5.1
  8. 3.57
  9. 6.33
  10. 6.5
  11. 6
  12. 6.33
From August on, the Rockies didn't have one road trip where the pitching gave up fewer than six runs a game. Given that the home numbers are mostly in that same range, I would suggest that our pitchers were just terrible down the stretch and the humidor actually saved them from looking a whole lot worse.

My guess for the reason why Rockies pitchers experienced this collapse still is altitude related, but due mainly to fatigue. Remember that the Rockies had the second most stable rotation in the majors last season, with their top four starters all logging at least 31 starts apiece, and Byung Hyun Kim clocking in at 27. This accounted for 950 2/3 innings of the total 1447 1/3 pitched by the Rockies in 2006, or 65.7%. Because of their relative success up to that point, the percentage was even higher on August 1.

This is why the prospect of Brian Lawrence coming into the rotation in the middle of May intrigues me. Why I'm hoping we can keep Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales, or Greg Reynolds relatively fresh for a mid-season arrival from the minors. It seems that the deeper our staff goes into the season intact, the more perilous are chances at maintaining momentum become.

Second Point: More bad news. Take a look at the homestand run averages again. Those four wherein the Rockies kept opponents scoring below three runs per game stick out, and they were the reason for much of the speculation about humidor tampering that came about last season. I think this theory was mostly hogwash based on some fairly flimsy circumstantial evidence, but that leaves the alternative, which is just as discouraging if not more if you're a Rockies fan: that the four low-scoring homestands were a fluke, unlikely to be repeated to that degree in 2007 or any given season hereafter. Part of the reason they happened were because of the long grass in the infield, which helps Aaron Cook in particular. Another part of why they occurred likely has to do with the hitting background -which aids in the deception of pitches from Jeff Francis and Byung Hyun Kim- but there also seems to be a strong luck component involved here.

Third Point: Might as well put up the lists for run production on offense as well, as this is a bit more optimistic:

Runs scored per game for each homestand:

  1. 3.33
  2. 4.78
  3. 3.8
  4. 4.83
  5. 3.89
  6. 5.83
  7. 5.33
  8. 3.7
  9. 6.14
  10. 6.17
  11. 10.75
  12. 8.3
So if Coors wasn't playing like Coors of old at the end, then what is this? Honestly, that last crazy homestand (where we outscored our opponents 8.3 to 8.2) is hard to justify, other than saying by then, everybody was gassed. That series definitely looks like circa 1996 Coors, rather than 2006 Coors. The one before, against Washington, seems out of sorts also until you consider that it was only a four game homestand (small sample) and we also beat them handily at typically run squelching RFK earlier in the summer. For some reason we seemed to think we were the Globetrotters playing the Generals whenever we played Washington last year. The rest all fall in a typical range for last season at our home park and could be expected given the offensive boosts we got at the end from late call-ups Jeff Baker and Kaz Matsui, and by replacing drags like Clint Barmes with Troy Tulowitzki and Cory Sullivan with the unsurprisingly potent Ryan Spilborghs.

Just to check, though, here are the road numbers:

Runs scored per game for each road trip:

  1. 7.83
  2. 4.55
  3. 2.67
  4. 1.89
  5. 6
  6. 5.83
  7. 4.7
  8. 2.71
  9. 2.5
  10. 4.83
  11. 4.67
  12. 7
This is how much of a statistician I am: the first thing I noticed about this was that in my graph version, this list makes a jagged 'W'. The second thing I noticed were the high scoring trips in the middle (5,6,7) as they popped out to me as erratic considering what our offense was typically doing at the time, but they are all explained away. The first included that set at RFK I alluded to earlier where we outscored the Nats 35-14 in four games. The second was interleague, we had the DH, and the third included trips to Cincinnati and Arizona, two more parks skewed to offense. It's the jump again in the tenth roadtrip that I want you to take particular note of. This time we were going to San Diego and Los Angeles, two playoff contenders in pitching parks so the leap seems more substantial to me. We then went on to AT&T and clobbered the Giants in another pitcher friendly stadium, before closing out against the Cubs at Wrigley.

Looking at it in the context of the positive changes our lineup underwent at the time, it's a confidence boost heading into 2007 that the momentum will carry forward. I can't say the same about our pitching situation, as we'll need to monitor our arms carefully to ensure another collapse like 2006 isn't in order.