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Monday Rockpile: The Long and Winding Road

Off-topic here.

Honestly, I have no idea what to write about this morning. So much of the season is missing from my immediate mind because I'm still kind of in denial that Colorado finished SO POORLY. When Colorado was effectively eliminated from postseason play (the Sunday loss against SFG), I had some trouble really focusing hard on the team from there. The only remaining high point of the season, Ubaldo's potential 20th win (which is ultimately a meaningless thing, as Ubaldo Jimenez had an excellent season, regardless of how a flawed tally represented him), was washed away by the tone that had been set the previous week or so: inability to hit any pitcher they faced (seriously, KYLE LOHSE?!).

Granted, complete inability to hit on the road was a theme set in like April or something and continued through countless angst-inducing road trips. Colorado hit for a 73 tOPS+ (thanks to user rururuland784 for breaking the ice on this particular metric, despite my horrible job of welcoming him/her), which is a measure of how well or poor a team hit relative to themselves, where 100 is average. Colorado posted a 127 tOPS+ at home, 73 on the road, indicating that they dipped 27% into their batting reserves to perform better at home, but that budgeted batting performance was charged to the road splits (it makes sense to me, alright?). 2009 showed the Rockies only dipping 16% into that budget, 13.5% in 2008, 15% in 2007.

Another nifty OPS+ metric called sOPS+ does roughly the same thing, but it's scaled to the league instead. Everybody hits worse on the road (as a whole), so that "worse on the road" sOPS+ will still be 100 for all of baseball. Colorado hit at an 86 sOPS+ rate.

More past the hop, skip, and jump.

That 73 tOPS+ doesn't stack well against the MLB mark of 94. The league as a whole hits 6% better at home and 6% worse on the road in 2010, 5% in 2009, 5% in 2008. So home field advantage does exist, but not nearly to the tune of 27%.

What this tells us is mostly what we know: that the poor road play isn't just a Coors Field effect, but they were downright worse on the road. At Coors Field, the Rockies were a hard-hitting team, posting an aggregate .298/.368/.498 line, good for an .866 OPS at home. On the road, .226/.303/.351, .654 OPS. The ISOs are exceptionally interesting to me. They posted a .200 IsoP (SLG-AVG - basically extra bases per AB) at home, which is pretty epic as far as power numbers go. 2009 was similarly epic, .194 IsoP. 2008 was a dip, but Colorado also had some big troubles then. A mere .176 IsoP. 2007 posted a .182 IsoP. The point is that we know Coors allows for big time power numbers.

The road is obviously going to be a dropoff in power, both on the whole "everyone's worse on the road" discovery, and hitting worse power away from Coors is like saying you can dropkick a soccer ball farther than a bowling ball. That hurt just thinking about. 2010 showed a .125 IsoP, 2009 a .164, 2008 .128, 2007 .134.

What's interesting is looking past the obvious "COORS POWER ETC" at the IsoD (which is OBP-AVG, basically extra times on base due to walks). 2010 sat at .070 home, .077 road. 2009: .080 home, .074 road. 2008: .072 home, .073 road. 2007, .074 home, .075 road.

Ok, so it's not an issue of getting on base via walk. OBP is still a problem, but it's almost entirely a batted-ball problem...right? Well, maybe.

Over the past 4 years, the Rockies have struck out more on the road than at home. Since 2007, Colorado has struck out in 17.44% of their PA at home, and 21.39% of their road PA. That's a discrepancy of nearly 4% over that 4 year stretch. Amusingly enough, the difference was 6.06% last year, while only 3.60% in 2010.

This flat out baffles me. They walk almost consistently between home and road, but strike out that much more on the road. I mean, we can clearly point the finger at the boost in strikeout numbers for a lot of the offensive woes while on the road, but they never hurt us NEARLY as severely on the road as they did in 2010.

So we've seen similar walk numbers, but a strikeout increase, and drastically worse batting splits. There's one last number to check, which will ignore walks, strikeouts, and home runs entirely, and that's BABIP. BABIP tends to get the bad rap for just being the end all excuse for a player performing poorly. Sometimes it's the truth, sometimes its impact is overblown. I figure it's at least worth exploring before I wrap this up.




















Well, shoot. All this tells us is basically what we already know: that we hit really well at Coors, whether by luck or by line drive, and really poorly on the road. This was supposed to be the solution, you know. If the BABIP dropoff had looked even remotely close to the dropoff the prior 3 years, I'd just say 'ah HA, it's strikeouts! Hire me, Rockies!" but the fact remains that taking the free pass seems to be the only thing they do well on the road.


There isn't much more to expound upon regarding the road splits. I think Jim Armstrong sums it up well:

If you can make any sense out of these stats, kindly call Dan O'Dowd and let him in on the secret.

Or email him. CC me on that, please.