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Rock mining week 5: Rockies offense #1

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Doug Pensinger

As I woke up this morning after a glorious walk-off home run from the least likely Rockie, I find that the Rockies are first in major league baseball in runs, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.  This is a pretty large offensive feat, especially considering the missed time by Michael Cuddyer (15 games) and the fact that Carlos Gonzalez has contributed about .1 OWAR for the team this year.  I am sure that many in the mass media will point to the home vs. road numbers (117 runs vs 68 runs) and say that this offense is just a Coors Field aberration, but is this true?

The Rockies home numbers are very impressive, 117 runs scored (#1), .350 average, .398 OBP, .584 SLG, while the road numbers are mediocre, 68 runs scored (13th), .254 average, .302 OBP, .403 SLG.  But most teams do better at home than on the road.  So how do their split differentails compare to other top home offensive teams?  Here are the top five home offenses by runs scored and their differences between home and road in each statistic.

Colorado Rockies 49 .096 .096 .181 11
Florida Marlins 90 .094 .084 .155 6
Boston Red Sox 35 .033 .028 .038 0
Chicago White Sox 7 -.003 .016 .005 3
Tampa Bay Rays 25 .058 .063 .084 -1

Based on the above information, the Rockies do have large road splits, but at least share in the extremes with the Florida Marlins.  It may have helped the Marlins that the Rockies allowed 29 runs to them in their first four home games of the year, but they are a team that cannot score on the road (2nd at home vs. 30th on the road).  Boston and Tampa both look like more average splits between the home and road.  The White Sox however are almost better on the road.  Scoring 15 runs in one game against Colorado can help with this stat, but they were held to 1 and 4 runs in the other two games of that series.

What I really take away from that table above is that the two younger teams have problems taking their bats on the road.  Both Florida and Colorado have a key batters with less experience than Boston and Tampa, while Chicago also has some decent experience.  The final piece that tells me that the Rockies offense is not just a Coors Field figment of our imagination is how the Rockies pitchers splits look.

The Rockies pitchers have allowed as many runs on the road as at home (75) while having a similar average against .262 home vs. .260 road, a better OBP against at home by .013 and a better slugging percentage against at home by .004.  The Rockies pitching is, for all intents and purposes, park neutral for 2014.  So how come the Rockies hitters have been so unfriendly to guests while not being able to score as many runs on the road?

The best answer I can come up with is strikeouts.  The Rockies have struck out fifty percent more on the road this year than at home.  Striking out 126 times on the road vs. 84 at home means 42 less balls in play.  With the large outfield at Coors this can lead to all of the difference shown above.  Rockies pitchers, on the other hand, do not have as large a split in strikeouts home (99) vs. away (122).  The most important part of this is that the Rockies have built a rotation around ground balls to use their infield defense while many other teams try and develop the more conventional starter.  Opponent's starters are getting less strikeouts, because of breaking pitches not breaking, mental issues, or whatever the reason, and it leads them to give up more runs.

It is barely past the one month point of the 2014 season, so more may come to light on this issue over the rest of the season.  However, it is interesting to see what creates the disparity and maybe look at how conventional answers may not explain the whole situation.

This weeks notables:

The Good

I am still amazed by Charlie Culberson's walk-off home run last night.  It is also important to note that Ryan Wheeler started the fifth-inning onslaught off with a solo home run.  When the 24th and 25th guys on the roster can provide this assistance, it speaks to some depth this team has.  Kudos to Rockies' management for their attempt to build depth behind their best players.

The Bad

The Rockies bullpen has started to spring some leaks.  It doesn't help that Walt Weiss obviously didn't read my article last week, and chose to bring in Chris Martin to face the exact same part of the lineup in two consecutive nights.  The result in night two: a double that led to another double that ended up costing the Rockies the lead right after they had taken it in the previous inning.

The Ugly

Injuries and illnesses are getting down right annoying for this team.  Carlos Gonzalez is fighting knee and finger issues while two starters are on the DL and Michael Cuddyer has been gone for more than two weeks and hasn't started running yet.  Josh Rutledge is now down with a virus that is supposedly bothering Wilin Rosario as he is trying to recover from a beat-up left hand.  The depth discussed two paragraphs above will be tested over the next couple of weeks and hopefully the team is paying all of their debts into the injury coffers early this season.