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Rockies ditch Colorado Springs for a more extreme hitters' park in Albuquerque

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With the move down I-25, the Rockies may have found a new home where the ball flies even more than their old home.

Kyle Parker might jump for joy at the chance to hit in Isotopes Park next season.
Kyle Parker might jump for joy at the chance to hit in Isotopes Park next season.
Justin Edmonds

The Colorado Rockies changed minor league affiliates this week, packing their bags and leaving Colorado Springs for new digs in Albuquerque. Their previous location presented a common organization problem with altitude and runs scored, but as it turns out, their new home is an even friendlier place for hitters.

Rockies fans hoping for a Triple-A team with a less extreme hitter's park will soon discover that Isotopes Park in Albuquerque is an even bigger outlier than Colorado Springs. Prior to this season, Isotopes Park led the Pacific Coast League in nearly every offensive category with a park effect significantly higher than those seen in Colorado Springs. When it comes to park effects, a balanced park will score 100, but both sites were significantly higher, with Albuquerque scoring 20 basis points higher than Colorado Springs when it came to home runs.

Park Effects Average from 2011-13


Runs

Hits

XBH

HR

Albuquerque

122

112

114

124

Col. Springs

112

108

108

104

In 2013, a humidor was installed in Isotopes Park to help match some of the effects that occurred in other parks such as Coors Field, but the results were mixed. Although the overall runs scored came down slightly, team ERA was all over the board.

Isotopes Team Runs and ERA

R/G

ERA

2014

5.14

5.51

2013

5.18

4.05

2012

5.85

5.01

2011

5.93

5.73

Humidor was installed and used in the 2013 season

At an elevation of over 6,000 feet, the Rockies former Triple-A home of Security Services Field in Colorado Springs sits even higher than Coors Field in Denver, and was one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors. The first minor league humidor was installed at Colorado Springs in 2012 and it effectively normalized the park changing it from an extreme outlier to an above-average hitting location. The table below represents the drop in park factors over a three year period across the categories of: Runs, Hits, Extra-base hits and Home Runs.

Sky Sox Park Factors

Runs

Hits

XBH

HR

2013

110

105

103

98

2012

105

105

110

96

2011

121

113

111

117

Humidor was installed and used for the 2012 season.

Both Colorado Springs and Albuquerque are Triple-A locations in the Pacific Coast League that not only sit at altitude, but also have a very dry climate. This is because the PCL encompasses one of the driest deserts in North America. The high arid environment causes baseballs to dry out, making them slick and hard like cue balls, resulting in higher scoring games.

Pclfactors_zps1f9254d3_medium_medium

The graphic above shows the elevation and humidity averages for a selection of current and former teams in the PCL, along with their correlating park factors the season before the humidor was installed in Albuquerque. With a high altitude and low humidity, the perfect conditions form to make Albuquerque one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. In contrast, Portland's now defunct PGE Park sat at a lower elevation with high humidity levels, resulting in a friendlier pitching environment.

The benefit of playing in Albuquerque is that the Rockies players will enjoy playing in a more modern stadium. While the Triple-A club is leaving the older confines of Security Services Field which was built in 1988 at a cost of $3.7 million, Isotopes Park is a newer construction, opened in 2003 with an investment of $25 million. The outfield has a unique sloping grass hill in center field, similar to the major league outfield in Houston's Minute Maid Park. The rest of the outfield sports fairly normal dimensions with 340 feet to left and right field, center is 400 feet with alleys that convex out to 428 feet.

Players such as Kyle Parker and Tyler Anderson will most likely be making their 2015 debut in an Isotopes uniform. While their park still sits south of Denver on I-25, they'll now be 450 miles away from Coors Field instead of just an hour's drive. The stadium may be newer, with more amenities, but it will also include a more extreme hitting environment than previous Rockies affiliates have ever hosted.