The Rockies played their final home game of the season yesterday at Coors Field, and in the process accomplished something no other Rockies team has since 2003. No, not the six game winning streak; although that was a nice bonus. Instead, I'm talking about the 500 runs they scored in their ballpark. In an era dominated by pitching, and in front of a fan base crushed by negativity, the 2014 Rockies scored more runs at 20th and Blake than all but one of the 13 teams who've played there since the humidor was installed before the 2002 season.
The 2007 didn't accomplish it, the 2009 team didn't accomplish it, and even the 2010 team, which won 52 games at Coors didn't get there. According to the park adjusted wRC+ metric, this Rockies team terrorized opposing pitching staffs in Coors like no other franchise history, finishing the season with a home mark of 117. That's good for the best home wRC+ number in all of baseball.
So, something to celebrate right?
Well, maybe; but not without proper understanding of what went on here. See, while the Rockies lead the National League in just about every notable non park adjusted offense category - hits, home runs, extra base hits, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, RBI - there's one very important offensive stat where they rank DEAD LAST ...
This is our single biggest clue as to why the offensive numbers are so, so different home and away with this team. It's obviously always a story with every Rockies' squad, but 2014 has pushed this narrative even deeper into uncharted waters. The discrepancy between the home and road offense is so massive this season, the Rockies need to score at least 16 runs on this last road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles to avoid scoring at least twice as many runs at home than on the road.
What's also really interesting about the Rockies, and this is something that rings true almost every season, is that their walk percentage at home and on the road is almost identical (6.6 percent at Coors, and 6.3 percent away). In other words, the difference between the Rockies offense at home and offense on the road can be explained by three things when looked at through a statistical prism. Not only that, but these three things tend to be present every single year.
1) The Rockies cut down on their strike outs in Denver, from 24.6 percent on the road to just 17.2 percent at home. This makes sense; hitters see the ball better at Coors, so they swing and miss less often and put the ball in play quicker.
2) The Rockies see their batting average on balls in play (BABIP) go up thanks to the massive acreage of Coors Field. This is always going to be true, but this year the gap is positively ridiculous: .283 BABIP on the road, and an unsustainable (even at Coors Field) .361 BABIP at home.
3) The Rockies see their home run / fly ball ratio soar at Coors. This year, it jumped an incredible seven percent from 9.3 percent on the road to 16.3 percent at home. As you can see from this fangraphs link, no other NL club hit anywhere near the number of home runs on fly balls as the Rockies did at home.
The problem here, as many of you can probably already see, is that two of the three factors the Rockies generally rely on to pound teams at Coors Field came in abnormally high in 2014, and are likely to regress in 2015. This doesn't mean the Rockies shouldn't expect a winning record at home again next season, or even that the Rockies don't have a good offense, it just means that they're not likely to score as many runs at home.
It is possible if they get healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer (hard to see those last four all on the team together but you get the idea) they do something amazing offensively and set a post humidor franchise record for the most runs scored at home, but everything will have to come together perfectly, and that usually doesn't happen in baseball.
(That lineup sure is fun to think about though.)
In other words, the Rockies are going to have to lean on improvements from the other three fields (scoring on the road, pitching at Coors, and pitching on the road) if they want their record to take a significant leap forward next season. But hey, you probably didn't need me to tell you that.
There's lots to read up on today. First, Patrick Saunders has more on the four game sweep of the D'Backs over the weekend. The sweep now pushes the winning streak to six games, and even though the Rockies are headed on the road, they now have Tyler Matzek and Jorge De La Rosa starting the next two games, so they have at least a decent chance to push this to eight.
Nick Groke updates us on Justin Morneau's extremely tight race for the NL batting title with Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison. This is a story that should heat up as the week progresses. Right now though, I'd have to favor Harrison with Morneau out of Coors Field games. Even though he hits better on the road than most Rockies, whatever bump he's been getting from his home park is now gone.
This is also probably a good time to point out that if Tulo had just 127 more plate appearances, didn't walk in any of them (he has the highest walk percentage of anyone on the team), and batted just .267, he still would have won the batting title. The only thing that was stopping him from winning this award this season was the injury bug, but his ultimate nemesis got the best of him again. I hate that thing!
Groke also touches on the uncertain futures on Wilin Rosario and Michael Cuddyer. Nothing new here if you've been following the conversations on Purple Row for the last month, but it's a nice reminder that the Rockies are rapidly approaching these two significant crossroads.
This piece from Cody Ulm caught my eye. Here, Walt Weiss talks about the disappointment of the Rockies 45-36 Coors record. A good sign; not only because it shows the need to stay hungry in a phase of the games which seems solid, but also because it demonstrates a proper understanding of the formula the Rockies need to achieve if they're going to be successful. Stay near .500 on the road, and completely annihilate teams at home. It's what's got them to three postseasons so far, and what will likely get them to their next postseason birth as well (hopefully in 2015).
Benjamin Hochman describes Dinger as "Barney on meth" in this piece where he compares the Rockies' plight with CU football.
Will Swanner hit a dramatic three run 11th inning homer to give the Drillers the win in game three of the Texas League Championship series earlier this month. You can give it your vote for the play of the 2014 minor league postseason here.
In his 1,200th post at Rockies Review, David Martin talks about the last home game of the 2014 season and says the Rockies can win back fans with big changes this off season.
He's not alone, Terry Frei also says the fans deserve big changes after yet another disappointing season.
In addition to the lap around the field with fans after yesterday's game, two other end of the year traditions continued over the weekend. Little "Thank You" notes from players to the fans ...
Want some of those hand-written & signed #ThanksRoxFans cards? RETWEET THIS NOW for your chance to win! pic.twitter.com/ntOaG4v7dF— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 21, 2014
And of course the rookie hazing ...
USA ClassD-League Swim Team #Rockies2014RookieDressUp with a Clown in the middle #MLB #Rockies pic.twitter.com/VZDOcnYj3N— LaTroy Hawkins (@LaTroyHawkins32) September 22, 2014
In contrast to the Rockies home environment, offense around baseball is becoming almost nonexistent. It's likely that a combination of factors working together are causing this, which include but are not limited to ... the decline of the Performance Enhancing Drugs era, increased strikeouts from batters swinging for the fences, defensive shifts, and more flame throwing relievers than ever shortening the game. Joe Madden of the Rays discusses this frustration and why his club is going back to the drawing board this off season in search of a way to score more runs.
After winning 89 or more games from 2010 through 2013, and making the playoff three times, the Braves have decided to part ways with general manager Frank Wren following this season's late collapse.
MLB appoints a new pace of game committee.
Josh Donaldson, who may be the most underrated player in baseball, hit a walk off run in the tenth inning yesterday to give his A's a desperately needed boost as they try to hold on to a Wild Card spot.
Finally, this delightful article from the Hardball Times breaks all of baseball history down to one 24 hour day. (Well worth you time link of the day)