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Will a move to Coors Field really help Mark Reynolds' power numbers?

Together, the home run, the strikeout and the walk are known as the three true outcomes, and Mark Reynolds has them in spades

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2009, Mark Reynolds gave opposing pitchers a good reason to to be afraid. That season, he hit 44 home runs and posted an enormous .543 slugging percentage. It did come at a price, as he led the league in strikeouts for the second time in what would become four consecutive seasons, but the damage seemed to justify the whiffs.

Now, it's a very different world. Reynolds' power has slowly been evaporating -- this happens when a player finds  himself on the wrong side of 30 -- and it's occurring while his strikeout rate has only improved marginally. In 2015, Reynolds hit just 13 home runs in 432 plate appearances while striking out a whopping 28 percent of the time. That's an ugly combination. His saving grace is his above average walk rate, which stands at 11.4 percent for his career and 10.2 percent for 2015.

Last week when the Rockies signed Reynolds to a one-year deal for $2.6 million, there was some chatter about how he might be able to regain some of his power with a move to Coors Field. It's an optimistic thought, but it's also an important question to answer in larger context in terms of how the Rockies should use their ballpark to lure certain types of free agents.

We all know the Rockies score a bunch of runs overall, but the more interesting dynamic is how they score them over a 162 game season when they have to play in Coors and on the road. So what I've done here is take all the seasons since the humidor was installed in 2002 and posted where the Rockies rank in some basic offensive categories. A few notes to consider:

  • These are only National League rankings because comparing counting stats to the AL is tricky due to the DH. As a result, these rankings are out of 15 teams instead of 30.
  • The numbers below are over 162 games, so we're mixing the offensive boon the Rockies get from Coors Field with the Hangover Effect they tend to experience on the road.
  • For strikeout rate, the rankings are reversed. A team first in strikeout rate here has the least amount of strikeouts while a team with the most strikeouts ranks last.

Post humidor numbers

For comparison, here's what the Coors Field numbers looked like before the humidor was installed. (Unfortunately there are no wRC+ numbers before 2002, so it's not included in this table):

Pre humidor numbers

Most of the results here are not surprising, but there's several things worth mentioning, so let's hit on some of those points.

1) The Rockies hit a bunch of home runs, but when you factor in what happens when they go on the road, their overall numbers don't stand out the way fans of other teams probably want you to believe. The Rockies have now ranked in the top five in the NL seven years in a row in terms of home runs, but they've also only led the league in that category once since they installed the humidor.

Another interesting aspect here is that until Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez each reached the 40 home run plateau in 2015, no Rockie had achieved the mark since the humidor was put in place. So while the Rockies do hit their fair share of bombs at Coors, the Hangover Effect keeps them in check enough on the road to cap their overall numbers most years (something to keep in mind with Reynolds).

It's also worth pointing out that in the first seven years of the humidor's existence, the club ranked in the middle or bottom of the pack in terms of home runs five times.

2) The department the Rockies benefit from the most houses things like batting average and batting average on balls in play. In other words, the biggest reason Coors is such a friendly hitter's park these days is because of the high number of balls in play it turns into hits.

3) As we've talked about before, walk rate seems to be the most important metric that's not impacted by Coors Field. The Rockies naturally seem to rank all over the board here.

4) The Rockies are always going to suffer in the wRC+ category. We talked about this at length in "the game is rigged" piece linked above. This is just another example of that.

5) Strikeout rate is tough to properly comprehend in this fashion because we're viewing a mix of two extremes: Coors Field, which suppresses strikeouts, and the road Rockies offense, which always tends to strike out at an alarming rate.

One things that's absolutely fascinating, however, is how much better the Rockies were at not striking out relative to the league before the humidor was installed. That took just a big of a hit as the home runs. It's hard to separate how much that had to do with the the type of hitters the Rockies employed at that time and how much it's connected to the park factor now, but the dramatic change in strikeout rate ranking is likely too big to explain away solely by who was in the lineup.

* * * * *

Getting back to Reynolds, his skill set appears to be a mixed bag of perfect for Coors Field and terrible for Coors Field.

Power: I expect Reynolds to hit more home runs than the 13 he hit last year, but this isn't a launching pad like it was in the 90s, and I doubt he'll hit too many on the road.

Strike Outs: This is a terrible match for the Rockies in two ways. At home, high strikeout rates keep the ball out of play, which destroys the batting average on balls in play benefit Coors provides. Then on the road, the strikeout numbers will likely swell to outrageously high levels. Don't be surprised to see Reynolds strike out over 40 percent of the time on a couple of road trips when he's in a slump.

Walks: This is actually the best case for Reynolds helping the Rockies. He's always walked more than the average hitter, and that shouldn't change in 2016, home or away.

This is what you get for $2.6 million on the free agent market these days, but for this Rockies team that likely won't contend, it's not the worst signing they could have made. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how Reynolds' fading power, extreme strikeout rate, and solid walk rate play in Coors Field. Perhaps we'll learn something.