Earlier this morning, we looked at how Carlos Gonzalez would've been affected by the higher walls coming in 2016 if they had been around for the 2015 season. While he's likely to be the player most affected by the change, he's certainly far from the only player it may have an impact on. We did a little more digging to find the home runs hit to the soon-to-be raised areas of the wall by Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, and Ben Paulsen. Between the three of them, there were six home runs potentially affected by the change. Here they are, presented chronologically:
1. May 22: DJ LeMahieu off George Kontos, San Francisco Giants
LeMahieu loses this home run with 2016 fences and probably has to settle for an RBI double instead. This home run actually provides us with a great point of reference since we can see the height of the fence above the out-of-town scoreboard in reference to the ball. If you can pause the video just right about eight seconds in, you can see the ball going over the wall at a spot that's clearly below where the walls will be in 2016.
2. May 23: Charlie Blackmon off Chris Heston, San Francisco Giants
This looks like it's still a home run to us. The ball had quite a bit of height when it went over the wall and cleared the fence by a good margin. Blackmon thought he would have lost "a couple" home runs in 2015 if the new walls had been in place then, but this isn't one he has to worry about.
3. June 2: Ben Paulsen off Chris Hatcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
We're thinking this is still a home run in 2016. It's a bit of a close call at first glance, but luckily this video again provides us with the out-of-town scoreboard as a reference point. If we watch carefully, the ball appears to clear the wall at a point above where they will be raised to in 2016. This homer is safe.
4. July 26: Ben Paulsen off Dylan Axelrod, Cincinnati Reds
Paulsen's second home run in question, like the first, looks like it would be safe in 2016. He almost reached the back wall of the bullpen on the fly and we again have the scoreboard to reference. Definitely still a home run.
5. August 4: Charlie Blackmon off Vidal Nuno, Seattle Mariners
This one is awfully close. It's tough to say for certain, but we're leaning towards this not being a home run in 2016. There's an argument for both sides here, but it appears that the ball doesn't clear the wall by much, making it probable that Blackmon is looking at a double or maybe a triple if he hits the same ball in 2016.
6. August 22: Charlie Blackmon off Jon Niese, New York Mets
It is completely understandable that Blackmon isn't exactly gung ho about the changes to the wall. This is another close one for him, but this time we think it still would be a home run in 2016. Once again using our handy out-of-town scoreboard as a reference point, the ball appears to clear the wall above where it will be this season. Blackmon is in the clear on this one.
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So what does all of this mean, anyway? On the surface, we've lost four home runs out of a potential 14, though no individual player lost more than two. Additionally, none of the four affected home runs would have changed (or even potentially changed) the outcome of the game in which they happened. Is this all much ado about nothing? Well, yes and no.
In theory, the move should suppress offense, if only slightly. Let's crunch some math here. In 2015, there were 202 home runs hit at Coors Field. Jeff Bridich and the Rockies' front office are projecting the change in the fences to result in 5-6 percent fewer home runs being hit. Take that 5-6 percent out of the 202 home runs hit in 2015, and we have roughly 10-12 home runs that will become doubles in 2016. The difference between a double and a home run in terms of run expectancy is somewhere between ⅓ and ⅔ of a run, depending on the situation. That means the change, at most, should result in eight fewer runs being scored over the course of a season.
Over the course of an entire season, eight fewer runs will be difficult to even notice. However, who's to say that's where things will actually fall. Maybe the higher fences lead to right fielders playing slightly shallower than than they did in the past, which will prevent so many bloop singles from falling in. Perhaps hitters will change their approach at the plate (for better or worse) knowing that home runs will be a bit tougher to come by. Pitchers might not be quite so afraid to challenge hitters up in the zone now that they have at least a little bit more room for error.
Jeff Bridich himself doesn't even seem to know what effect the raised fences will have. He told Nick Groke of the Denver Post as much:
We really don't know, exactly, the effect it is going to have. We are going to live it together, this year, and see what happens
It looks like we'll all have to do the same.