Coors Field inflates offensive stats. Coors Field deflates pitching stats. If you’ve come this far then likely already you know that. It’s also been discussed and shown multiple times how Coors also hurts outfield defensive metrics. So, the law of averages would suggest that it may help the defensive metrics of infielders. Specifically, let’s take a look at defensive runs saved (DRS).
Last year, Ryan McMahon led the entire league in DRS with 22 runs saved over 1200-plus innings. Josh Fuentes had an even better rate, saving 11 runs in just under 600 innings. Trevor Story ranks highly on the list also. All of these players are impeccable fielders - the eye test alone can tell you that - but there appears to be a pattern with Coors Field infielders and advanced defensive metrics.
Since 2003 (the first year DRS numbers are available), Rockies second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops have racked up 151, 102, and 152 defensive runs saved, respectively - good for first, second, and second across the league in that time by position. Considering the infield as a whole, the Rockies have led all of the Majors more than their fair share in the last twenty years.
Removing the first baseman numbers from the data, the Rockies have led the majors eight separate years and finished in the top three fifteen total times.
(What happened in 2012? Chris Nelson alone accounted for -22 DRS. Josh Rutledge and Marco Scutaro weren’t much help either, leading to the worst Rockies defensive infield we’ve seen.)
Overall, Rockies infielders have racked up 419 DRS since 2003, almost 100 more than second place on the list. Sure - the Rockies have had good fielders during this time. Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Todd Helton aren’t just Gold Glovers, but also regarded as some of the best defenders of their era. But the year after year consistency seems to suggest that something else. LeMahieu’s advanced stats seem to agree.
DJ LeMahieu Fielding Stats, 2011 - present
How much of LeMahieu’s post Coors Field dropoff can be attributed to his age, and how much can be attributed to a stat that doesn’t necessarily account for Coors isn’t immediately clear. As a second baseman entering his age 31 season, LeMahieu’s dropoff is likely partially attributed to his age, but as he had a career best year on the offensive side of the ball that year, his body appears to be doing fine.
This all comes with the mandatory caveat that surrounds most advanced defensive metrics. These stats can vary widely over short time frames and for individuals it is often recommended that you view them in at least three year increments. However, that only makes the Rockies consistency at or near the top of the league more suspicious - typically a stat like DRS would have some fluctuations on a year to year basis.
Caveats aside, something here doesn’t appear to pass the smell test. Do the Rockies really have the best defensive infield in the majors by a significant margin? Or is this just another product of Coors Field?
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Watching games recently, we’ve got a glimpse at the Rockies of tomorrow. Rox Pile’s Noah Yingling takes a look at Michael Toglia, the Rockies first round pick in 2019 who has been getting starts over the last week. Toglia has hit well in his recent call up, tallying six hits (four for extra bases) in 21 at bats. He was the no. 11 PuRP in the mid-season edition of the rankings and had a combined OPS of .852 between Double and Triple-A before his callup.
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On the Farm
Despite leaving 24 men on base, the ‘topes pulled out the win on Sunday against Sugar Land (HOU). Wynton Bernard reached base four times and came around to score twice. Sam Hilliard did the same and also added a couple of RBIs. Albuquerque pitching gave us three home runs but were able to hold on to get the win. The team has Labor Day off, but then will return to action tomorrow against the El Paso Chihuahuas (SDP).
A big seventh inning was all Hartford needed against Reading (PHI) yesterday. A Julio Carreras double brought home Zac Veen and Tyler Hill, then Hunter Stovall brought home Carreras with a hit of his own. Will Gaddis earned the win by pitching two scoreless innings of relief, and Stephen Jones got his seventh save of the year after a spotless ninth. Hartford will continue their homestand next in welcoming the Yankees affiliate, the Somerset Patriots, to town.
In their home regular season finale, the Indians used a big fourth inning and took advantage of four Canadians errors to send the home faithful away happy. The bottom of the lineup supplied the offense in the rally, with Bladimir Restituyo and Mateo Gil hitting back to back jacks, then Trevor Boone and Cristopher Navarro coming around to score on an Eddy Diaz double. The Indians will go on the road for their final regular season series of the year, taking on Eastern Washington rival Tri-City Dust Devils (LAA) starting Tuesday.
The Grizzlies also welcomed their fans to a regular season home finale Sunday, but the result was not as sweet. Fresno had just three hits and committed three errors, thoroughly losing the game to former Rockies affiliates Modesto (SEA). Their final regular season series also starts tomorrow, against the San Jose Giants (SFG).
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