The Coors Field “Advantage” is Way Overblown.
It is well known that the home field of the Colorado Rockies, Coors Field, is the ideal hitter’s park. This is due to the altitude at which the field lies, yielding less air density. Hard hit balls face less resistance and thus travel much further. This basic scientific information, however, has been used time after time to discredit players who don the purple and black removing them from MVP and Hall of Fame consideration as well as a diminished value on the free agent market. This begs the question of why baseball experts are so willing to rely on environmental factors for one ballpark while ignoring the factors of the other 29. The following is a couple of reasons why this commonly used factor is way overblown and should only be used sparingly.
Baseball is the only American sport in which the field dimensions are not standardized league-wide. A home run at one field could be a double or a pop out in another. The Coors field walls are 347 ft. to left, 415 ft at Center, and 350, at right. For reference, The deepest walls in the league are 355ft in left at Wrigley 420 ft to center at Comerica and 357 ft to right at Wrigley. This leaves Coors field within 10 ft at every major point in the outfield. This, of course, does not account for the alleys but the sentiment remains the same.
So why do these dimensions matter? Well according to an excellent article by SB nation a baseball hit at Coors field travels an average of 32.8 feet further than it would at other parks. This added distance is often mitigated by the vastness of Coors field itself yet Rockies players are penalized for overcoming the size of their own park. By comparison, Red Sox and Yankees players are never penalized for playing at comparatively smaller parks. Fenway Park is by far the smallest with 310 (with a giant wall), 390 at center, and 302 to right. Even with the added 32 feet a number of homers at Fenway bounce off the wall at Coors. You can do the math on your own with this lovely graphic of all the fields provided by Thirty81 Project’s Lou Spirito updated as of 2013.
Just as quick as many degrade Rockies hitters, few stick their necks out for pitchers that are subsequently hindered by pitching at high altitudes. Coors field has only seen one no-hitter by Ubaldo Jiminez with a couple of recent bids cut short in German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. Traditionally, however, when pitchers are lucky enough to escape the clutches of Coors field, they are rarely given extra credit to do so. Greg Holland led the MLB in saves in 2016 and was left unsigned until the season began. He signed a hefty 1 year 14 million dollar deal but the multi-year deal was no-where to be found. Adam Ottavino made a splash in free agency this year because of his ability to get the strikeout receiving 3 years 27 million from the Yankees. While this was a big payday it was still less than what Andrew Miller, Jeurys Familia, David Robertson got, all of which he subjectively outperformed.
Fixing the problem
The Coors field stigma will never go away but it should not be the only field anomalies we consider when evaluating players. Here are a few others we should look at if this trend were to begin. Yes they sound ridiculous but so is only punishing one team’s players.
- Outfielders at Wrigley should receive extra credit for having a brick wall behind them, thus diminishing their closing speeds on balls in the gap
- Red Sox and Yankees players HR’s and SLG% should receive a downgrade given the tiny dimensions of their parks.
- Diamondbacks hitters should receive similar treatment to Rockies players given that Chase Field also is played at extremely high altitude.
- Stats accrued at Guaranteed Rate Field should be the benchmark for evaluating a player’s ability as it is seen the most neutral field in the MLB
- Stats should be weighted based on the weather conditions (A homer in the rain that lands in the 8th row vs a homer in the sunshine that barely sneaks over the wall etc…)
- STANDARDIZED FIELD DIMENSIONS!