Colorado Rockies: Can Major League Baseball Work at Altitude: Part Two
Everyone understands that pitching at Coors Field is tougher than any other ballpark in baseball history but the Colorado Rockies should have an advantage offensively, right? As we continue to examine if Major League Baseball will work in Colorado, we take a look at how the altitude affects hitting.
The Rockies, historically, have been a very good to great offense team at home but they have always struggled on the road. That’s the primary problem for hitters playing half of their games at 5280 feet. The primary thing that happens is hitters get lazy because the ball flies farther, and a lot more balls fall in just because there is so much room in the outfield. Then when the Rockies go on the road, the hitters are not used to doing the little things. The balls that are doubles at Coors Field are routine outs in every other park. The balls that fall in for singles because at home are fly ball outs on the road because the outfielders can play at normal depth. In short the hitters for the Rockies get used to collecting hits at home even if their fundamentals aren’t good, then those same fundamentals haunt them on the road.
When we talked about pitching at Coors Field, one of the things we hit on was how tough it is to throw breaking balls in the thin air. That also hurts the Rockies’ hitters when they go on the road because they get used to pitches not breaking. They get used to hanging curve balls and sliders that don’t move, and then when they see it on the road they are not ready. There’s no other team in baseball that has to play two completely different games based on if they are home or away, and it really hurts the Rockies especially on the road.
The very good or great hitters are going to hit at home and on the road, that’s what makes them great hitters. Todd Helton is going to hit .300 no matter where he hits. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are going to hit in any park because they have too much talent not to. What kills the Rockies offense on the road is the hitters that look like Babe Ruth at home and can’t hit their weight on the road. Even great hitters get caught in the trap, Larry Walker was a great before he came to Colorado and it didn’t matter whether he was home or away. However when Walker played his home games in Colorado, there was a noticeable difference in his offensive game. He was the best hitter in baseball at Coors Field and often struggled on the road. So the question is what is the solution?
Unlike pitching, where I offered up a plan, there’s not much that can be done. Most teams hit better at home than they do on the road, but the gap for the Rockies is so extreme. The fact that they do hit so well in Colorado should be a huge advantage but in reality, it’s a huge disadvantage. The Rockies play slow pitch softball at home and then when they are forced to play baseball on the road, they just can’t remember how.
On Wednesday we will draw some conclusions and wrap up or three part look at whether or not Major League Baseball can work in Colorado.
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