The last 11 years of Colorado Rockies baseball has been hard to watch. The Rockies have two playoff appearances and lost all four of those postseason games. Aside from their 2017-18 seasons, the Rockies have finished at least 12 games under .500 in every other one.
Free-agent pitchers don’t want to pitch in Denver and developing minor-leaguers for the atmospheric conditions is challenging. Spending as much as the Dodgers is impossible, but now the Padres have a top-10 payroll and the Giants are in the top 15. Also, there have been reports of a very small, often disgruntled analytics department in the offices at Coors Field. When you have a distinct home-field advantage but one that becomes a disadvantage on the road, you have to do whatever you can to understand the science and find players that fit. That hasn’t happened.
The Rockies have won only two playoff series in five appearances since coming into existence in 1993. They won’t be a playoff team this season, but there is hope they can at least outperform their season win total expectations.
Grading the Rockies offense is a difficult task. Not only does the thin air and elevation help hitters, but the big, giant outfield at Coors Field allows a lot of batted balls to fall in. Coors Field regularly ranks as one of the best, if not the best, ballpark for batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Not to get thick into the science, but pitches move less in Denver. The thin air provides less resistance on the baseball, so pitchers get less movement.
When you pick depressed strikeout rates with extra carry and a big ballpark, it truly creates an optimal offensive environment. However, when the Rockies go to sea level, pitches do move. The Coors Field effect works both ways, as it benefits the home team but also hurts them when they hit the road.
Using that 2011-21 sample size, the Rockies have slashed .296/.356/.492 with an 18.9% K% and an 8.0% BB% in 32,402 plate appearances at home. On the road, however, the Rockies have slashed .235/.295/.375 with a 24% K% and a 7.2% BB% in 31,610 PA. That’s a 61-point difference in BA, a 61-point drop in OBP and a 117-point drop in SLG. They walk less, strike out more and hit for a lot less power.
Not surprisingly, the Rockies are 437-408 at home dating back to the start of the 2011 season but 332-508 on the road. They’ve finished over .500 at home in every full season except one since 2013. They had two seasons over .500 on the road and made the playoffs both times. Otherwise, they’ve won 33 or fewer road games every year since 2012. Even in those two seasons with a winning road record, the Rockies had a negative run differential in those games.
Most Rockies hitters have big, inflated numbers at home and subpar numbers on the road. The Rockies scored 5.63 runs per game at home and 3.54 runs per game on the road. Even those that analyze the Colorado data struggle to account for how drastic those splits are. The Rockies are one of the worst teams by wRC + every season. I don’t think the Coors Field effect is weighed enough on the road and may be weighed too much at home.