Don't buy into illusion of the Rockies

July 19, 2019 02:06 AM

With Colorado in New York this weekend to play the mighty Yankees, it is a good time for bettors to review the real-world dynamics of this Rockies’ roster.

As we discussed recently when looking at all the Overs at Coors Field (now 12-5 the last 17 games despite very high totals), the Rockies are not as they’re usually portrayed in the media—not as they appear in the stats—and not as you’re thinking if your evaluation of the NL West comes from scoreboard watching.

Because they play half their games at high altitude (compounded this season by an aerodynamically friendly baseball), the Rockies are perceived as having a fantastic offense (averaging about five-and-a-half runs per game overall) and a horrible pitching staff (allowing about the same number of earned runs per game).  

That’s all park illusion. If you evaluate the Rockies in real conditions, they actually turn out to have a stellar pitching staff and a lousy offense. 

Colorado enters the weekend with the second-best road ERA in the National League. Even better than the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are perceived as a pitching power. Yes, some of that is because Colorado pitchers never play “road” games in Denver, while the Dodgers have had to pitch their six times so far. But, if you look only at Rockies and Dodgers pitchers on the road against all other teams (throw out Denver and Chavez Ravine), their ERA’s are about equal. 

The L.A. arms would post lousy stats if they had to play half their games in the mountains (5.71 staff ERA in six games there so far). 

Rockies ace German Marquez is currently scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale. He’s basically a Cy Young candidate in real ballparks, posting a road ERA of 3.33 this season, with a very low WHIP of 0.90. 

Offensively, the team’s production virtually disappears on the road. Colorado enters the weekend ranking #15 in the N.L. in road batting average, #15 in road on-base percentage, and #14 in slugging percentage. They’re as bad as the anemic Miami Marlins in normal conditions. 

Fangraphs.com monitors an offensive stat called “weighted runs created plus,” which adjusts for ballpark influences across the majors. Colorado currently ranks #13 in the N.L., #26 in MLB, grading out 16% worse than average.  

So, if you were thinking, “the Rockies are in town this weekend, it’s time to load up on the Overs!,” be careful. Only 18 of 46 Colorado road games have gone Over this season. 

Scoring could still explode in this weekend’s forecast heat wave. It’s far from automatic given Colorado’s actual skill sets. 

Sharps focus on skill sets and game conditions, grateful that misguided media hype can move the market in the wrong direction. Squares jump to wrong conclusions because rooting for a bet is more fun than researching. 

Something to think about as you handicap the second half of the MLB season, and prepare for the coming college and pro football seasons. Learn what you can about team skill sets on offense and defense. 

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