In 2017, the Denver Post introduced Tony Cowell, the Coors Field stadium engineer, who ̵
"People have lowered Coors Field and that really bothered me," Cowell said in this profile. "Look, I knew that baseball is not really normal here, I wanted to do something about it."
The humidor worked. According to the Baseball Reference, Coors Field's three-year parking factor – a measure of how much misdemeanor a park allows compared to other parks – was between 1999 and 2001, 125 or 25 percent more expensive than other parks. From 2002 to 2004, this parking factor dropped to 115 and dropped further. From 2006 to 2008, the offense was only 7 percent higher than the average. We all generally accept that the humidor, as Cowell puts it, "normalizes things a bit." This week saw the Los Angeles Dodgers – with one of the biggest star rallies in the history of baseball Colorado. Walker Buehler kicked off the game Thursday night after battling a 16-headed, completely free-running game in Los Angeles against the Rocky Mountains last Sunday. In June, Bühler had 42 strikeouts and a walk with an ERA of 0.87 in four starts. But he was rocked in Coors Field and allowed 13 hits and seven runs. Then Hyun-Jin Ryu started on Friday and came in with an ERA of 1.27. He was unable to disembark in the fifth inning before being replaced after allowing seven runs. Four innings in height allowed his ERA to jump nearly 50 percent.
It took 18 seasons for Cowells miracle cure for altitude, but Coors Field has resisted. His parking factor has been steadily increasing and this year he has reached a new post-humidor extreme. Nothing in this park is more normal. To highlight baseball in Colorado, here are 18 facts about Coors Field this year. Some of these have bright red "Little sample!" Flags, but they are all a miracle, to say aloud:
1. At Baseball Reference, Coors's perennial park factor (including this and last year) is 120, the highest value since installation of the humidor. ESPN is releasing a simpler one-year park factor, and thus this year Coors Field has the highest parking factor for the rating since at least 2001, the last pre-season.
2. On the night of Friday Charlie Blackmon struck home .468 / .518 / .984 and .236 / .272 / .382 in the street. His tOPS + – which compares a player's OPS in a split with his overall performance, where 100 is the average – was 190, the second highest in the history of the main league for a player with at least 100 appearances in the home league. More about him later.
3. The Rockies have scored nine times this season, at least 10 runs and have allowed at least 10 runs eleven times. Of those 20 games, 17 were at Coors Field.
4. The Rockies-Hitter got a tOPS + (which is their OPS in this division compared to their OPS in total) of 135 this year. This is the second highest team in history Rockies – and throughout the history of the Major League.
5. Rockies Pitchers have the third highest tOPS + in franchise history (and the third highest in major league history). The two years that were more extreme for Rockies pitchers are actually different from the one year that was more extreme for Rockies pitchers, so there was never a season in which the tOPS + were higher for both pitchers and hitters as for this year's Rockies.
] 6. Wade Davis, who is closer to the Rockies, is reportedly about to lose his job. Rightly so, considering that he has an overall ERA of 6.00. His road ERA, however, is 0.79. His home ERA is 10.66.
7. Kyle Freeland, who finished fourth at Cy Young last year, is back in Triple A after a spectacular season's decline. On the way he had an ERA of 5.04 and allowed a .242 / .324 / .467 line. That's not great, but usually not enough to send an opening day starter to Triple-A. At home, however, he had a 9.31 ERA and a .317 / 3.75 / 618 striking line against him.
8. For balls caught in the air (line drives, fly-balls and pop-ups), the Rockies hit 105 points more and beat more than 230 points higher than in the street. Meanwhile, Rockies pitchers allow a strike average of 109 points and a stroke rate of 280 points at home.
9. Even groundballs in Colorado are far more likely to hit: Rockies-Hitter and their opponents have beaten .258 at Coors on Grounders this year. Rockies-Hitter and their opponents have otherwise only beaten .111 on Grounder.
10. Pat Valaika met at home in 19 record appearances .267 / .421 / .533. In 29 road plate appearances he met .000 / .069 / .000.
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11. Rockies pitchers have an ERA of 3.90 on the road, which is the fourth lowest mark in baseball. To put it this way, it's very obvious and very clear: once the home stadium's effects are eliminated, the Rockies probably had the fourth best pitching staff in the majors, or at least the second best in the National League. The same pitchers have an ERA of 6.45 at home, which is the second worst ERA after integration (better only than the 1999 Rockies). The Rockies are 23-16 at home and only 20-23 on the road.
12. Rockies pitchers fought less at home, but that's not much of a difference. and they are a little less beaten at home too. In fact, almost all of the difference for their pitchers is due to beaten balls – and what happens to those beaten balls? Their FIP – which focuses only on strikes, walks and home runs, and estimates the likely ERA size – is 5.13 on their own road and 4.44 on the road, a much smaller gap than in the ERA. At xFIP, which focuses only on strike, walk and flyball rates (rather than home-run rates), there is virtually no difference: 4.57 at home and 4.36 on the move.
If Rockies pitchers give up the much tougher contact then this is not easy to explain, but they actually allowed a lower exit speed at home, and according to Statcasts xwOBA (.346 at home, .337 on the way) they have one similar contact quality allowed. The quality of the contact is more complicated, but all this suggests that the Rockies' pitchers do not fare worse at home, but that the same hit balls in Colorado cause far, far, far more damage.
13. But back to Blackmon: Blackmon is the best baseball player at home and pretty mediocre on the road. (The extremes of Coors Field not only help thugs, it seems the same thugs hurt when they hit the streets.) For him, Coors is all better off . He has a 5 km / h higher exit speed at home. His xwOBA is .446 at home and .292 on the way. (His actual WOBA is .594 at home.Barry Bond's best WOBA ever was .544.) Blackmon is 50 percent more likely to travel and run only a quarter as often. He hunts more often on the street from the strike zone and takes on the road less frequent contact.
14. When breaking balls, Blackmon hits .471 on the road, but 1,121 at home.
15. On fastballs he hits .296 on the street, 1.123 at home.
16. The mid-size ballpark allows a WOBA of 0.359 on fastballs, and 15 baseball fields are within 10 points. Coors Field has approved a .415 WOBA on fastballs, 23 points higher than the nearest stadium.
17. Left-handed pitchers at Coors Field have an ERA of 8.19 this year. Batters (in both teams) hit .343 / .413 / .610.
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18th Why? This is more complicated – and a subject for another article (maybe a few more months to see if this goes back to less extreme levels, as Valaika's line will certainly do). The simplest hypothesis would be that Coors Field is most affected by a general offense, as is now the case with the more alive ball of MLB. Since 2001, however, there has been no statistical correlation between Coors Field's one-year parking factor and the general offensive environment of MLB.
This does not exclude a connection: baseball is currently deeply strange, and almost the field trend may ultimately be related either to rising strikes or rising homeruns (or both). Coors Field is also deeply strange at the moment, and the two could eventually be connected. But altitude has been one of the most stubborn forces in baseball since the first Rockies game in 1993. Maybe the altitude will always find a way.