Rockies’ starters thriving at Coors Field, struggling on the road. Go figure.
In the Rockies' weird and wacky 2021 season, nothing has been as weird or as wacky as this: they have pitched considerably better at the hitter's paradise known as Coors field than they have on the road.
In the Rockies’ weird and wacky 2021 season, nothing has been as weird or as wacky as this: they have pitched considerably better at the hitter’s paradise known as Coors Field than they have on the road.
Entering Monday night’s game at Texas, Colorado’s home ERA was 4.36 vs. a road ERA of 5.09. Only twice in franchise history have the Rockies posted a better ERA at home than on the road: 2003 (5.07 vs. 5.35) and 2013 (4.43 vs. 4.44). Never has there been a disparity like the one we’re witnessing this season.
Colorado’s starters are driving the phenomenon. Collectively, they have a 3.68 ERA at Coors Field, with a .236 batting average against, and have given up 39 homers in 65 games. On the road, they have a 5.22 ERA, a .280 average against, and 50 homers served up in 65 games.
Could it be that Rockies starters have worked so hard, and concentrated so much on taming the Coors Field beast that they’re having trouble adjusting when they go on the road?
“We’ve talked about that,” manager Bud Black said Monday. “We realize, and the pitchers realize, that the ball moves more when we go on the road. And to be able to control that movement is a challenge.
“But I don’t think that’s the main cause of the disparity. I think that for whatever reason … there is a comfort (level) pitching at home and a comfort pitching on that mound and in our ballpark. And like we’ve talked about, a lot of our guys don’t get scared off pitching in Denver.”
Right-hander German Marquez, Colorado’s No. 1 starter, is the prime example of what’s been going on. At Coors, he’s 8-2 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .200 average against and seven homers given up. Entering Wednesday night’s game at Globe Life Field, he was 3-7 with a 5.31 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .261 average against and eight homers served up away from home.
Former Rockies slugger Dante Bichette told The Denver Post recently that Colorado pitchers struggle to find a balance when they leave Denver.
“I mean, Rockies pitchers work to throw their breaking ball at Coors Field, then they go on the road and all of a sudden they’re spiking their curveball in the dirt,” he said.
Black admitted that even after four-plus seasons as the Rockies’ manager, he doesn’t have a complete answer as to what’s going on this season.
“You would think, generally speaking, that you’d have better road ERAs than at home, based on a lot of guys’ stuff, the opposing ballparks we play in, etc.,” Black said. “So I don’t have an answer to that. I do think the movement aspect is part of it. But if you were to ask a pitcher, ‘Do you want more movement or not?’ They are definitely going to say, ‘Yes, I want more movement.’ ”
Right-hander Daniel Bard, who was demoted from closer to set-up man last week after blowing two games in Chicago against the Cubs, provides the most extreme example of a Colorado reliever who’s thrived at Coors and stumbled on the road. At altitude, he’s controlled his high-velocity fastball and sharp-breaking slider well, but his bread-and-butter pitches have not behaved away from Colorado.
Black did note that Bard has pitched twice as many innings at Coors Field (34 1/3) vs. on the road (17), and pointed out that a couple of bad outings have “skewed” Bard’s statistics. Still, Bard has a 2.88 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and .267 average against at Coors, where he’s served up just two home runs. It’s been ugly on the road: 11.72 ERA, 2.35 WHIP, .342 average, and six homers. That can’t be dismissed or ignored.
“Daniel’s (pitch) movement is real,” Black said. “I don’t want to say he has to battle, but he has to be aware of the challenge of the movement he creates on the road as opposed to at home. So it’s a balancing act for these pitchers to be able to make that adjustment quickly.”
Black acknowledged that both his pitchers and hitters have to deal with the difference between performing at Coors Field vs. the road, but added: “The question is to what degree? What are the true differences? How big? I think that’s answered differently by different players and different coaches. There are some players who think it’s a little adjustment and some players who think it’s a huge adjustment.”
Lineup questions. Left fielder Raimel Tapia returned to the lineup Monday night, his sprained big toe finally healed. He did not, however, return to his leadoff spot. Instead, he hit seventh and Connor Joe, who started at first base, was at the top of the order. C.J. Cron, the usual first baseman, was the designated hitter on Monday.
Black acknowledged that Joe is not the prototypical leadoff hitter, but also said that Joe’s .365 on-base percentage from the top spot has been solid. Joe is hitting .257 with five home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .879 OPS in 19 games at leadoff.
In 85 games batting leadoff, Tapia has hit .285 with a .333 OBP, five homers, and 42 RBIs with a .726 OPS.
Black reiterated that during the final five weeks of the season the Rockies will use Tapia in center field from time to time in games when Joe starts in left.
Gray’s day. Right-hander Jon Gray, who was removed from Saturday’s game against the Dodgers in the third inning when he experienced pain in his right forearm, played catch Monday. Black said that Gray “felt better.” Black, however, added that the “true test” will come Tuesday when Gray throws his scheduled side session. If Gray passes that test, he could make his start on Thursday against Atlanta at Coors Field.
Rockies starters have generally fared better at Coors Field this season than they have on the road. A closer look:
|RHP German Marquez*||W/L||ERA||HRs||WHIP||Avg. against|
|LHP Austin Gomber||W/L||ERA||HRs||WHIP||Avg. against|
|RHP Jon Gray||W/L||ERA||HRs||WHIP||Avg. against|
|LHP Kyle Freeland||W/L||ERA||HRs||WHIP||Avg. against|
|RHP Antonio Senzatela||W/L||ERA||HRs||WHIP||Avg. against|