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Humidor Shenanigans
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
August 10, 2006

Daily News and Notes
 
Francis has always thrived at Coors 

Back in June, Ken Macha half-jokingly suggested there should be an investigation into the humidor-stored baseballs in Colorado.  And just last week, Jeff Cirillo suggested the balls are waterlogged and also called on baseball to investigate the situation.  Is there something to this or is Cirillo, as his manager suggested, nuts? 

 

The humidor was installed back in 2002 and the Rockies’ home ERA that year was 5.47, the lowest in team history and it was the first time since 1998 that that mark had been lower than 6.06.  It was 5.07 the following year, although it spiked back up to 6.27 in 2004 before dropping back down to 5.18 last year.  Through play on Tuesday, however, the Rockies’ home ERA this season remarkably stood at 4.03 and they had allowed fewer runs at home than all but two teams in the majors.  At the same time, their road numbers stayed consistent from ’02 through last year.  Their ERA away from Coors this year has dropped to 4.27, which would be the third lowest mark in team history (4.25 in 1998, 3.71 in 1995) and they have allowed just 40 home runs on the road, the fewest in the majors.  In the team’s 13-year history, they have only once finished better than 15th in the NL (13th in 2000) and only 3 times did not finish dead last.  They currently are 5th overall in the majors in ERA (4.15), and third in the NL.  Improved pitching is obviously a reason for the dip in ERA both at home and on the road, but does it completely account for such a dramatic drop?  If the humidor is the cause of the reduced numbers this year, then why did they not drop more dramatically sooner?  And what about the batting splits? 

 

Looking at the home/road splits in team batting, we similarly find that the Rockies’ home batting average dropped in 2002 to .313, their lowest mark in 7 years since they batted .316 at home in 1995.  The following three seasons, that mark was .294 (only the second time in team history they batted under .300 at home), .303 and .300, a gradual decrease that seems consistent with their post-humidor and pre-2006 pitching splits.  Their road numbers (.234/.239/.246/.232) meanwhile, stayed roughly the same, also consistent with the post-humidor era.  This season however, we see another dramatic drop with their home batting average at just .275, while they are batting .257 on the road, which would tie them for the highest road mark in team history.  With hitters like Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins, this is a good hitting team.  They’ve done well on the road, so why such a drastic drop at home this year? 

 

4.03 and .275 represent pretty drastic drop offs from just last season to this.  Why then, if the humidor is the cause of this drop, did not the numbers drop more dramatically sooner than this?  The Rockies are a better pitching team but they are still a good hitting team.  Is it possible that there is more going on than MLB and the Rockies will admit to? 

 

Certainly increased talent figures into the equation, but one knock has always been that teams change their game playing at Coors Field as opposed to elsewhere, thus figuring into why the Rockies play so dramatically worse on the road.  Both hitters and pitchers get into bad habits in Colorado and consequently struggle more on the road.  The Rockies road record this year (26-32, .448) is their best since 1997 and would stand as the third highest in team history.  Judging on past performance, it figures that leveling the playing field at Coors would benefit the Rockies away from home.  Can Colorado’s talent level be the only thing that has changed significantly from last year?  Are the Rockies just that much better or has leveling the playing field at altitude helped them both at home and on the road? 

 

While not suggesting as Cirillo did, that Colorado uses different baseballs dependant on the situation, and not wanting to unfairly discredit the Rockies pitchers (who deserve due credit), DN&N nonetheless thinks something funny could be going on here to cause such sudden drastic change and wonders just how much manipulation of the ball is actually going on. 

 

 

H ERA

R/HR

W

L

PCT

R ERA

R/HR

W

L

PCT

H BA

R BA

1993

5.84

551/107

39

42

0.481

4.99

416/74

28

53

0.346

.306/.361/.482

.240/.285/.362

1994

5.74

356/61

25

32

0.439

4.57

282/59

28

32

0.467

.298/.359/.479

.251/.317/.401

1995

6.17

490/107

44

28

0.611

3.71

293/53

33

39

0.458

.316/.383/.556

.247/.315/.384

1996

6.17

559/122

55

26

0.679

4.97

405/76

28

53

0.346

.343/.408/.579

.228/.295/.357

1997

5.67

501/121

47

34

0.580

4.81

407/75

36

45

0.444

.321/.386/.523

.253/.327/.432

1998

5.70

505/101

42

39

0.519

4.25

350/73

35

46

0.432

.325/.382/.519

.257/.311/.401

1999

7.11

626/159

39

42

0.481

4.84

402/78

33

48

0.407

.325/.383/.549

.248/.310/.390

2000

6.06

531/133

48

33

0.593

4.40

366/88

34

47

0.420

.334/.401/.538

.252/.320/.368

2001

6.12

531/144

41

40

0.506

4.42

375/95

32

49

0.395

.331/.387/.554

.253/.321/.410

2002

5.47

491/135

47

34

0.580

4.92

407/90

26

55

0.321

.313/.376/.496

.234/.297/.348

2003

5.07

450/117

49

32

0.605

5.35

442/83

25

56

0.309

.294/.372/.503

.239/.316/.388

2004

6.27

532/110

39

43

0.476

4.77

391/88

30

51

0.370

.303/.375/.506

.246/.315/.403

2005

5.18

447/84

40

41

0.494

5.07

415/91

27

54

0.333

.300/.366/.460

.232/.299/.359

2006

4.03

234/57

28

26

0.519

4.27

262/40

26

32

0.448

.275/.341/.426

.257/.324/.421

 

 

 

583

492

0.542

 

 

421

660

0.389

 

 

 




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard lives in San Francisco and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.


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