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Where the Colorado Rockies need to improve to be successful

Jake Shapiro Avatar
November 25, 2015

 

The Colorado Rockies have always struggled with their pitchers, and no doubt they need to improve their staff to be successful, but when your team only wins 68 games there are a lot of areas where your team needs to improve. One of the areas where the Rockies need to get better might shock you.

The area where the Rockies need to improve to be successful is their hitting. Specifically they need to improve their hitting on the road. This may not shock the keen observer since the Rockies have always struggled away from Coors Field. But for a team that scored the most runs in the National League and allowed the most runs in the National League, hitting probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what the Rockies need to improve this offseason.

From May until the end of the season in 2014, the Rockies won just 13 road games, they lost 51. In 2015, they were a lot better improving from a .259 winning percentage to a .395 winning percentage on the road, unfortunately for the Rockies, they won nine fewer home games. If one added up 2014’s home record to 2015’s road record the Rockies would only end up with 79 wins, which is still far from contention. No matter what way you slice 2015’s better road record, the Rockies still need to improve drastically when they are not playing at Coors Field.

Only one time in club history have they had a team have an over .500 season on the road. That year was 2009 when the team went 41-40 away from Denver. Post-humidor (2003-present) the Rockies have a .296 batting average at home and a .240 batting average on the road. That amounts to 5.75 runs a game at home and 3.85 runs a game on the road. Going through franchise history, the Rockies are historically bad at hitting on the road. As a team, they rack up nine of the 50 worst road batting averages in baseball since 1993. Ironically they’ve also had nine batting title champions over that same timespan.

Players who have succeeded in a Rockies uniform while at home and on the road usually fit a mold. Those successful players are usually contact hitters with solid gap to gap power. It may be easy to say, “hey go get a team with a bunch of those guys,” but in reality those players are rare. One player that comes to mind who played for the Rockies in 2015 that has solid home/road splits is Justin Morneau. He is a four-time all-star, two-time silver slugger, batting title champ, that was the 2006 American League MVP. Naturally, Morneau a contact and gap hitter usually has his abilities translating well when he is playing on the road, unlike traditional power hitters. Carlos Gonzalez is the prime example of this, as his career has progressed he has been less apt to use a middle of the field approach, instead he is now more likely pull the ball to the right side. As this trend has advanced in CarGo’s career, his home/road splits have become more extreme.

As it is with most things with the Colorado Rockies, they do have hope in the form of Nolan Arenado. The National League’s home run king from this past year hit 22 of his 42 home runs while on the road. From a power standpoint, Arenado will likely never have another season like the one he had in 2015, but his ability to hit the ball hard and get air under it has increased over his career. His .287 batting average that we have seen from Arenado each of the past two years will probably increase in 2016 since he has progressed so gracefully has a hitter. The almost 60 point difference in home and road batting average with Arenado is very concerning, yet he has shown that his power can translate onto the road. The next logical step would be his contact to follow.

Currently, the Rockies are drafting a different style of talent, one that revolves around contact and speed. I talked about how important contact and speed could be with the huge gaps that the parks in the NL West have in a prior article in which I interviewed former Rockie Corey Sullivan. The key is, contact bats will not see as big of a penalty traveling away from Coors Field as the power bats do, at least theoretically.

One thing is definite, the Rockies need to figure out how to win away from Coors Field. Unlike what most believe, it most likely starts at the plate, not on the mound. Whether it be creative lineup construction, the hiring a new hitting coach, or getting a different style of player, something needs to be done if the Rockies want to win more ballgames on the road. Already the team has tried its fair share of hitting coaches, and the acquisition of Jose Reyes signals that the Rockies might be targeting a different model for their offense.

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