Ask baseball fans their impression of Coors Field in Denver and you will likely get similar answers: A hitter's park, lots of home runs, and a pitching nightmare. Coors Field used to be such an easy home run park that psychologically many pitchers were fearful and afraid to throw strikes, trying to be perfect and nibble the corners. All this got the pitcher was too many walks, which made things worse.
Remember when the Rockies signed left-handed starters Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle to huge contracts? It was a disaster for both, and the organization. Hampton was 8-6 with a 5.77 ERA in 15 starts in Coors Field in his inaugural season with the Rockies. Hampton was no bargain to bet on at home, especially as a regular two-dollar favorite. In fact, his first three years Hampton had a career record of 9-7 with a 6.05 ERA in games at Coors Field. Not exactly a stopper.
Amazingly, times have changed with Coors Field. Two years ago they used a humidor to weigh the baseballs down slightly before each game. Offensive players didn't like this, one even saying, “Then why don't we used juiced baseballs in San Diego, as it's tough to score in their new park?” Of course, you don't hear pitchers complaining in Denver anymore. That's because runs are down in Coors Field.
The Rockies are scoring 4.27 runs per game on the road and 4.29 runs per game at home. Colorado is also 17-5 UNDER the total at home! They have flipped the script, winning not by scoring more at home, but by having their opponents score less. The Rockies have a 4.05 team ERA, the lowest ever at this point of the season. Third baseman Garrett Atkins said, 'Good defense and good pitching play well wherever you go.' He forgot to mention the humidor!
Last week, Toronto sauntered into Denver with a powerful offense. The Jays led the American League in average and runs. 'I don't think I have ever looked up at a scoreboard and seen so many guys hitting .350,' said Rockies starter Josh Fogg. 'They had guys coming off the bench hitting .340.'
And yet the Blue Jays nosedived, becoming one of the first powerful lineups ever to leave Coors Field in a slump. They batted .263 (26-for-99) with one home run. Vernon Wells and Glaus produced just three hits and two RBIs. They were outscored 18-7. 'We just got outplayed,' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. 'And their pitching and fielding had a lot to do with that.' And the humidor!
So much so that the Rockies have a surplus of starters. They must make a decision on Sun-Woo Kim. In the past, once guys like Darryl Kile and Hampton left Coors Field, they excelled. Kile won 20 games with the Astros, then was a colossal free agent bust in Colorado. His curveball didn't break in the thin Denver air, but what was also noticeable was that he suddenly had trouble with control and walked a lot of batters. Once he left Colorado and signed with St. Louis, he won 20 games again.
From 1999-2001, ace Curt Schilling was 1-0 in five starts with a 4.41 ERA in Coors Field, while Randy Johnson was 3-2 with a 4.41 ERA. Not a sizzling record, and note that Colorado batters hit .319 off Schilling. Also, Dodger ace Kevin Brown went 3-2 with a 4.01 ERA during those three years in Coors Field. However, the days of Coors being a pitcher's graveyard may be over. And sports bettors should note that the Rockies are 17-5 UNDER the total at home, thanks to better defense and that funky humidor!