Friday, July 21, 2017

Rocky mountain high mystique

Recently, Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated penned a lengthy article on how and why pitchers for the Colorado Rockies face such a nightmare.

It's the altitude, of course.

The poor hurlers struggle to catch their breath in such rarifed air, and balls go zooming out of the park far more than at any other venue. Needless to say, their collective ERAs suffer accordingly.

As most scribes and talking heads are wont to do these days, Chen had a bazillion geekish statistics to bolster his argument.

Because the altitude at the Rockies home field offers 20% less "air", then breaking pitches will spin 20% less, hence "breaking" that much less as well. Fodder for opposing batters.

All of which is balderdash when one takes into consideration the other unmentioned side of the equation.

If the air is that much thinner, then it logically stands to reason fastballs should meet that much less wind resistance and travel 20% faster. A guy that normally throws 95 MPH should now have a heater somewhere around 115 MPH on the radar gun. Try getting around on that.

Chen cites an above average amount of runs scored at Rockies home games. Well dang, shouldn't that work both ways? So what's the problem?

And if the "thinner" air is that much of a factor, as in the above-mentioned 20%, then why is it we've never heard of record-setting home run blasts? Nowadays, anything over 420-440 feet is deemed a "monster shot" by the hyperventilating announcers in their never-ending quest for superlatives.

So if those can happen at all other Major League ball parks -- and they do on a regular basis -- then shouldn't we hear about balls travelling 20% further at Coors Field? Like of the 500+ variety? When's the last time you heard of one of those being hit into "orbit"? You haven't, because it hasn't occurred.

This seems particularly odd in the age of (allegedly) "juiced" baseballs, bats custom made to fit every hitter, and the same hitters being in much better shape (stronger) than they ever were in days of old.

Evidently, we're supposed to believe a pudgy first baseman named Norm Cash that played for the Detroit Tigers decades ago hit several homers over the roof of the former Tiger Stadium, estimated to have traveled well over 500 feet, with deader balls, but no current sluggers can come anywhere near matching it. Does that sound logical?

And hey, let's face it. Both the Rockies and their opposing team on any given day play under the same conditions. If the venue is so conducive to run production, shouldn't that work both ways as well?

Far be it from yours truly to doubt the intent and veracity of Albert Chen, and SI in general, but excuse me if I call myself skeptical.

As the Bard once famously penned himself --

This could well be another classic case of Much Ado About Nothing.

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