Is Coors Field creating a competitive disadvantage for the Rockies?

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A writer at Purple Row, SB Nation’s Rockies blog, by the name of “RhodeIslandRoxFan” penned a very thought-provoking column yesterday in which he hypothesizes that either the Sabermetric stat wRC+ is flawed when it comes to accounting for the effect of Coors Field, or that the Rockies’ home park is responsible for a very noticeable competitive disadvantage.

For those not familiar, wRC+, or weighted runs created, is a Sabermetric statistic found at FanGraphs. The plus sign, similar to OPS+, indicates that the stat has been normalized such that 100 is average. wRC+ takes the various contributions a player makes — hitting singles, doubles, triples, and home runs; stealing bases; drawing walks — and converts it into one single statistic telling you how many runs a player contributed to his team’s offense.

RhodeIslandRoxFan illustrates the disparity between the Rockies’ home and road wRC+ dating back to 2002, both when FanGraphs’ data begins and when the Rockies introduced the humidor. On average, the Rockies have posted a 99 wRC+ at home and 82 on the road. The 17-point difference is staggering, as the next-biggest gap is nine points, posted by the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Braves, and Pirates.

While it is tempting to believe that the stat is not accounting for Coors Field properly, RIRF shows that the Rockies’ home wRC+ doesn’t differ terribly from the league average at home on a season-by-season basis. However, the Rockies’ road wRC+ does vary from the league average on the road. RIRF concludes:

The road numbers on the other hand tend to support the idea that the Rockies are operating at a competitive disadvantage to all the other teams in baseball. Like a drug addict not being able to function when they come off a high without a fix, Rockies’ hitters don’t seem to be able to function properly when they come off the high of hitting at Coors Field.

Of course, this is one study and isn’t by any means conclusive and exhaustive, but the author makes a very compelling argument. If you enjoy well-reasoned analysis, check out the full article.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.