Obviously, Colorado is every hitter's favorite destination. Flyballs cut the thin air of Denver easily, staying in the air for a shorter time and going farther. But the inflation does not happen only once the ball goes into play. It even helps batters connect with the ball in the first place, and do it more squarely. Nowhere are there fewer strikeouts or more line drives. Every kind of batted ball has greater success than it would at any other park in the league, and in most cases, by a large margin.
Colorado also runs aggressively, with the third-most stolen base attempts in the league last season. Their manager, Jim Tracy, has always been more conservative than the man he replaced at the end of May, Clint Hurdle. The club is still loaded with speed, though, so Tracy may not pull on the reins much.
The Rockies have tremendous depth in the outfield. Five different players have the chops to be major league regulars, and that will cost the top three some at-bats unless they deal Ryan Spilborghs.
The Rockies began a strong organizational focus on keeping the ball down and on the ground that started paying dividends in 2007. In 2009, Colorado had the second-highest groundball rate in the majors. The group finished seventh in the NL in runs allowed and allowed the fifth-fewest homers, stunning numbers from such a disadvantaged corps. Don't shy away from near-aces Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De la Rosa.
Only the Atlanta Braves logged more quality starts as a team than the Rockies last season, a figure that reflects depth and philosophy as much as Tracy's patience with starters. Tracy is also a little steadier with closers than Hurdle was.
An underrated by-product of Coors' impact on batted balls is the added difficulty posed to defenders, whose reflexes must be quicker and range greater there. In light of that, the franchise has made defensive prowess a priority, and it shows. Only right fielder Brad Hawpe is poor. Dexter Fowler has some maturing to do in center, though.
In the infield, Ian Stewart has proven to be a liability anywhere except the hot corner. Fortunately, that's where he's stationed. The rest of the group is solid, although Todd Helton has lost some range at first.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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