Posted: 2021-07-13 07:18:33 (ET) [ 593 views ]
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Some of you may be wondering what to expect today during the All Star Game. Colorado baseball is sort of difficult to figure out what may happen, because over the history of the Rockies there have been many strange occurances.
The Colorado Rockies have maintained a terrific home advantage and periodically lead the league in home wins and at the same time carry the worst road record in the league.
As most everyone knows by now, scoring can easily get into the teens at Coors Field and yet there are games where scoring is more like in the balance of the league's stadiums. When watching a game at Coors Field it seems like any other baseball game and nothing seems to be crazy except the final score.
Home runs can be many and very long. Strikeouts can go either way. But the scenery is great and the ballpark is beautiful, so crowds are sure to show up. So, what is the actual problem for Colorado baseball?
As you know, I have focused on the density of the air. (See Neeley Scale on this website) I am not the only one in the world to know that air is thin in Denver. Football field goals are longer, home runs are longer, so it is no surprise that pitching might also be affected. But, how might the All Star Game be affected?
I certainly cannot answer that ahead of the game. However, the issue for hitting is this: the four-seam fastball (the primary pitch in baseball) is affected the most. Since the air is thin, it does not lift (or rise) as much at the very end of the pitch. We call that the tail-off, because at a 3/4 arm angle the pitch both lifts and the air moves it laterally in the direction of the spin. It actually moves more like a lesser speed fastball than its actual speed. If I had to guess at the speed it mimmicks, I would guess that a 95 mph fastball moves at the end of the pitch as if, in other stadiums, it was only about 80 mph.
With that in mind, the hitter is expecting a 95 mph pitch, but the actual speed is faster by 6 inches of travel through thin air. However, he is also expecting more lift and tail-off, but it stays down more like a two seamer. Overall, it is easier to hit but, confusing because there are about 8 more pitch-types a hitter could face at any moment during an at bat.
Can a fan, coach or player who is closely watching the pitches pick up on this? Absolutely not! Can the players themselves actually see this lack of movement? Yes, the hitter and the catcher can see when a pitcher has additional, or lesser movement, but may not be used to determining why and how it affects what he may see on the next pitch. After all, each pitch has a different location within the strike zone for the hitter to deal with, as well. So, in the players and coaches minds, location is the central focus.
Today in the All-Star game, some hitters will adjust quickly to the fastball. Others will get hits off pitches that move downward. Some pitchers may get by just fine. Others will be Reverse pitchers (those who make a sinker or slider their main pitch) and may get by quite well in Coors Field. Some pitchers may throw too many fastballs for good Coors Field outings like Tight pitchers tend to do. Loose pitchers (see Pitch-Mix under Hitter Science on this site) just throw more off-speed pitches than they should probably throw under certain conditions, but they may be the right ticket in Coors, because they are facing All Stars who are coming in from many different home and road stadiums from the past weeks' travels. That means that the players' visual memories are all different, which is not the case during the regular schedule. The Loose pitches can keep a hitter off-balance when he is primed for a quick fastball. Sometimes, it seems that a hitters' expectation in advance of a game such as at Coors Field tends to betray him. That is; if he expects to raise his average and maybe hit a home run or two, his focus may be off the actual pitch during its travel and that could bite him by causing poor decision-making as to which pitch to swing or take.
Confusing? Absolutely. Baseball is always difficult to predict, but Coors Field seems to bring out both the best and the worst in many players. Just enjoy, and have fun! Even the Coaches, Managers, and Owners don't know what to do with the Coors Field phenomena and the Coors Field "Hangover" upon leaving this venue.
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