Like a curse from the baseball gods, just as the Rockies inched toward solving how to consistently pitch well at Coors Field last season, they lost their way on the road.

That left the Rockies pondering a familiar question heading into the offseason: How could they master the differences in pitch action at 5,280 feet elevation versus sea level, so that they could be effective no matter where they threw?

“We knew we had to make a switch,” right-hander German Marquez said. “We couldn’t just keep seeing the (contrast in collective road/home performance) and not do anything about it.”

The club’s latest answer is an analytics study into home/road variations in pitch movement, one the Rockies hope will make its 2021 road pitching performance an anomaly.

Away from LoDo last year, Colorado’s pitchers posted a bigger ERA (4.99 to 4.67) than they did at hitter-friendly Coors while also yielding a higher opponent batting average and lower weak-contact rate.

“We’re hitting this head-on more than we have since I’ve been here,” manager Bud Black said. “We decided this offseason that this is something we’re going to look right in the eye: This is why certain things happen to pitches on the road as opposed to at home.”

The physics behind pitching at elevation reveals the inner workings of the tall task facing the team.

At home, there’s been the three-decade pitching quest to find out how to tame the additional distance provided by the thin air at Coors Field, where a 400-foot hit at sea level turns into 420 in LoDo. Plus, there’s the majors’ biggest outfield to contend with, which provides additional opportunities for gappers and bloops.

That thin air is also the reason pitchers get about 18% less movement on their pitches at Coors, explained Alan M. Nathan, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“For a comparable temperature and pressure at sea level, the density of air in Denver is about 82 percent of what it is at sea level,” said Nathan, who specializes in baseball physics. “So that means you have about 82 percent of the movement on a pitch that you would normally have, all other things being equal.”





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