It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidor

Colorado Rockies Humidor

Colorado Rockies Humidor

Back in the days when Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga were playing home games in Denver, fantasy owners would load their rosters with Colorado Rockies and maul the competition, just like the Rockies did to visiting pitchers. The news of how the Coors humidor has slowed down the torrid pace of scoring in Denver is nothing new. The humidor was put in place for the 2002 season and has put a damper on runs and homers at Rockies home games ever since.

Runs scored are down from 13.4 per game in 2001 to 10.6 per game in 2002 and 10.7 this season. Home runs are down from 3.3 per game in 2001 to 2.3 per game in 2002 and 1.9 this year. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the humidor is achieving the goal of reducing the scoring. Scoring is down 2.7 runs per game and homers are down 1.4 per game, the equivalence of a three-run homer every game.

But if you look closer, you’ll notice that scoring is only down 20% while homers are down 43%. So while the humidor does effect hitting in general, it has a greater effect on the long ball than it does on batted balls that stay in the park. So how can the fantasy owner use this knowledge to their advantage? By looking at the seasonal effects of the humidor-ified baseballs.

Over the last three seasons, there is a monthly difference that requires our attention. The following chart shows the average number of runs scored by both teams at Rockies home games in each half of the season:

Year April-June July-September
2006 9.2 12.0
2007 10.0 11.3
2008 9.8 10.9

As you can see, the total runs scored in each game played in Denver’s Coors Field is higher in the last three months compared to the first three months in each of the last three seasons. The theory that the summer heat doesn’t have as much of an effect on the humidor-ified baseballs as the cooler first three months of the season seems to hold some water.

This doesn’t mean that The Coors Pinball Game is back in play like the late 1990’s, but it is a good time for playing Rockie hitters like Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins and Todd Helton. These guys might also be good trade candidates as you could likely expect them to close in on their September numbers of the last few years:

Tulowitzki: .330/3HR/14RBi in 2008 and .273/6/26 in 2007
Atkins: .256/3/14 in 2008 and .390/5/17 in 2007
Helton: .390/4/20 in 2007 (Helton was injured in 2008)

As the summer heats up in Denver, so does the scoreboard. Rockies hitters are good for 18 home games in September and should provide excellent opportunities for your fantasy team. But just like the Rockies hitters, their opponents hit too. Avoid any pitcher who starts in the mile high air of Denver for the rest of the season unless you really want to risk a hit to your ERA and WHIP.

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