Poor Road Conditions

It wasn’t too long ago — two weeks, in fact — that Rockies fans were toasting the team’s road offense.  In those heady days of mid May, the Rockies’ offense away from Coors Field ranked near the top of the game.

How times have changed. After yesterday’s shutout in Philadelphia, which extends the Rockies’ scoreless streak to 20 depressing innings, the Rockies are now 11-17 on the road. That’s sixth worst in baseball.

When the Rockies were rolling on the road, the numbers suggested that the production was coming primarily from power. Hitters weren’t getting on base or drawing walks any more frequently than in the past, but they were hitting the ball harder, which made up for a relatively poor on base percentage. The concern, however, was that power waxes and wanes, and that the low OBP would lead to droughts if the team stopped hitting the long ball.

So far on this road trip, the Rockies have just six extra-base hits in four games. Since May 11, the Rockies’ isolated power (.151) has dropped by nearly 20 points. The power is unquestionably flickering. There’s no reason to believe this is permanent, but without power, there’s little left to keep the team’s road offense afloat.

In fact, the Rockies’ road OBP is slipping. It’s down to a paltry .292, which ranks 27th in baseball and is lower than the .310 OBP the Rockies had on May 11. Unfortunately, it’s even lower than last year’s road OBP of .298. The low on-base percentage, coupled with the dwindling power, has dropped the Rockies’ road wOBA to .302 and their wRC+ to 88. Both numbers are now below league average. Earlier this month the Rockies ranked among the best in baseball in these categories that measure overall production.

The loss of power doesn’t account for all of this. The Rockies are still drawing walks on the road at an anemic rate (6.3%), but they aren’t striking out appreciably more (20.9%). If anything, in addition to losing power, the team also has hit a stretch of bad luck. On May 11, the Rockies’ batting average on balls in play on the road was .300, substantially the same as last year’s .302 BABIP. After the last two weeks of play, the road BABIP has dropped to .285, below both league average and the team’s road BABIP over the past three seasons.

The numbers seem to leave us with encouragement — and warning. The Rockies’ power will come back, and the bad luck will end, and with that the road offense will undoubtedly improve. But until the Rockies put men on base more frequently away from Coors Field, the road offense will continue to stand on feet of clay.