For a team looking to upgrade its offense, the trio of Rockies outfielders – Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Corey Dickerson – are appealing options. They’re all left-handed hitters; they all have track records boasting significant power, speed or both; and they’re all in an ideal 26-to-30 year-old age bracket.
Before trying to address each player specifically, we have to address a fundamental problem in trying to make sense of Rockies offensive numbers: the home/away splits.
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One of these is a lineup-anchoring star; one is … not. They’re both Carlos Gonzalez – “a” is him at home, “b” is him on the road. A team looking to acquire one of these bats is going to have to part with significant talent, probably pitching talent – but for which player? Trying to divine the significance of this Coors Field split problem is not academic.
In an attempt to gain some clarity on this matter I turned to a former Colorado outfielder, who has since moved on to two different clubs and has been productive with both: Dexter Fowler. I wanted to see if there were any underlying signals in his performance in Colorado that could be applied to other players.
The following table lists batting average on balls in play (BABIP), on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) and isolated power (ISO) in terms of “away,” “home” and the “differential” or spread between the two. A negative number means that the away number is worse than the home. Green boxes show a spread of zero to 74 points; yellow is between 75 and 150 points; red is anything greater than 150. These ranges are arbitrary, but I believe they are reasonable as far as offering rough-sketch perspective.
Three of five years, Fowler’s BABIP numbers were in that green, zero-to-74 point spread. In 2011 his BABIP was actually better on the road. And his extremes – a 108 point spread in 2010 and 75 points in 2013 – were not terribly extreme by Rockies standards. (CarGo had a 200-point spread in BABIP in 2014.)
Fowler’s isolated power numbers generally fared worse and were more volatile. He’s not a power hitter and so I would reason that Coors Field helped exaggerate his power. But even at the metrics’ most inconsistent, the numbers were still within a roughly 100 point band. (His OPS ranged widely, but OPS is a simple addition of on-base and slugging, and I would argue that while it’s the most familiar, it’s also the least reliable of these measurements.)
Looking at Fowler’s post-Colorado performance, we see he’s been an awfully similar hitter to what he was in Colorado. Slightly down in the power department and BABIP, but his on-base percentage is nearly identical and his batting average is only ten points off his Colorado mark.
General managers like track records and consistent performance. In Fowler, I think there is a pattern of consistent, repeatable, steady production. And that is something important to keep in mind going forward as we tackle this trio of outfielders.
Let’s start with the biggest “name” of the bunch: Gonzalez.