Rockies raising outfield fences at Coors Field
Left-field corner, right-center wall getting added height
DENVER -- Armed with 23 years of stats and a detailed study of the last three years, the Rockies announced Tuesday that they have increased the height of the fences in two locations at Coors Field. Here are details:
• The fence from the center-field end of the visiting bullpen to the right-field out-of-town scoreboard will be raised 8 feet, 9 inches so that it is consistent with the height of the out-of-town scoreboard at 16 feet, 6 inches.
• Five feet is being added to the wall from the left-field foul pole to the beginning of the pavilion seating in center.
• The additions will be green-coated chain-link fencing and in areas that are not immediately in front of fans, so they should not create obstructions.
Changes will be in place in time for the home opener, April 8 against the Padres.
The Rockies began storing baseballs in the so-called humidor -- a temperature-controlled chamber to prevent them from shrinking, hardening and becoming slippery. That change reduced the offense-oriented nature of the park somewhat, but homers and scoring are elevated.
The new fencing, which is the first fair-ground fence change in the history of a park that has been open since 1995, will not change the spaciousness of the outfield and a high-desert atmosphere in which balls tend to travel in certain weather conditions. But the Rockies will see if it'll help the pitchers, who have struggled mightily for much of the franchise's history.
"The goal is to raise the wall heights to make it, potentially, more playable and more fair for pitchers in this ballpark," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "We really don't know exactly the effect that it's going to have. We're going to live it together for this year to see what happens. The thought is that this might be a first step in what could be a number of steps."
The Rockies studied much of the Statcast™ data from 577 homers at Coors Field over the last three years. Statcast™ does not give the precise height at which a home run clears the wall, but assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal said that's available through a calculation based on available measurements such as launch angle, exit velocity and landing spot.
"We know exactly where all of those have left the ballpark and touched down, and some of the areas that we addressed were the high home run areas," Bridich said. "It was targeted and educated adjustments."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss, who was a member of the club when Coors Field opened, said, "I've thought about this for a long time. I've seen a lot of games there. I played a lot of games there. I always thought it would be an interesting concept, if we raised the wall height.
"It would eliminate some of the cheaper home runs that we see there. If you could keep the ball in the park here or there, it could change some things."
Rockies left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa said there have been a lot of balls that "you'd think it was a line drive but it's a home run, so if they do that for us, good."
Then he added, "If I'm a pitcher, I'm going to say yes. I don't know if the hitters like it."
Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez said outfielders must play the bounce off the new fencing judiciously.
"You want to make sure the guy that hit the ball is at second base and not at third base -- take that extra base away from him," Gonzalez said. "The only one you're going to have a chance at is the one that stands there and you have a chance to play at second base. But we're talking about, what, 380 feet away?"
Center fielder Charlie Blackmon noted, "Balls that hit the fence are now going to bounce like they hit a chain-link fence. It will kill the bounce so you'll see outfielders go further out to field the ball, so that will allow for more triples. But then again, that ball might've already been a home run."
Left-handed hitters have benefitted from a jet stream to right-center throughout the life of the park. How hurt those hitters will be this year depends on the hitter.
Gonzalez, who tends to hit higher balls, said he would have lost just one of his 24 Coors Field homers (he had 40 overall) -- off the Marlins' Carter Capps on June 7.
Blackmon, who had seven of his 17 homers at home last year but 12 of his 19 at home in 2014, said he would have lost "a couple" last year. Asked if the move to raise the fence is disappointing offensively, he said, "I'm not going to really comment on that one."
Bridich said there was some consultation with "people who have played in the park," but not a full canvasing of the roster or a grand scheme to make the changes tilt strictly toward the home team.
"It will be the same ballpark for the visitor, too," Bridich said.