DENVER -- Many consider Coors Field a homer hitter's paradise, where it's easier to deposit a ball over the fence due to the altitude of Denver. But just how "easy," relatively speaking, is it to homer in this ballpark? With Statcast™, we have tools at our disposal to measure that.
Statcast™ classifies each ball in play by quality of contact. The six categories are "barrel," "solid contact," and four classifications of relatively weak contact. We ranked each Major League ballpark by percentage of home runs that were neither barreled nor solidly struck since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015.
Coors Field has yielded the second-most homers (502) of any ballpark in that period, behind only Yankee Stadium (542). But as it turns out, there are eight ballparks with a higher percentage of homers that weren't either barreled or solid contact, led by Minute Maid Park.
Since the advent of Statcast™, 16.1 percent of home runs at Minute Maid Park have been neither barreled nor solid contact. Several have been among the most improbable hits in that span, including Alex Bregman's home run into the Crawford Boxes on May 24 against the Tigers, which had an exit velocity of 88.3 mph and a launch angle of 27 degrees. A batted ball with that combination of exit velocity and launch angle had a hit probability of 7 percent, and had never before gone for a home run since Statcast™ was introduced.
The others in the top five are Yankee Stadium (9.6 percent), Great American Ball Park (9.5 percent), Guaranteed Rate Field (8.8 percent) and Fenway Park (8.1 percent).
At Coors Field, 7 percent of homers since Statcast™ was introduced have been classified as neither barreled nor solid contact.
"It's not about the home runs," said Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez. "Yeah, Coors helps you get hits, because it's such a big outfield. There's a lot of spots where you don't have to find the barrel and it goes over somebody's head, and you're going to get a hit."
Of the 45 home runs Gonzalez has hit at Coors since the introduction of Statcast™, all but one were either barreled (41) or solid contact (3).
Since the debut of Statcast™, the only player with more homers at Coors Field than Gonzalez is Nolan Arenado, who has 52. Only two of those were not barreled (41) or hit solid (9).
"The home runs I've hit here the last couple years, I feel like I've hit them good," Arenado said. "I'm not saying I crushed every one of them. But I've also played in places where I didn't hit the ball as good, and it still went out. The homer I hit in Cincy, I felt like it would barely go out here, and I hit the second deck there."
The homer Arenado was referring to came at Great American Ball Park on May 19. It had an exit velocity of 100.5 mph and a launch angle of 38 degrees. Arenado has hit only four Statcast-tracked homers at Coors Field with a launch angle of 38 degrees or greater.
So where is it most difficult to homer without barreling a ball or making solid contact? That would be Busch Stadium, with just seven home runs (1.9 percent of all home runs tracked there by Statcast™) not being classified in one of those two categories.
"You've got to hit it on the barrel," said Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who has hit 10 homers -- nine of them barreled -- at Busch Stadium since 2015. "No cheap home runs there."
Aledmys Diaz, who has hit 12 homers at Busch Stadium, has never hit one that wasn't either barreled (10) or solid contact.
"[At Busch Stadium,] I focus more on going gap to gap and don't look at homers sometimes," Diaz said. "When you're playing in Milwaukee or Cincinnati, you're thinking homers."
Diaz's different approach at home vs. on the road is not uncommon.
"[Jose] Altuve was telling me that when he goes home he tries to go deep, and when he goes on the road, he hits .400," Gonzalez said.
The numbers back that up: 42 of Altuve's 70 career home runs have come in Houston. And while he hit .299/.352/.511 with 15 homers at Minute Maid Park last season, his road line was .376/.439/.552 with nine homers, indicating a significantly different approach.
Of Altuve's 27 homers at Minute Maid Park since 2015, six have been classified as struck "poorly/under," meaning he got under the pitch and lofted it high in the air for what frequently results in a flyout. All six landed in the Crawford Boxes.
Minute Maid Park is at the top of the non-barrel/non-solid home run list, but by far the biggest surprise among players asked was that another ballpark wasn't.
"Where's Chase Field?" asked Gonzalez.
"Arizona's probably in the top five or 10, huh?" asked Arenado.
"I would guess Arizona [is No. 1]," Diaz said.
Chase Field ranks seventh in number of home runs yielded since Statcast™ was introduced, and No. 1 since the beginning of the 2016 season. Yet more than 96 percent of the time, a ball has had to be barreled or hit solidly to make it over the fence; Chase Field is tied with Nationals Park for 19th on the list, at 3.5 percent.
"I probably would think it would be a little higher, but you think about Chase, the dimensions are bigger," said Paul Goldschmidt. "And I think when the roof's open early in the season, the ball definitely carries a lot better, and then in the middle of the summer, when it's closed every day, I think the air can get a little heavier there."
Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the roof has been open for at least part of a game 32 percent of the time. For hitters who went deep earlier in the season, when temperatures in Phoenix allowed for an open roof, that may have given the impression that it was easier to homer without barreling a ball or making solid contact.
In 2016, for example, the latest in the season Chase Field's roof was open for a game was June 14. On or before that date, 6 percent of homers hit there had been neither barreled nor solid contact. But after that date, that figure fell to 2.5 percent.
From the data, we can see that it's one thing for a ballpark to yield a high number of home runs, but the degree of difficulty in hitting those homers is another matter entirely.
"There's a lot of hits here, that's the thing," Arenado said of Coors Field. "But home runs, you've got to hit it out. I'm sorry. I know some people discredit it a little because of the home runs that we hit here."