CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: ... (08/11)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (08/06)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Hit and Run... (08/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Ho... (08/11)

August 11, 2009

Prospectus Hit and Run

Helton's Hall-worthiness

by Jay Jaffe

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Is Todd Helton bound for the Hall of Fame? On the surface, that's not exactly a burning question, even given the resurgent Rockies first baseman's .323/.400/.505 showing to date. At 35 years of age, under contract through 2011, and approaching no major milestones, it's not as though his moment of reckoning has arrived, though he did recently become the 50th player to reach the 500-doubles milestone. That has to count for something, right?

When it finally arrives, Helton's Cooperstown candidacy will be built upon numbers compiled under what have been arguably the most optimal conditions ever afforded a hitter over an extended period of time. He did his best work in high-altitude Coors Field at a time when scoring rates soared higher than they had been in seventy years. His monster performance of 2000-42 homers, 147 RBI, and a .372/.463/.698 line-was produced while playing half his games in a ballpark that increased scoring by 25 percent relative to the league, this in a year when the league average of 5.0 runs per game was higher than any year since 1930 (although it did match 1999's rate). His decline from that lofty peak has been masked by his hitter-friendly park, to the point that his career rate stats are still a sterling .328/.427/.569, numbers he hasn't exceeded since 2004 (save for a .445 OBP in 2005).

A year ago, Helton's career appeared to be on the ropes. He hit just .264/.391/.388, and the back problems which have sapped his power-he hasn't reached 20 homers since 2005-shut him down after July 2 save for two September pinch-hitting appearances. PECOTA saw his reduced power and playing time as the beginning of the end, projecting a .291/.405/.447 weighted mean performance for 2009, and just 1,300 remaining plate appearances through 2012 before he left baseball at the age of 38. Instead, he's recovered to rank fourth in the NL batting race, with a .302 EqA, which ranks 20th in the league, a modest rebound. Will it be enough?

In his heyday, Bill James built several tools to grapple with question of a player Hall-worthiness. His Similarity Scores use career totals to determine which players are the closest matches to the player in question, occasionally offering surprising parallels with Hall of Fame implications. His Hall of Fame Monitor score credits players with points for the types of accomplishments, mostly seasonal, which tend to impress BBWAA voters-batting over .300, collecting 200 hits, winning a batting title or an MVP, playing in a World Series-with a score of 100 representing the average Hall hitter at the time James devised his system some 25 years ago. His Hall of Fame Standards score, introduced in his 1994 book, The Politics of Glory, fulfills a similar task, but it also compares players' career totals to those already in the Hall, with 50 points being average.

Among Helton's ten most similar players (visible at Baseball-Reference.com, three of the top four-Johnny Mize, Chuck Klein, and Hank Greenberg-are in Cooperstown, and he scores 161 points on the Monitor test and 51 points on the Standards test, again suggesting that Helton is Hall material. However, a lot has happened since James introduced those tools, including two waves of expansion, league levels of offense 10 to 15 percent higher than those of the 1980s, and the introduction of the best hitters' park in baseball history. These were all factors which have benefited Helton tremendously, and all of them call into question the utility of such metrics across widely varying offensive levels.

Frustrated by that problem, in 2004 I introduced a system for comparing Hall candidates to the enshrined players at their position in terms of their career and peak value, both measured in terms of Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP)-our combined accounting of hitting, pitching, and fielding value relative to a freely-available reserve or minor league callup. Via the system now known as JAWS (or 'JAffe Warp Score,' an admittedly cumbersome and self-conscious acronym), a player's career WARP total, his peak total (his seven best years), and his overall JAWS (the average of career and peak) are evaluated in the context of the average scores at a player's primary position to gauge his Hall-worthiness. Park and league contexts are built into WARP, so that players in low-scoring environments such as 1960s Dodger Stadium can be measured on the same scale as those from high-scoring environments, such as turn-of-the-century Coors Field.

According to JAWS, Helton makes for a decidedly below-average Hall of Fame candidate at present. He entered the year with 54.6 WARP for his career and 46.1 for his peak, for a JAWS of 50.4. He's currently on pace for a season WARP of 4.4, which would not only boost his career total but rank as his seventh-best season, upping his overall JAWS score to 52.6. The average Hall of Fame first baseman, by comparison, scores at 75.8 for career, 48.4 for peak, and 62.1 overall. Just four of the Hall's 18 first basemen score lower than Helton, and three of them-Frank Chance, Jim Bottomley, and George Kelly-were elected by the much more permissive Veterans Committee. Helton needs to defy age and his bad back to produce four more seasons equivalent to this one to reach the career average for Hall first basemen, and even then his peak would rate as slightly below average.

JAWS is a prescription to improve the Hall's rolls via the election of above-average candidates. It is not, however, a predictor of what the voting body will do, as the 2009 balloting clearly illustrates. While Tim Raines (94.3 career/54.9 peak/74.6 overall JAWS) is clearly ahead of the Hall's established standard for left fielders (84.2/.52.5/68.4) in career, peak, and JAWS, but Rock received just 22.6 percent of the vote. On the other hand, Jim Rice (55.1/39.6/47.4) was elected with 76.4 percent on the ballot, a result that has as its foundation the lack of recognition of the influence that hitter-friendly Fenway Park had inflating Rice's statistics (to say nothing of inflating his legend). Indeed, the Hall is littered with hitters who accumulated hefty stats in favorable environments, though many owe their elections not to BBWAA voters but to the cronyism of the VC, which made a habit of grabbing flash-in-the-pan offensive stars from the 1930s, including the aforementioned Klein, whom JAWS ranks as 20th out of the 22 right fielders in the Hall.

Which isn't to say that a hitter can't use his park to help his case for Cooperstown. Among the all-time home-run leaders, Mel Ott benefited more than any other, hitting 72 percent more homers in the cozy Polo Grounds, which had distances below 280 feet in its left- and right-field corners, than he did on the road; Ott nevertheless ranks as the third-best right fielder in history behind Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as far as JAWS is concerned. Ernie Banks, Jimmie Foxx, and Frank Robinson all hit at least 20 percent more homers at home than on the road, yet they rank as above-average Hall of Famers, too.

However, Helton isn't likely to reach the 500 home-run club (he has 321), and even the 3,000 Hit Club is light years away (he has 2,081 so far). He's thus far untainted by the steroid scandals which have characterized the era, but lacking the mythical status of Rice-there are few if any venerable Denver scribes penning paeans to the fear he struck in the hearts of opposing pitchers come 2020-and also likely lacking an MVP award or a World Series ring, he'll be left with the numbers alone to try and make his case with. And those numbers ain't all they're cracked up to be.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Cooperstown

30 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

cubfan131

It's funny I was just wondering about this after Len Kasper said Helton was a first ballot HOFer during Sunday's Cubs-Rockies game. I thought he was a bit off base when he said it and after I looked at his home/road spits it confirmed my suspicions. I wish broadcasters would look a little deeper instead of only glancing at the surface.

Aug 11, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
rmaurino

Is there any chance we could see a JAWS leaderboard like a JAWS top 100 or top 200? I'm guessing that Helton and Rice are in the low 100's.

Aug 11, 2009 10:36 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Someday, hopefully soon, the JAWS leaderboard will be on site. In the meantime...

Helton came into the year with a JAWS total that ranked 224th among non-pitchers. Rice was 269th.

Aug 11, 2009 11:03 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

It didn't arrive in time for my deadline, but Baseball-Reference's Sean Forman ran a query for me using the B-R stat called AIR, which indexes the combination of park, league and era scoring levels into one number to provide an idea of how favorable or unfavorable the conditions he faced were, scoring-wise.

As it turns out, Helton tops the charts (Player / PA / AIR), and all of the top guys spent at least part of their careers with the Rockies:

Todd Helton / 7494 / 124
Neifi Perez / 5365 / 123
Vinny Castilla / 7305 / 120
Dante Bichette / 6777 / 118
Terry Shumpert / 2159 / 117
Larry Walker / 7958 / 117
Garrett Atkins / 3002 / 117
Brad Hawpe / 2620 / 117
Quinton McCracken / 2700 / 116
Matt Holliday / 3420 / 116

Meanwhile, none of the top 30 home run hitters of all-time quite crack that chart; Jimmie Foxx is the closest:

Bonds 102
Aaron 96
Ruth 105
Mays 99
Griffey 108
Sosa 106
Robinson 97
McGwire 101
Rodriguez 110
Killebrew 97
Palmeiro 106
Jackson 92
Thome 111
Schmidt 98
Ramirez 112
Mantle 95
Foxx 114
McCovey 95
Williams 108
Thomas 106
Banks 101
Mathews 97
Ott 102
Sheffield 105
Murray 98
Gehrig 109
McGriff 105
Musial 104
Stargell 94
Delgado 110

Aug 11, 2009 11:25 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

OK, just swapped emails with Sean and we determined htat his previous batch had a glitch. Here's the new top 50 in AIR (Player / PA / AIR, * = Hall of Famer):

Todd Helton / 7494 / 124
Neifi Perez / 5365 / 123
Vinny Castilla / 7305 / 120
Dante Bichette / 6777 / 118
Fresco Thompson / 2780 / 117
Mel Almada / 2702 / 117
Beau Bell / 2997 / 117
Terry Shumpert / 2159 / 117
Larry Walker / 7958 / 117
Garrett Atkins / 3002 / 117
Brad Hawpe / 2620 / 117
Ed Morgan / 3205 / 116
Jack Burns / 3900 / 116
Ski Melillo / 5402 / 116
Earl Averill* / 7160 / 116
Rip Radcliff / 4398 / 116
Quinton McCracken / 2700 / 116
Matt Holliday / 3420 / 116
Don Hurst / 3681 / 115
Dick Porter / 2790 / 115
Max Bishop / 5678 / 115
Odell Hale / 4057 / 115
Moose Solters / 3651 / 115
Joe Vosmik / 6007 / 115
Mike Lansing / 4486 / 115
Rusty Greer / 4370 / 115
Jeff Cirillo / 6026 / 115
Chad Tracy / 2493 / 115
Sammy Hale / 3067 / 114
Gene Robertson / 2415 / 114
Butch Henline / 2331 / 114
Bing Miller / 6675 / 114
Mickey Cochrane* / 6055 / 114
Mule Haas / 4749 / 114
Marv Owen / 4147 / 114
Billy Rogell / 5819 / 114
Bruce Campbell / 5337 / 114
Charlie Gehringer* / 10096 / 114
Eric McNair / 4805 / 114
Luke Sewell / 5896 / 114
Jimmie Foxx* / 9599 / 114
Danny Bautista / 2681 / 114
Darren Bragg / 2790 / 114
Pokey Reese / 3082 / 114
Chris Stynes / 2539 / 114
Jeffrey Hammonds / 3354 / 114
Richard Hidalgo / 3884 / 114
Tony Womack / 5299 / 114
Todd Walker / 4991 / 114
Henry Blanco / 2480 / 114

Aug 11, 2009 13:24 PM
 
TADontAsk

Wow, kind of puts Neifi's .267/.297/.375 career line into a new, even uglier, light.

Aug 11, 2009 13:59 PM
rating: 2
 
TADontAsk

I realize the article is about Helton, and hence only including the top of the list is necessary to get the point across, but is there any chance you could post the bottom of the list? Players with the lowest AIR score? Thanks!

Aug 11, 2009 14:03 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Ask and ye shall receive:

Roger Repoz / 2435 / 86
Horace Clarke / 5189 / 86
Mike Epstein / 3372 / 86
Ken McMullen / 5658 / 86
Jim Lefebvre / 3349 / 87
Rick Reichardt / 3636 / 87
Ken Berry / 4464 / 87
Danny Cater / 4727 / 87
Dave Duncan / 3151 / 87
Dave Nelson / 2811 / 87
Leroy Stanton / 2835 / 87
Lou Johnson / 2212 / 88
Pete Ward / 3471 / 88
Curt Blefary / 3432 / 88
Don Buford / 5266 / 88
Bobby Knoop / 3941 / 88
Wes Parker / 4713 / 88
Andy Kosco / 2068 / 88
Tommy McCraw / 4328 / 88
Gene Michael / 3048 / 88
Ellie Rodriguez / 2560 / 88
Sandy Alomar / 5065 / 88
Jim Fregosi / 7270 / 88
Enzo Hernandez / 2521 / 88
Buck Rodgers / 3284 / 89
Paul Casanova / 2896 / 89
Dick Green / 4384 / 89
Paul Schaal / 4093 / 89
Bob Oliver / 3089 / 89
Ted Kubiak / 2722 / 89
Andy Etchebarren / 2895 / 89
Roy White / 7613 / 89
Sal Bando / 8166 / 89
Dave Chalk / 3240 / 89
Joe Rudi / 5960 / 89
Bert Campaneris / 9366 / 89
Gene Tenace / 5465 / 89
Max Alvis / 3926 / 90
Bob Aspromonte / 4731 / 90
Roberto Pena / 2031 / 90
Tommie Agee / 4288 / 90
Frank Howard / 7303 / 90
Ron Swoboda / 2901 / 90
Larry Brown / 3788 / 90
Johnny Briggs / 4785 / 90
Alex Johnson / 4903 / 90
Phil Roof / 2358 / 90
Joe Lahoud / 2250 / 90
Tom Grieve / 2055 / 90
Paul Blair / 6514 / 90

Wow, so many of those names take me back to when my cousin bestowed a couple thousand baseball cards from the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Aug 11, 2009 14:57 PM
 
TADontAsk

Thank you!

Aug 12, 2009 06:13 AM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

"Jim Rice -- almost as good as Ken Singleton, but in the Hall of Fame"

Aug 11, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Sady, it isn't even "almost" that applies here. Jim Rice couldn't carry Singleton's jock to first base. Singleton (66.1/51.1/58.6) ranks 139th on the JAWS list, was 20 percent more valuable than Rice over the course of his career and about 30 percent more valuable at his peak, according to WARP.

Aug 11, 2009 11:58 AM
 
JimmyJack

Hi Clay,
I may be incorrect here; I believe Andre Dawson was around 100 Warp1 last year and now he's at 65. Did Clay's retooling kill that big a %?

Aug 11, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Yes. Roughly speaking the retooling costs a fulltimer about 2 WARP per year - not just Dawson but everybody.

Aug 11, 2009 13:20 PM
 
NewStadiumInsider

This may be off topic, but how does Jorge Posada rank in terms of Hall-worthiness according to your metric?

Aug 11, 2009 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Bless you, my son.

http://www.futilityinfielder.com/blog/2009/06/you-discussed-posadas-hall-of-fame.shtml

Aug 11, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Thanks, Doc, you beat me to it... Posada will be in a position where two more seasons like this one would put him within hailing distance of the Hall standard. That's no small order for a catcher at ages 38 and 39, though.

Aug 11, 2009 15:01 PM
 
Evan
(47)

I think Posada will get elected regardless.

I think we'll see a lot of Yankees from the 1998-2001 teams in the HoF, regardless of whether they deserve it.

Aug 11, 2009 15:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Like who? David Cone? He fell off the ballot already. David Wells? The Hall hasn't elected a starting pitcher with less than 300 wins since 1990. Paul O'Neill? One and done, already off the ballot. Tim Raines? Can't buy a vote. Andy Pettitte? See Wells. Chili Davis? Chuck Knoblauch? Chad Curtis? I'm not sure who else you think has a chance that's so undeserving.

The only guys from that team likely to go in are Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, and both will be very deserving. Posada and Bernie Williams are likely to wind up in the gray area - both will have relatively low career totals that could prevent them from getting much traction.

Aug 11, 2009 15:24 PM
 
NewStadiumInsider

Thanks, guys. I feel behind in my Google Reader this summer and I am suffering from RSS guilt.

Aug 12, 2009 07:21 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

Doesn't Posada's OPS rank quite favorable for catchers?

I think the last time I checked two years ago he was ahead of several better known hall-of-famers.

Aug 14, 2009 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

here's the numbers ..

Cochrane .897
Dickey .868
Campanella .862
Hartnett .859
POSADA .858
Berra .832
Bench .821
Lombardi .818
PUDGE .809
Ewing .807
Fisk .800

I'm not sure that Posada has gotten credit for being a substantially better hitter than Pudge.

Aug 14, 2009 08:28 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

OPS doesn't adjust for scoring level, whereas EqA does, which is why we prefer the latter around here (a point discussed a bit in the subsequent Helton article from Thursday). In this case, that actually improves Posada's standing, not just relative to Hall catchers, but to all catchers with at least 3000 PA:

Mike Piazza 7745 .312
Gene Tenace 5525 .310
Jorge Posada 5873 .299
Joe Torre 8801 .298
Mickey Tettleton 5745 .296
Ernie Lombardi 6349 .295
Chris Hoiles 3338 .295
Victor Martinez 3014 .295
Bill Dickey 7060 .293
Mike Stanley 4989 .293
Johnny Bench 8669 .292
Gabby Hartnett 7297 .292
Mickey Cochrane 6206 .292
Roger Bresnahan 5374 .292
Roy Campanella 4816 .291
Fred Carroll 3290 .288
Yogi Berra 8364 .286
Darren Daulton 4336 .286
Joe Ferguson 3624 .286
Mike Grady 3422 .286

Aug 14, 2009 09:18 AM
 
twinkies25

Do you think that if Todd Helton had been in a different park (like the Diamondback's park, or PETCO), that'd he'd have a case?? I always liked Todd, and I don't think his splits are as bad as you make them sound. He's hitting .295/.394/.492 on the road for his career, which would be a better career than most first basemen might have. The difference in doubles is only 36, homeruns is only 73, and hits only 218. Those don't seem like huge splits to me. Yes, he was helped by Coors, but can you not call him a great hitter just because he had some help from a metal building, some atmosphere issues, and baseballs that weren't humidified? I don't think so.

Aug 11, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Helton's an excellent hitter, and his splits aren't terrible in the way that, say, Rice's were. All I've done is argue that his numbers need to be put in context by letting some of the air out, so to speak. I'm more likely to believe that his numbers are going to be OVERestimated by the voters than UNDERestimated, so I think a move to Arizona or San Diego would have negatively affected his chances of getting in.

I think that Helton's .307 career EqA sums up the quality of his hitting pretty well - that mark ranks 70th among hitters with at least 3000 outs, but among contemporary first basemen, it trails Pujols, Thomas, McGwire, Giambi, Bagwell, Thome and Clark, and is even with Olerud - all of whom have higher JAWS totals.

He's a comparable player to those latter two (Will Clark and John Olerud) - a disciplined hitter more likely to win a batting title than a home run crown while providing above-average defense as well. I have Clark just above the JAWS standard for HOF 1Bs, but he fell off the ballot after just a year, and I don't think Olerud will get much more love either. Helton's going to have to stick around into his late 30s or early 40s and chase 3,000 hits in order to have a realistic case.

Aug 11, 2009 15:18 PM
 
lonechicken

Man, I remember during the Bonds vs. Ruth talk of the early 2000s when I first started going to baseball-reference just to compare them. Who did I see atop the OPS rankings of all-time (if I remember correctly)? Todd Helton. Right there with Bonds, Ruth, Ted Williams, etc. Obviously, park factors and offensive era applied, but it's a shame injuries prevented Helton's HoF case from being at least interesting.

Aug 11, 2009 19:37 PM
rating: 1
 
keef66

What does this mean for Berkman's chances? His career is very close to Helton's, just two years later. Their slash stats aren't that different (Helton's .328/.427/.570 is just a little better than Berkman's .300/.413/.558), and I doubt that Minute Maid helped nearly as much as Coors. What are Fat Elvis's JAWS?

Aug 12, 2009 08:51 AM
rating: 0
 
finsky777

Jay, I appreciate you taking a look at Todd Helton. I appreciate anyone outside of Colorado looking at the Rockies, in fact, because they seem to be the most forgotten team in all of baseball. Middle-market, years of obscurity, no Pujols or A-Rod types--I get it. But it still sucks.

On to Todd. I first must state that it's vulgar to me how much Coors Field has become a cop out for sports writers. Clearly, the late 90's were marked by unbelievable offensive output. But, could we not also say the same for every park in every corner of the country? Also, can we acknowledge that Coors Field is massive and not at all similar to the Little League-dimensioned stadiums of Houston, Philadelphia, or New York (Bronx Division)? Sure, this should account for more doubles and triples, but its dimensions are perfectly fair. I'd like to be directed to the evidence that claims Coors Field boosts offensive production 25%.

I am also always intrigued by the omission that Coors Field installed a humidor in 2002 to regulate the baseballs and "correct" the supposed effects of altitude (which liberal estimates place at only 7-8% difference in flight, not 25%). If Coors Field has been relatively neutralized since 2002, how has Todd's "decline from that lofty peak been masked by his hitter-friendly park"? I feel that a more thorough analysis would reveal that Coors Field is not the hitter panacea it's been portrayed to be since 2002.

About this "AIR" statistic, I see that it compares all players within a stadium to give a fair representation of how a player's home park affected his average. The problem with this statistic, it seems, is that it doesn't account for two things: the quality of that player's fellow members of the lineup and members of their pitching staff. If a player hit in the middle of a high quality lineup, they would be negatively affected by that, as each player's success would relatively adversely affect their statistics. Secondly--and more to my point--if a player played on a team with a terrible pitching staff, they would be penalized by that as well. For the first nine years of Helton's career, he played on a team whose team ERA was WELL over 5.00 (once at 6.00!). So, with everyone hitting so well against the Rockies terrible, terrible pitching, that skewed that statistics negatively against all Rockies playing during that era, but most of all Helton (because of all of the games he played year in and year out with those teams).

Clearly, I'm not 100% objective, and I get that I will see what I want to in the statistics. I think your JAWS tool is pretty handy and draws some pretty fair comparisons. By the numbers alone, I agree, Todd will have a hard time. Thankfully, what JAWS can never consider is the heart, leadership, and presence that a player offers. Todd Helton has been, literally, the only consistent piece of the Colorado Rockies over the past 12 years. He hit without any coverage or help as the only really credible threat in MANY a lineup from 2004-2006. In Colorado, we called them "Todd and Toddlers" because the team was little more than him. Meanwhile, people forget he's an excellent first baseman--he won three Gold Gloves (and probably deserved two or three more as much as Derrek Lee did).

Unfortunately, no sports writers outside of Denver care much for the Rockies or Todd Helton. He'll probably never get more than a few courtesy votes when his time comes up and he'll be ok with that because that's the kind of guy he is--but I won't be ok with as a Colorado Rockies fan. I am sick of being obscure and forgotten.

Jay, I respectfully disagree with your assessment, but I thank you for thinking of the Rockies. (Come down the stretch at ya!)

Aug 13, 2009 01:46 AM
rating: -2
 
husier
(90)

Coors Field "a copout for sportswriters?" Without comparison, it's the best hitters' ballpark of the modern era, if not of all time.

Helton's been a quality player, but not a Hall of Fame first baseman.

Aug 13, 2009 04:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

The difference in Denver (I personally wouldn't call it a "problem") is not only how far the ball travels -- it's how fast the ball falls to earth. Backspin doesn't have the same effect in thin air, so line drives and fly balls that would hang up long enough to be caught at lower altitudes often drop for hits in Denver. The dimensions and the humidor do not alter this in any way -- it's a purely aerodynamic effect. For the same reason, pitches are straighter at altitude, and thus less deceptive and easier to hit hard.

The 25% boost is based on comparing how much better all players (including visiting teams) do at Coors, versus how well they do elsewhere. Those pitching staffs weren't as terrible as you thought -- indeed, one of the recurring problems of the Bichette/Castilla years was thinking they needed more pitching when they really needed better hitters.

Aug 13, 2009 17:38 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I do think your objectivity is affecting your response. I've lived in Denver for the last four years, but recently I took trips to Chicago and Oregon. I was absolutely surprised how much easier it was to breathe, how the sun was less blinding, etc. when I visited other states. In Denver, I have a hard time walking up a flight of stairs, yet have no problem in other states. The point is, just because a humidor is installed to "relatively neutralize" offense does not mean the effects of altitude are _completely_ neutralized. Recall the All-Star game at Coors Field (pre-humidor) where Glavine gave up tons of hits... not home runs, but just base hits. As Dr. Dave mentions, the humidor doesn't solve everything.

Also, even the sportswriters inside of Denver (not to mention your friends and mine, George Frazier and the assembled FSN sportscasters) are relatively clueless. If you believe them, that without Dexter Fowler, the Rockies made a mistake by letting go of Taveras, Barmes is a great offensive second baseman, Jason Marquis "just knows how to win" and Huston Street is an All-Star. Some even suggest that Street (and Carlos Gonzalez's below par performance) are of the same value as Holliday. Before Street came around, whichever of Corpas/Fuentes happened to be closing would be lauded by the sportswriters until that pitcher lost the job, then affections would flip to the other with little memory.

Finally, the Rockies have been trying to trade Helton for the last three years. The Denver Post (and previously, the Rocky Mountain News) kept reporting he would go to the Angels, the Red Sox, or any number of teams. As I recall, he even invoked his no-trade clause once. Do you really try to trade a Hall of Famer in his early 30s in a weak NL West if he's that good?

I think the Mark Grace comparable is pretty fair, though Helton has (had?) more power. Keep in mind that, JAWS-wise, Helton has achieved about as much so far as Grace did in his entire career, so he should surpass Grace. Boggs might be a better comparison as Boggs had a few years with power, got good marks for defense and walked a lot.

Anyway, if you're out here in Denver, let me know how to reach you and we can go see a game.

Aug 14, 2009 04:23 AM
rating: 1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: ... (08/11)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (08/06)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Hit and Run... (08/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Ho... (08/11)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Painting the Black: Pedro Alvarez's Trip Fro...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Apri...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: April 17, 2015
Going Yard: How Bryant Can Crush
The Call-Up: Kris Bryant
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: So You Want to Trade Your Draft...
BP Boston

MORE FROM AUGUST 11, 2009
Checking the Numbers: Scouting the Cubs/Phil...
Premium Article Transaction Action: Drama Moves
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Blame it on Rios?
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Home-Field Advantages, P...
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: On Droughts and Drafts

MORE BY JAY JAFFE
2009-08-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Vlad and the Right F...
2009-08-14 - Prospectus Hit List: Getting Their Money's W...
2009-08-13 - Prospectus Hit and Run: How is the Air Up Th...
2009-08-11 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Helton's Hall-worthi...
2009-08-07 - Prospectus Hit List: The Post-Shuffle Shuffl...
2009-08-06 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Arms Race
2009-08-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Going Down
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS HIT AND RUN
2009-08-21 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Not Quite a Reynolds...
2009-08-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Vlad and the Right F...
2009-08-13 - Prospectus Hit and Run: How is the Air Up Th...
2009-08-11 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Helton's Hall-worthi...
2009-08-06 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Arms Race
2009-08-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Going Down
2009-07-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Today is No Halladay
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2009-08-13 - Prospectus Hit and Run: How is the Air Up Th...