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November 12, 2013

Pebble Hunting

Rereading Nate Silver: 5. The Colorado Effect

by Sam Miller


Note: This winter, I'm rereading and reviewing Nate Silver's entire archive here at BP. Today will be a longer one.

5. PECOTA at Altitude: A Review of Major League Hitters in Colorado
February 21, 2003

Abstract: Using PECOTA’s breakdown of players’ hitting attributes, Nate looks for correlations between certain offensive approaches and success (beyond PECOTA expectations) in Colorado’s thin air. He concludes, from a sample of 29 major-league hitters, that batters with high strikeout rates benefit from Colorado, and batters with high walk rates suffer. (Isolated power showed no advantage.) “For each one percent increase in strikeout walk rate, a Rockie hitter receives a "bonus" of about two points of EQA above and beyond his performance in a neutral park; for each one percent increase in his walk rate, he receives a penalty of four points of EQA.”

Key Quote: “However, the Rockies may also have a profound structural advantage that they stand to benefit from: based on the history to date of performance in Denver, certain types of hitters appear to benefit disproportionately from the high-altitude environment. In particular, high-strikeout, low-walk hitters - players like Wilson, Hernandez, and Johnson - are more valuable to the Rockies than they are to anyone else. In stockpiling these players, potentially at a market discount, the Rockies have a comparative advantage.”

Follow-up: So far as I can find, Silver never revisited this, and so far as I can find nobody else did, either. But, of course, Major League Baseball itself kept scheduling baseball games in Colorado, so the follow-up data is there for any of us to look at. Let's!

First, the specific predictions:

What does that mean for players that will be new to Coors this year? All three of the Rockies' major position player acquisitions--Preston Wilson, Jose Hernandez, and Charles Johnson--are in a position to benefit. … The differences are substantial. Our model believes that Jose Hernandez could gain as many as forty points of EQA by virtue of being a Rockie. Because that score accounts for both his performance both at home and on the road, his performance at Coors could be truly lights out.

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Related Content:  Coors Field,  Colorado Rockies,  Nate Silver

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