Failure to launch: Desmond's swing is ruining the Coors Field effect


There is no ballpark more friendly to major league batters than Coors Field.

Since 1995, the first year it opened, major league clubs have a combined .855 OPS at the ballpark, the highest in baseball over that span, with three consecutive seasons leading the majors in batting average on balls in play.

The mile-high altitude is the biggest boon to hitters. According to research done by Jeremy Frank of RO Baseball, a "barrel," a ball hit in the sweet spot, will travel seven percent further at Coors than other ballparks around the league, with batters getting more or less of a benefit depending on launch angle and exit velocity. If you include balls hit with "solid contact" in addition to barrels, some of the members of this year's Colorado Rockies get even more of a bump.

Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is batting .244 with an average distance of 379.9 feet on balls put in play at Coors Field but just a .197 average and average distance of 308.1 feet on the road, perhaps contributing to his 0-for-20 slump over the past seven games, six of which were on the road.

First baseman Mark Reynolds hits the ball 55.9 feet further at Coors when he makes solid contact compared to 358 feet on the road, giving him a 16 percent increase thanks to Colorado's home-field advantage. Second basemen DJ LeMahieu, third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielder Charlie Blackmon see increases of 23.3, 17.2 and 8.7 feet, respectively.

But there are two players who don't benefit at all from the rarefied air at Coors this season: Trevor Story and Ian Desmond.

Story hits the ball an average distance of 384.2 feet on the road with solid contact, 13.6 feet further than at home, despite maintaining a similar launch angle and exit velocity over his home/road splits. Eventually, he should normalize and get better results at home.

Desmond, meanwhile, might not be so lucky.

The 31-year-old shortstop is batting .308 at Coors Field this season thanks to the ballpark's expansive outfield, but his slugging percentage is significantly lower at home than it is on the road, with none of his four home runs this season coming in front of the home crowd.

The problem is Desmond's swing isn't allowing him to take advantage of the 1,600-meter altitude. When he gets good contact on the ball, heis hitting it, on average, 86.2 mph with a launch angle of minus-0.8 degrees at home. On the road he averages 89.1 mph and 1.6 degrees. The difference between the two is a .427 and .212 batting average leaguewide, and largely why Desmond has the second-highest groundball rate in the majors (63.2 percent) this season among hitters with at least as many plate appearances.

It's also costing Desmond an average of almost 42 feet in batted ball distance at home compared to well-hit balls on the road, the second-most most since 2015, the first year Statcast data is available. Give Desmond the same arc and exit velocity at home as he does on the road, along with the added average distance, and he has at least two home runs, maybe three, at Coors this season instead of zero.

Desmond is squandering a significant homefield advantage for hitters. If he wants to get his offense going on an upward trajectory, he should adopt one with his swing.


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