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HumidorMany people have attributed the Rockies rise to NL champions, in part, to their practice of storing baseballs in a humidor. The humidor creates an atmosphere-controlled climate that prevents the balls from hardening and losing their friction, which can happen all too easily in the thin mountain air of Denver. The Rockies have been using it since the 2002 season, and since then the ridiculous offensive

numbers that the park had become know for have declined.

This phenomenon has had numerous benefits for the Rockies. One, Rockie pitchers are less fatigued, both mentally and physically, because they’re not pitching half of their games in an arcade game-style stadium.

Also, as Todd Helton has pointed out, the hitters benefit because they’re more prepared

for pitches that actually break and have movement when they play road games. So, it seems the humidor has been a stroke of genius by the Rockies organization.

Now, the smartest thing they can do is turn it off immediately, bring all those balls out into the Rocky Mountain air, and not touch that humidor again until April. Why? Because a hitter-friendly park favors the team with the better offense, and that team in this series is the Rockies. When you consider the Red Sox will be without one of their key offensive players for the DH-less games in Colorado (either David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, or Mike Lowell will have to sit out), the offensive edge swings even more toward the Rockies.

da humidorIt would be interesting to see what effect the thin air and hard balls would have on Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 3. Would his fancy pitches dart and dive like they normally do? Many in Red Sox Nation would tell you that Dice-K doesn’t need any help to screw things up right now, he’s doing fine on his own, but I’m sure the Rockies wouldn’t mind a little extra help. And then there’s the specter of Josh Beckett, the emerging Mr. October Jr., looming in Game 5. Shouldn’t the Rockies be pulling out all the stops to try to throw him off his game, no matter how slight?

The best counter-argument I see is that the Rockies have won 20 of 21 games and shouldn’t be messing with anything right now. That’s fair. But none of those 21 games were against a team as good as the Red Sox and you have to look for every edge you can get.

There’s nothing illegal about storing balls in the normal way, right? So, Rockies, shut down the humidor!

This post was submitted by frequent Umpbump commenter Dan Doogan. If you’d like to submit a post, send it to get@umpbump.com. If we like it, we’ll publish it.

20 Responses to “Shut down the humidor!”

  1. BigDintheMT says:

    Danny O – great post. Though you make it sound like Schuerholz was more up and down throughout his career as GM. He was certainly more than that. I think more than anything, which you hinted at various times, was Schuerholz’s ability to draft, sign and use prospects like no other in his diamond (read: field). For the good and for the bad, he always kept the farm system stocked and traded when he needed to. But remember the baby Braves chock full of homegrown talent that won the division just a few years back? True enough, a lot of the credit has to go to the Braves scouting department – mostly the director whose name escapes me right now – but Schuerholz deserves much of the credit as well.

    I would like to point out, too, that it is actually Bobby Cox who was the greatest GM – yes, GM – in Braves history. Taking the rains in 1986, he said give me five years to rebuild and we will compete. 1991 – five years later – well, see above. He had accomplished his GM duties and headed for the field (still wearing spikes to this day), handing over the rains to the ever-competent Schuerholz.

  2. Good work Danny O. My only complaint is that you made Wainwright sound like a mediocre journeyman…you and I both know he is a STUD in the making – just look at his 2nd half numbers this year. I think the Drew deal was great for Atlanta, but they gave up a lot (Wainwright) to get him.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    Hey Dan, this is an interesting bit of speculation, but I’m not sure you can give Colorado the edge on offense here. The fact that the Red Sox are having to decide how to get *two* great hitters into the lineup just shows that the Sox have a very potent lineup to begin with, no? I mean, during the postseason, the Rockies have three guys hitting over .300. The Red Sox have five, including Manny Ramirez, who has actually hit .400 during the playoffs. I think the Red Sox have a better lineup top-to-bottom and I think the Red Sox offense is hotter right now. If you compare the scores of the Rockies’ games with the scores of the Red Sox’ games, the Red Sox have scored more runs.

  4. I wouldn’t base an offensive comparison of AL and NL teams simply on run distribution, as that does not take into account the DH effect.

    However, I’ll take the Red Sox lineup, minus one of Lowell/Youk/Papi, over the Rockies 8 any day. Pedroia, Youk, Manny, Ortiz, and Lowell have all had stellar postseasons, but Lugo, Drew and Tek have had timely contributions as well. The only questionable spot has been Coco/Ellsbury, who are hitting less than .200 combined for the postseason I believe.

  5. We also need to consider that the Rockies had to face NL pitching in the regular season. I’m assuming that if the Sox were in the NL, they would have led the league in scoring.

  6. OK, well last night’s game won’t help my position any, but I really think you have to base a team’s capabilites on the entire 162-game season, not just the 10 or so games of the playoffs. Also, it’s hard to compare overall team statistics because of all the variables (DH, ballpark, league). But have a look at the line-ups.

    Let’s say the Sox play Ortiz at first and Youkilis at third in Colorado. Their 5 through 8 hitters would be Drew(.270, 11HR), Varitek(.255, 17HR), Crisp(bad)/Ellsbury(only 100 ab’s), and Lugo(really bad). Compare that to the Rockies 5-8 of Atkins(.301, 25HR), Hawpe(.291, 29HR), Tulowitzki(.291, 24HR), and Torrealba(not great). So I don’t think you can say the Sox have a better line-up top to bottom.

    Certainly the Sox are better 1-4. But the Rockies 3-4 combo of Holliday (likely NL MVP) and Helton(one of the best pure hitters of the last 10 years) isn’t too shabby. And Taveras and Matsui give a ton of speed at the top. In the end, I think that Sox lineup gives a pitcher some breathing room that you just don’t get with the Rockies.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Taveras and Matsui aren’t faster than Lugo or Ellsbury/Crisp. And when the Sox take pitches the way they do at the plate, that’s not really “breathing room.” Even if you get them out, you still had to throw a lot of pitches to do it. Plus, you’re not going to see Youk at third, because the Sox aren’t going to take out Mike Lowell (at least, I really hope not). I think in Coors, we’ll see Papi starting at first, and then Youk taking over as soon as the Red Sox have a lead. Alternatively, you could start Youkilis and use Papi as a pinch-hitter (heckuva pinch-hitter to have coming off your bench).

    But as I’ve written elsewhere, over the course of the 162-game season, the Sox and the Rox had almost the same team batting average: .280 for the Rockies and .279 for the Sox. In the NL, that was good enough for first place. But in the AL, it was only good enough to rank the Red Sox fifth. And while the Rockies do have a good offense, the Red Sox were just thismuch better, posting a better team OBP and SLG during the regular season, and doing it against tougher ballclubs.

  8. I agree that they’ll probably keep Lowell in there. I just wasn’t sure how the line-up would be shuffled around without Ortiz or Youkilis, so I went with that scenario for simplicity’s sake.

    With the team stats that you listed, I think they’re all kind of meaningless with all the variables I mentioned before. But I do think you guys might be underestimating the level of pitching the Rockies faced in the NL West. All of those teams have solid staffs, even the Giants had pretty good pitching. There were no Devil Rays or Orioles for them to beat up on 19 times each or whatever. Not saying the Rockies faced better pitching overall, but there probably wasn’t much of a gap.

    Lugo and Crisp can run, but that doesn’t do much good if you can’t get on-base. Taveras and Matsui’s combined OBP is about .350 compared to Lugo and Crisp’s about .310. And this Rockies team knows how to take pitches, too. Helton walked more than any Red Sox, and Ortiz is the only Sox player that walked more than Brad Hawpe.

    The Red Sox have a GREAT line-up. They have the better all-around team. I like the Rockies chances in Coors though. Unless Beckett is pitching…

  9. Sarah Green says:

    The Red Sox had more walks as a team, though! Way more. I think you have to go with them as the more balanced lineup. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean much, given that the Indians had a more balanced lineup than the Red Sox, and given that they are now playing golf…

    I know that the whole of the NL is more competitive than the AL, with its winners and losers, but that’s because NL teams are all at the same, more mediocre level as each other…

  10. Interwebs ate my post: recap:

    TB and the O’s featured Kazmir, Shields, Bedard, and Guthrie, all of whom are not free passes.

    Crisp’s OBP sucked, which is why Ellsbury is starting instead.

    The Red Sox also had 4 guys (Youk, Manny, Tek, and Drew) clustered in the 70s behind Hawpe. Combine the Sox with Pedroia and Papi, and 6 of the top 7 Sox are willing to take a walk.

    Rockies are good, but the Red Sox lineup is stronger.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Rich, sometimes if you hit the back button on the browser, all the words are still there in the comments field. I usually just highlight and control-C the whole thing before hitting the “submit” button just in case…stupid internet!

  12. I never said the Rockies were better at taking walks. I just pointed out that they were pretty good at it, then gave some evidence.

    The Devil Rays (5.53) and Orioles (5.17) ranked last and second-to-last in the majors in team ERA. The next worst AL team was at 4.77, so they were the two worst pitching staffs by a wide margin, even if they did have 2 decent pitchers each. The Rockies divisional opponents ranked 1st, 7th, 9th, and 10th in baseball in team ERA. Yes, they were facing inferior NL hitters, but they’re still good pitching staffs.

  13. Paul Moro says:

    The list of pitchers that started the most games against the Red Sox this year (with their 2007 overall ERA) is as follows:

    1. Andy Pettite – 6 games (4.05 ERA)

    2. Scott Kazmir – 6 games (3.48 ERA)

    3. Roy Halladay – 5 games (3.71 ERA)

    4. Chien-Ming Wang – 5 games (3.70 ERA)

    5. Edwin Jackson – 4 games (5.76 ERA)

    6. Andy Sonnanstine – 4 games (5.85 ERA)

    Not sure which side of the argument this benefits, but just for the sake of the conversation, I provide stats.

  14. Sarah Green says:

    Doogan, that’s a fair point, but the Red Sox also had a number of games against the Yankees this year. So I think we’re really agreeing, just coming at this from difference viewpoints: you say the AL has some really craptastic teams, and I’m trying to say that the American League has a wide variety of teams, both terrible and awesome. That’s just really two sides of the same coin, I think. Where we might differ is on the matter of the NL—I’m not trying to underrate their pitching, I just think that as a whole, talent in the NL is much more evenly spread. Which it sounds like you basically agree with as well, if I’m reading you right. I think that the best teams in the AL are better than the best teams in the NL. Possibly, the worst teams in the AL are also worse than the worst teams in the NL. If that makes any sense.

    Paul, you come bearing stats! I’m not sure what to make of them…except that Scott Kazmir is really good, and always stifles the Red Sox. Then he leaves the game, and the Sox slaughter the bullpen. Such is life as a Devil Ray.

  15. Nick Kapur says:

    Let us weep for the now extinct “Devil Ray,” for henceforth he is become but a mere “Ray.”

    What was once, ear-catching, intriguing, and even a little bit malevolent-sounding, is now dull and ordinary.

  16. Touche, Doogan!

    Riposte: The worst (6.29) and second worst (5.73) bullpen ERAs in the AL belong to TB and the O’s, respectively. However, the bullpen does not affect the front men’s skills, merely the W’s they record.

  17. Well, I’m pretty sure the Sox hitters faced the bullpens too. It’s not like they rolled out the bench players as soon as Kazmir came out of the game.

  18. Sarah Green says:

    Well, regardless, I’m very excited to see what happens now that the Series moves to Coors! I feel like anything could happen!

  19. And Sarah, yes, we’re basically agreeing. My point in bringing up the O’s and Rays and NL West pitching was just to point out that the difference in quality of pitching faced might not be too wide. I wasn’t defending the NL. The NL sucks! But the pitching in the NL West was far better than the East or Central.

  20. Paul Moro says:

    Doogan, that’s probably true. Good point.

    NL West: Peavy, Webb, Penny, Young, Cain

    NL Central: Oswalt, Harang, Zambrano, Lilly, Snell

    NL East: Smoltz, Hamels, …, …, …

    Wow, I can’t even think of three really good starters in the NL East…

    But I’ll take the NL West five over the Central five.

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