Baseball’s best home run hitter playing every game at Coors Field? I think we just broke Giancarlo Stanton.
Not that this is “breaking news,” but Giancarlo Stanton is on fire. As of Saturday, August 26, the Miami Marlins slugger has crushed 49 home runs, including 23 in the second half, 16 in August, and at one point he’d homered in six consecutive games.
Ever since he closed his stance, Stanton has been on a rampage. His 49 long balls are the most among National League players since Prince Fielder’s 50 in 2007. Given that we are still in August, he has a chance to add plenty more and knock on the door of history.
ESPN forecasts him at 60 homers on the dot if he plays in every game going forward. Bleacher Report has dubbed him the king of baseball’s new home run era, with his pursuit of 62 taking center stage. In a weird twist, the tight end-sized Stanton is getting comparisons to legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
No matter which home run record you subscribe to, Stanton’s exploits are incredible. The question is, can we make it better? That is to say, what would happen if we put Giancarlo Stanton on the Colorado Rockies?
Isaiah J. Downing - USA Today Sports
Short answer: The Rockies would be better. Any team would improve when you add a 5.4 fWAR outfielder to the mix, even if it meant less playing time for the likes of Gerardo Parra, Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and David Dahl. That is not why we are here, though. We want to test Stanton’s limits in one of the most homer-conducive environments in the game.
Coors Field, home of the Rockies, consistently tops the league as the most offense-friendly setting in baseball. The last time it did not hold the first spot (as the most hitter friendly) in ESPN’s park factors list was back in 2011. Because of the thin, mile-high air, balls fly out of the yard left and right. Even though Coors boasts one of the largest outfields in baseball, presumably an attempt to slightly lessen the long ball frequency, the deep dimensions only serve to increase the rates of singles, doubles, and triples. The altitude even alters the amount of break on offspeed pitches; the decreased movement is yet another variable in the hitter’s favor.
Anecdotally, Stanton has thrived in his few trips to Colorado. He slugs .797 at Coors, having cracked 10 homers in 20 games. Among those 10 bombs is this blast:
Though the video does not provide this information, that was the longest home run in StatCast history. You can see why the hypothetical of Stanton in Denver is so tantalizing. He probably would not continue to homer in every other game at Coors, nor would he routinely smash home runs of 500+ feet. Since Stanton somehow cleared revocable waivers this month, there is the faintest hope of getting to see this dream come true. However, given that his record-setting contract extension is the reason he was not claimed, I doubt the Rockies and Marlins can make this fantasy deal a reality.
So, let’s do it ourselves! I amassed all 345 instances of Stanton’s batted ball data from StatCast in 2017, cut out all of the ground balls (i.e. anything with negative launch angle), and adjusted the new distances to reflect the altitude effects of Coors Field. According to the Rockies’ own official website, baseballs travel nine percent farther at a mile-high altitude than at sea level. Put simply, I multiplied the distance of every Stanton fly ball or line drive by 1.09 and checked to see if this new distance would leave the yard at Coors.
colorado.rockies.mlb.com (highlights mine)
There are a few caveats in this calculation I used to simplify the process. For example, I assumed that every at-bat occurred at sea level, whether at Marlins Park or on the road. That works well for Miami, but it will be less accurate for SunTrust Park in Atlanta, which sits about 1,000 feet above sea level. The most egregious examples of altitude — Colorado and Arizona — are thankfully not among Stanton’s current batted ball samples. The Marlins’ final road trip takes them to those two parks out west, further boosting Stanton’s chances of making home run history.
Perhaps the most pressing piece of information absent in this study is the direction of each batted ball, namely to what field Giancarlo hit these line drives and foul balls. Mind you, the data exist, but in the table accessed on the BaseballSavant leaderboards, direction is not listed. For that reason, we are forced to look at pure distance, meaning we will be limited when it comes to balls hit towards the corners and to some extent towards the power alleys.
Now then, what are our results? Stanton currently has 49 home runs. If we add nine percent to his batted ball distance, he will have 48 home runs that exceed 415 feet, or the deepest part of centerfield at Coors. Those are our automatic home runs that would be out of any part of the Rockies’ park. That includes this shot off Travis Wood on August 25, which would have traveled a bit over 500 feet with the nine percent added distance due to the thin air. Those 48 no-doubt home runs also include a 391-foot fly ball Stanton lifted to center field off Ty Blach on August 14, which would now travel about 426 feet in Colorado.
For a minute, let’s assume that all of Stanton’s 49 home runs to date would have also been home runs at Coors Field. That could very well be a fair assumption, given that this was his shortest long ball this year at 346 feet. Either way, play along for a minute. If we transport Stanton to Colorado for every ball in play, how many more home runs would have undoubtedly (415+ feet) left the park?
By these calculations, Giancarlo would be credited with five additional home runs. Outside of the Ty Blach flyout, this RBI double off Jason Motte is the most recent example of a homer that Stanton would gain. StatCast had that at 407 feet, which converts to 443 feet in Colorado. Sound like too much? I think so, too, given that this was the definition of a frozen rope line drive. Still, this measurement relies on the Rockies’ own claims, and I am no physics expert. I think it is fair to credit Stanton for a Coors-aided homer on a ball that missed the seats by a few feet anyway.
For those interested, Stanton’s three other no-doubt Coors home runs are from July 17 (a fly out against Luis Garcia), June 2 (a double versus Patrick Corbin), and May 20 (a double against Pedro Baez).
Mark Serota - Getty Images
There you have it. If Stanton hit every ball in Colorado in 2017, he would have 54 home runs today, not 49. To get a sense of how he would finish, I looked at his rest-of-season projections according to Steamer on FanGraphs to estimate playing time, then took the average number of expected long balls under three metrics (HR/PA, AB/HR, and HR/FB). Steamer currently sees Stanton hitting 10 more homers in 126 more plate appearances this season and finishing at 59 HR. However, if he were at 54 home runs today as in the Colorado thought experiment, he would project for 12 additional home runs and finish at 66 on the year. Coors or not, that is an incredible, video game sort of season.
To put this difference into the above rate stats, Stanton currently goes 9.65 at-bats between every home run. His HR/FB% is equally amazing, at 34.8% (49 home runs among 141 fly balls). If you teleport him to Denver, he shaves almost a full at-bat off his AB/HR rate (8.76) and now has a 38.3% HR/FB. Since we have had the data to track and record fly balls accurately, that would be the second-highest ever behind Ryan Howard’s 2006 NL MVP season. Roger Maris’ mark of 61 home runs would be left in the dust, and Stanton would be tied with Sammy Sosa (1998) for the third-most in a season.
Remember, these calculations are only for home runs that assuredly would have been out of Coors Field, meaning they had to exceed 415 feet unless they were already among Stanton’s 49 home runs. These numbers do not include the direction of each batted ball, so at the moment we are excluding drives that may have been out of Coors because they were down the lines. For that reason, an additional five homers might be a conservative estimate.
Since it would be quite laborious to comb through 345 StatCast-tracked balls in play to determine whether or not they would have cleared the fence at Coors, let’s instead drop the minimum distance. Let’s make it the MLB average distance for home runs in 2017, or 400 feet according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. Using that minimum distance, Stanton would have 60 home runs — today. He would homer at a rate of once every 7.88 ABs and boast a record-high HR/FB rate of 42.6%. This RBI double off Stephen Strasburg on Opening Day is an example of a ball that would have traveled 400+ feet in Colorado (410 to be precise, though that probably would not have been over the centerfield wall at Coors).
Not good enough? Let’s drop the distance all the way to 380 feet. Certainly not a cheapy; a very small fraction of the world could probably hit a baseball that far, if they could even somehow catch up to 95+ MPH heat. How many home runs would Stanton hit in Colorado now? As of Saturday, he would have 65 dingers, a 7.28 AB/HR rate, and a 46.1% HR/FB rate. At that pace and under the same expected playing time Steamer expects of him, he would finish the season with 80 (!!!) home runs. Guys, I think we broke Giancarlo Stanton.
Below is a full table with the homer totals and rate stats based on the distance we decide to make the minimum home run:
|Current HR||AB/HR||HR/FB||End-of-Season HR|
|In Coors, min. 415 ft.||54||8.76||38.3%||65|
|In Coors, min. 400 ft.||60||7.88||42.6%||73|
|In Coors, min. 380 ft.||65||7.28||46.1%||80|
Once again, this is only a simplified study of a wonderful thought experiment. It is highly unlikely that this version of Giancarlo Stanton will ever find himself as a member of the Colorado Rockies. It is just as unlikely that everything above is “how it would have happened,” so to speak.
The Hardball Times put together a great study about launch angle and exit velocity, focusing at one point specifically on how Coors messed with the league norms. They have also done excellent work analyzing the physics of the Rockies’ new outfield fences in right-centerfield and how humidors keep some of the altitude effects in check. If you wish to find a more accurate measure of Stanton’s expected home run production at Coors Field, I would suggest you start there.
Stanton has the ability to make any park seem small. There are many parks that would be “perfect fits,” whether Colorado or Cincinnati or Arizona. As it stands, he is raking as a Marlin and is the biggest reason they sit just 4.5 games out of the NL Wild Card race. Miami’s roadtrip to Colorado and Arizona (September 22-27) will be must-watch television if only for Giancarlo’s record-chasing pursuit. If he keeps mashing like this, though, they could also be among the most exciting pre-playoff series of the year.
Keep Cruzing, Giancarlo.
All statistics are accurate as of Saturday, August 26th and were obtained, unless otherwise noted, from Baseball-Reference, BaseballSavant, ESPN, and FanGraphs.
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