Should Coors Field derail Clayton Kershaw's Cy Young argument?

Doug Pensinger

No. But let's consider it.

If you're looking to get a rise out of baseball nerds and keyboard warriors, this headline will do just fine:

De La Rosa worthy of NL Cy Young consideration

"Worthy of consideration" is a variation of "in the conversation," a qualifier that Rob explored last week. Clayton Kershaw is about as automatic a Cy Young winner as we've seen in years, but Craig Kimbrel was "in the conversation" last week. The conversation was a little silly. But Kimbrel was in it!

Now we have "worthy of consideration." Jorge De La Rosa is worthy of Cy Young consideration, according to Tracy Ringolsby. Okay, I'll bite. Here goes.


Upon careful consideration, I do not believe Jorge De La Rosa should win the National League Cy Young award in 2013.

Ringolsby argues that park effects trump everything here.

In the 21 years that the Colorado Rockies have existed, opponents and pundits have discounted the team's offensive accomplishments because of the hitter-friendly environment at both Mile High Stadium (their home the first two years) and Coors Field.

Are the critics going to be fair and balanced in their evaluations?

Coors Field is the very best hitter's park in baseball. Dodger Stadium is a pitcher's park. Park effects aren't a minor consideration when it comes to comparing a Rockies pitcher to a Dodgers; they're a huge, essential consideration in this conversation. You absolutely start with the park effects. De La Rosa's ERA is 3.31. Kershaw's is 1.92. That's a big gap, alright, but is it so big after you account for their home parks?

Yes, it's still that big. De La Rosa's ERA+ is 134. Kershaw's is 185. That's still a huge gap. Even after adjusting for park, Kershaw looks much better. Even after you take away a few of Kershaw's innings pitched because you think he'd pitch fewer innings in Coors, he still has a substantial innings advantage. And here are what Kershaw's career numbers would look like if they were transmutated to the same run-scoring environment as 2012 Coors:

Screen_shot_2013-09-09_at_11


Look at the Kershaw seasons before 2013, and you'll see what Ringolsby was getting at. Those were Cy Young-caliber seasons from Kershaw, but he might not have had a sub-3.00 ERA in any of them if he were pitching in Coors. So it's not completely wacky to look at a season like De La Rosa's and think, "Wait, isn't this pretty special?"

It just can't compete with Kershaw's special season. We've considered it. And it's not really close.

Here's why the column doesn't bother me in the slightest, though: No one is talking about the Rockies' starting pitching. If it takes a column like Ringolsby's for people to realize how ridiculous a couple of the Rockies' pitchers have been, I'm all for it. Here are the top 10 pitchers this season according to Baseball-Reference.com's WAR:

Rk Age Tm IP WAR
1 Clayton Kershaw* 25 LAD 216.0 6.8
2 Jhoulys Chacin 25 COL 176.1 6.0
3 Jose Fernandez 20 MIA 165.2 5.9
4 Matt Harvey 24 NYM 178.1 5.5
5 Adam Wainwright 31 STL 213.2 5.4
6 Cliff Lee* 34 PHI 191.2 5.4
7 Jorge De La Rosa* 32 COL 165.2 4.5
8 Cole Hamels* 29 PHI 201.0 4.3
9 Mat Latos 25 CIN 191.0 4.1
10 Homer Bailey 27 CIN 191.1 3.7

De La Rosa might be one of the 10-best pitchers in the NL, but he might not even be the best on his own team. Jhoulys Chacin is also having a stunning season in Coors Field. If you extend the list to the top-30 pitchers, rookie Tyler Chatwood shows up. The Rockies have all sorts of productive starters.

For more on the Rockies, please visit Purple Row

The weirdest part just might be how Chacin and De La Rosa are doing it, too: They're allowing the ball to be put in play. Chacin has struck out 5.7 batters per nine innings pitched; De La Rosa is at 6.0. The National League average this year is 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. The Rockies are dead last as a team when it comes to strikeouts, yet they have the fifth-best park-adjusted ERA in the NL.

Or to put it another way: Chacin and De La Rosa have struck out fewer batters than the average Twins pitcher. The Rockies are essentially stealing the Twins' bit and doing it better.

Even weirder: Both pitchers used to strike out a lot more hitters. De La Rosa averaged almost a strikeout per inning just a couple of years ago, and Chacin came up as a flamethrowing prospect who could get a ton of swing-throughs. It's almost like there's some sort of organizational philosophy in play that runs completely counter to what you'd expect to succeed in Coors Field.

So Jorge De La Rosa is in the conversation for the NL Cy Young. That conversation is a short one that includes giggling and condescending pats on the head. But the conversation also segues into an appreciation for just how good the Rockies' pitchers have been this year, and how weird their paths have been. Just think, last year at this time, everyone was laughing at the Rockies because they were being completely ridiculous with their wacky starting-pitching experiments.

I don't know what happened in the offseason, but whatever it was, it's worked out far, far better than anyone could have anticipated. That's a topic worth considering, even if it has little to do with the Cy Young.

More from Baseball Nation:

Recapping the baseball-related events from the weekend

Have the big awards already been won?

About those huge September rosters ...

The last pitcher to steal a base for your team

Is it time to bump Lance Lynn yet again?

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