All-Star pitchers struggle at Coors Field too

Jul 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; National League starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the American League during the first inning of the 2022 MLB All Star Game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the festivities have concluded and I cannot be accused of raining on a parade that has come and gone, I’d like to make a potentially useless point. Wouldn’t be the first time.

There are only three All-Star pitchers who have more than three innings pitched at Coors Field who have been good there. Just three.

We discussed this dynamic a few weeks ago when the Los Angeles Dodgers came to Denver and each one of their pitchers put up their worst outing of the season.

Arguably the best pitcher of his generation, and Tuesday night’s starter for the NL, Clayton Kershaw, has decidedly bad numbers in quite a few appearances in Colorado over the years. Which got me wondering about the rest of the guys who can be considered the game’s current elite.

Nobody else selected to the ASG has anywhere near the innings at Coors that Kershaw does, but the results are largely the same.

Let’s start with the outliers though. And yes, these sample sizes are going to be very small.

Edwin Diaz of the New York Mets is the best reliever of the bunch, having pitched five innings over five games with a 1.80 ERA at 20th and Blake. Most impressive.

Max Fried of the defending champions is the best starter with three games and 16.2 IP, and a 1.61 ERA. Very good, indeed.

Tony Gonsolin has also pitched admirably in three starts and 12 IP, with a 3.00 ERA. Not bad.

That’s the end of the “good” list. Those are your three.

San Diego Padres starter Joe Musgrove sits right in the middle of “meh at best” in 18 IP with a 4.50 ERA and Josh Hader has similar numbers with a 4.76 ERA in 5.2 IP.

There is one other pitcher in this range, but it’s a bit of an odd case because Tyler Anderson spent the first four years of his career making half of his starts at Coors Field. He pitched in 44 games there and amassed 245.2 IP to the tune of a 4.14 ERA. Actually very solid given the context. 

Now we get to the really rough ones.

Corbin Burnes carries a 7.36 ERA and has only managed to get through 7.1 innings in his pair of starts at altitude. Sandy Alcantara has gotten slightly more length but at the cost of giving up more runs with a 10.13 ERA in 10.2 IP.

And the worst numbers go to Luis Castillo who has thrown 9.1 innings with an 11.57 ERA.

One thing not captured by these numbers is also the kindof open secret that some managers will do what they can to protect their best pitchers from ever having to pitch at the park at all.

What does any of this mean?

Maybe nothing.

As with Kershaw, it’s entirely possible if not altogether likely that given more time to work on the issue, these exceptional pitchers could find their way in the toughest place to pitch. We can’t know that for sure, though.

But this is, indeed, just a little bit more evidence that of course Coors is the toughest place to pitch. You might see where I’m going with this.

So, every Rockies fan says with a collective voice, why don’t the pitchers who do have to deal with it all the time and put up elite numbers not get credit for it?

Let’s look at the career Coors Field numbers for someone who was absent from the Midsummer Classic.

Daniel Bard: 75 G, 76.2 IP, 3.17 ERA.

Of course, nobody is arguing that All Stars ought to be decided solely based on how well they pitched in a ballpark that isn’t their own. This is all just about understanding and adding context.

Anderson got to make the trip with a 140 ERA+ when he had a 137 ERA+ in Colorado in 2016.

Bard’s current ERA+ is 233, by the way. 

None of this was to undercut the accomplishments of these undoubtedly fantastic pitchers. It’s just that the fact that Bard is excelling at a place where the evidence shows almost nobody does, should be at least a bigger part of the conversation.

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