There's a free article over at Baseball Prospectus that every Rockies fan should read immediately. In it, Joe Sheehan admits (by examining road stats) that the Colorado pitching staff has indeed improved, but he makes a convincing argument that the longer time Coors balls now spend in the humidor is overcorrecting for the altitude effect. Sheehan has written before, and reiterates here, that he believes that nothing should be done differently to baseballs in Denver than anywhere else. As a baseball fan, he likes the existence of unique environments. As a Rockies fan, however, I strongly disagree. I'd really like to see my team in the playoffs one of these years, and the scoring sprees of the Planet Coors of old were doing the Colorado franchise no favors with the psychological and physical toll it was taking on pitchers and hitters wearing purple.
Of course, proving that the humidor is turning Coors into a pitchers' park is one thing. Claiming that the Rockies are using two separate groups of balls, one from the humidor for the visitors and one dry set for the home team's at-bats, is another thing entirely. That's what Jeff Cirillo was trying to pin on his former team, and as the Rockies broadcasters have been pointing out at length during the last two games, it's completely ridiculous. The umpires take the balls directly out of the humidor. There's no possible way the Rockies could cheat in that manner even if they were sleazy enough to try. Which I don't think they are. Doesn't anyone remember two months ago when everyone was talking about the Colorado Clubhouse for Christ?
So, in short, Joe Sheehan is smart, although I disagree with his contention that pre-humidor Coors was in any way, shape, or form good for baseball. (And Cirillo, as an immense number of angry Rockies fans have represented to me over the past few days, is a terrible excuse both for a third baseman and a human being.) Obviously there's never been any major league hitting situation like the one that exists in Denver, and figuring out how to make the park play fair for everyone while still giving the Rockies franchise the same shot at contending that everyone else gets is a work in progress. If Baseball Prospectus really wanted to take it upon themselves to do good works with the studies they've done, they'd start putting some of their really smart math guys on to the question of how long exactly it is the balls need to be stored in the humidor to make the park "fair" enough for their exacting standards. Sheehan points out that calling low-scoring baseball somehow inherently superior to slo-pitch softball slug-a-thons is silly. Well, I'm silly. I like pitching. I like watching starters finish their games themselves. I like watching pros like Chris Capuano and Aaron Cook buzzsaw through lineups faster than it takes to watch the new pirate movie. Heck, I even like watching teams bunt and move runners around, in moderation. There has to be some happy medium where the purists, stat nerds, and even old-line Rockies fans who miss the Blake Street Bombers days can all get their fair share of the kind of baseball they prefer at Coors Field. Maybe the humidor has gone too far. Maybe it hasn't gone too far enough. I don't know, I was a history major. There's got to be some sort of statistical regression BP can run to figure out exactly how long a ball has to stay in the sauna to make games come out "right." I don't think there is a "right," really, and given that the Rockies have cooperated with MLB authorities every step of the way with the development and application of the humidor, for my part I'm over the moon for the status quo. It's not as if Colorado is experiencing a ridiculously unfair advantage at home this year. Far from it. While they've historically always played better at home and far worse on the road than their neutral-field strength would predict, this season things have been vastly more normal. This in itself I think is a good argument for the viewpoint that the humidor is good for baseball and not just for the Rockies or more specifically the Rockies pitchers.
Given what we now know to be true about the humidor's effects -- it's made Coors, if anything, a slight pitchers' park -- we have to look at the seasons guys like Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins are having in a whole new light. I mean, Rockies fans already know how awesome they are. But look out, rest of the baseball world.