The Rockies have transformed from roadkill to road warriors

The Rockies have been absolutely abysmal away from Coors Field since the turn of the decade. But that’s beginning to change.

Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies got their 16th road win of the season Tuesday. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies got their 16th road win of the season Tuesday. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

The morning after his team put the finishing touches on its 16th road win in 23 tries, this one an 8-1 dismantling of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black was asked about his team’s success this season away from Coors Field.

“In years past, the Rockies have played pretty well at home and not so much on the road,” Black told the MLB Network.

Black was putting it lightly. To say that the Rockies have played not so well away from Coors Field in recent years is like saying that Jimmy Goldstein has a slight affinity for wide-brimmed hats.

Since 2011, Colorado has gone 210-357 in road games. Their best single-season road record in the last seven years came in 2011, when they finished 35-46. The low point was a 21-60 road record in 2014.

Bluntly put: The Rockies have been absolutely abysmal away from Coors Field since the turn of the decade. But that’s beginning to change.

Monday’s win over the Phillies improved the Rockies’ road record to 16-7 in 2017. The Rockies have the most wins on the road of any team in the big leagues. That’s helped them get out to a 29-17 start. Colorado, which is in the midst of its eighth road series of the year, has already earned series wins over Milwaukee, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego, Minnesota and Cincinnati in those teams’ respective ballparks.

So what’s led to such a drastic improvement? How have the Rockies pivoted from road kill to road warriors all of a sudden?

The first thing you can point to is pitching. The Rockies have the best road ERA in baseball at 3.45. Opponents are hitting just .222 against them away from Coors.

Jeff Hoffman’s seven-inning, three-hit gem Monday was the latest in a string of strong rookie pitching performances on the road. Kyle Freeland has a 2.89 ERA in five road starts, while Antonio Senzatela has 3.52 ERA in four. German Marquez has allowed just one earned run in 11 road innings.

Factor in the young guys’ success with a bullpen that’s allowed only 24 earned runs in 79 road innings, and you get a Rockies pitching corps that is just not giving up many runs away from Coors, where, by the way, it’s also been pretty good.

The second thing you can point to is that the Rockies are manufacturing more runs on the road than they have in years past. It seems strange to think of the Rockies as a poor hitting team away from Coors Field, but historically that’s been the case. Earlier this year, FiveThirtyEight found that Colorado hitters have scored a staggering 58 percent more runs per game at home than on the road since 1995.

There are a lot of theories out there that try to explain this phenomenon, which I won’t get into. But just look at the average runs per game Colorado has produced on the road in the seven seasons prior to this one:

  • 2010 — 3.59
  • 2011 — 3.65
  • 2012 — 3.36
  • 2013 — 3.36
  • 2014 — 3.15
  • 2015 — 3.56
  • 2016 — 4.16

Any guesses how many runs the Rockies have racked up on the road this year? If you include the eight they tacked on Monday, they’re up to 108 road runs, which comes out to an average of 4.70 per game.

Colorado has scored 125 times at home this year — roughly 15 percent more than it has on the road. That’s much more consistent than the wild home-road runs scored splits Colorado has put up since 2010.

“Our position players are getting to the point where it’s, ‘Let’s go on the road and play well in somebody else’s ballpark and take it to them,'” Black said, per the MLB Network. “(It’s) sort of a developing mindset … There’s just been a better everyday vibe about what we can do, no matter where we play.”

It’s difficult to say how much of Colorado’s road success this year is due to a different mindset, how much of it is due to just having a lot of talent on the roster and how much of it is due to the new manager. All of those things are related. Dole out the credit however you’d like.

One thing is increasingly becoming clear in 2017, though: These Rockies aren’t like the old Rockies. There’s something different about them. And whatever it is, it’s playing in all parks.

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