By MARK KNUDSON @MarkKnudson41 Special to WoodyPaige.com
It’s a 25-year old argument that continues to fall on deaf ears. If the national media (post-season award voters) continues to punish players from the Colorado Rockies for playing half their games at hitter-friendly Coors Field, shouldn’t Rockies pitchers get rewarded for doing the same?
They never ever have and likely never will. Still, it’s more than fair to ask why the “Coors Field Effect” only trends in only one direction?
When the 2017 MLB post season is over and the annual awards begin to be passed out, it’s likely the both centerfielder Charlie Blackmon, who’s having a season for the ages and setting hitting records from the lead-off spot, and all-world third baseman Nolan Arenado, putting together another season full of highlight reel defensive plays and spectacular offensive numbers, will both be slighted in the National League Most Valuable Player voting despite each being MVP worthy. That’s because the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will see their hitting stats – as incredible as they are – as being “inflated” by playing 81 games at Coors Field and discount them. It’s happened over and over again through the years, including last season when Arenado’s candidacy (he led the NL in home runs and runs batted in AND won his fourth straight Gold Glove) was pushed aside, supposedly because the Rockies weren’t in play-off contention. (Note: Colorado is very likely to make the play-offs this season, so a new excuse will be needed.) Bet on MVP-worthy Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona to win the NL MVP.
On the pitching side, the NL Cy Young vote will come down to two guys having excellent – if not full – seasons. Both Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and his Washington Nationals counterpart Max Scherzer has missed a significant portion of the season with injuries. Neither will likely win 20 games (although Kershaw, at 17-3, does have a shot with three weeks left to play) or likely to reach 200 innings pitched (Scherzer could with three starts left if he averages slightly more than seven innings per.) Each has a WHIP of less than 1.00 and an ERA in the low 2.00’s. They lead division winners and are very likely to meet up in the NL Championship Series, which would be epic. One of them will be voted another Cy Young Award.
Yet all things considered, neither should win the Cy Young. If the voters were fair and balanced, they would realize that as long as punishing Rockies hitters remains the norm, then rewarding Colorado pitchers should become a standard practice as well.
Under those circumstances, Colorado’s versatile relief pitcher Chris Rusin should win the NL Cy Young Award. Here are the numbers…none of which have been “adjusted” for the “Coors Field Effect.”
Rusin is 5-0 with a spectacular (Coors Field) ERA of 2.31 (6th in the NL for pitchers with over 66 innings pitched and a better mark than Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Alex Wood and Zack Greinke.) He’s pitched almost 80 innings out of the bullpen, posted a WHIP of 1.06 and an opponent’s batting average of .226. He notched his second save of the season filling in for often-used Greg Holland in the Rockies 4-2 victory over Arizona, the club’s sixth straight road win. He’s entered games in the first inning and the ninth inning and every inning in between this season. He’s the Swiss Army Knife of MLB pitchers and Colorado would not be in the play-off hunt without him. Can anyone realistically claim that the Dodgers or Nationals would not be play-off teams if they didn’t have Scherzer or Kershaw? Because both teams would still be great, regardless.
Just as observers say “What if Giancarlo Stanton played 81 games at Coors Field” we should ask loudly, “What if Chris Rusin pitched 81 games at Dodgers Stadium?” Chavez Ravine IS the pitchers equivalent of Coors Field, which no one ever bothers to mention. If he were a Dodger, Rusin would probably have an ERA and WHIP of under 1.00 and be getting all sorts of national attention.
Such is life in the Mountain Time Zone. Arenado will win another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Blackmon will get his Silver Slugger, too. Both will get a handful of MVP votes and a nice pat on the back from the hypocritical BBWAA voters. Rusin will get zero votes for any of the pitching honors. He will have to settle for huge amounts of accolades from teammates, coaches and fans in the Rocky Mountain region who know and appreciate his true value to a play-off contender.