Don’t Count Out the Rockies

If a team is five games out at the All-Star break it’s no big deal. Not only does the team have a couple of weeks to improve its team via trade, but it also has 70-some-odd games to help close that gap. It can can pick up a game every two weeks and cover the deficit before season’s end. But by the time we reach late August and September and those gaps remain at five games, a comeback becomes a bit less reasonable. Yet we’ve seen a few late-season comebacks in recent years. They don’t happen every year, but when they do makes for quite a memorable September.

At 74-64, 4.5 games back in both the NL West and the Wild Card, the Rockies appear out of contention. Even if they do go on a tear they have a few teams standing in the way. The Giants or the Padres would have to collapse, and even then the Rockies might need help from another Wild Card contender to come even close to a playoff spot. Their chances are so remote that it’s easy to write them off and concentrate on the closer races. But considering the number of times we’ve seen big comebacks in recent years, and further considering that only three years ago these Rockies accomplished the feat, it’s a bit tougher, at least for me, to completely forget about them.

The 2010 season has been rough on the Rockies. They finished April 11-12 despite a +26 run differential, which put them in a bit of a hole. May was a bit more kind, but the team plodded through June and July just one game over .500. By the end of July, sitting in fourth place in the West, the Rockies even thought about becoming sellers. That never came to fruition, but the Rockies also made no big attempts to improve. They decided instead to go with what they had and let the season play out. The players, I’m sure, didn’t give up, but I doubt anyone in or near the organization thought they had any realistic chance.

In August the team did catch a break. Despite a -4 run differential they went 15-12, which helped balance out the poor April. Still, at month’s end they were seven games back in the West and 4.5 back in the Wild Card and were also coming off a loss to the Giants. They opened September with another loss to the Giants, followed by a loss to the Wild Card (and NL East) contending Phillies. That seemed to obliterate any remaining chance they had. By this time 7.5 games separated them and the Padres, and 6.5 games stood between them and a playoff spot.

On Friday the Rockies opened a series at Petco Park against the Padres, who had lost their previous six games. Much to everyone’s surprise the Rockies turned that into nine straight losses. A wins against the Reds on Monday and Tuesday made it five straight for Colorado, moving them to their current position. Again, it’s not a great position, but it’s a manageable one. It’s only a half game worse than their standing at the 138-game mark in 2007 — only then they had three teams ahead of them in both the division and Wild Card races, rather than the two they have today.

The Rockies share an important similarity with the 2007 team. When mounting a comeback every little detail counts. In September this includes the schedule. In 2007 the Rockies played 14 of their final 24 games at home, where they had a 41-26 record as of Game 138. This year the Rockies play 14 of their final 24 games at home, only they’re even better this year, 45-22 at Coors Field. Six of those 14 home games come against the Padres and the Giants, the two teams that stand in Colorado’s way. On the road they’ll play Los Angelez, Arizona, and St. Louis. The Rockies have a better record than each of them. That would seem to give them an advantage at this point in the season.

Even with the schedule advantage the Rockies still have a long way to go and they’re dependent on a lot of lucky breaks. Jhoulys Chacin will have to make a few more starts like his six-inning, two-run performance last night. Aaron Cook needs to finish strong after a generally poor season. Carlos Gonzalez will have to continue his mashing taters. Essentially, multiple players will have to get hot at the same time and sustain that production for a few weeks. It’s not something on which to place an even modest wager. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. In September, with most of the playoff races all but settled, we could go for some comeback dramatics.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

11 Responses to “Don’t Count Out the Rockies”

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    The road trip nightmares have been the Rockies’ biggest obstacle this season. The 2-9 trip immediately after the All Star Break was a huge setback. Even two additional wins on that trip would put them in the thick of the wild card race. Those ten remaining road games could be the deciding factor in whether they have a chance.

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  2. Nick says:

    The Rox in September will be a joy to watch; see if CarGo can win the Triple Crown or lead them to the playoffs for an MVP award; Chacin and Ubaldo dealing at what seems to be the front end of their rotation when all things are considered; De La Rosa’s 2nd half excellence, and of course; the Padres’ meltdown. Hell, I’m not even a Rox fan and I’m excited!

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  3. Alec says:

    I like’d the article, but I’m still counting the Rockies out. They are going to spend the playoffs sitting around drinking Coors lite and watching baseball on the TV. Just like me, except I won’t have Coors lite, i’ll drink something else, maybe Pabst Blue Ribbon, or Genese Cream Ale, um

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  4. Giant Torture says:

    One thing I think you’re discounting is just how terrible the Rockies are on the road, for an improbable comeback like the one they would need to mount, those 10 road games are a big deal. Not to mention that their latest Coors Field sensation Carlos Gonzales isn’t such a big fan of hitting away from Coors Field because he’s pretty pedestrian on the road (.760 OPS on the road). It could happen, but I could win the lottery too, neither are very likely though.

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    • James says:

      I went to the Rockies-Padres game at Petco, and Gonzales is absolutely locked in right now. He was crushing everything fair or foul… After watching that, I think the home/road split is a bit anomalous, and over time there shouldn’t be quite the disparity between his home/road performance. Line drives and speed play anywhere.

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    • adohaj says:

      His home/road splits are interesting. At first I wrote it off as the Coors effect but then I looked at his BB/K

      Home .52
      Road .12

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  5. Jeff Wise says:

    I don’t know what it is about the Rockies but the last few years they have been one of the most exciting teams to watch. I’d really like to see Helton hit like his normal self again.

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  6. Xeifrank says:

    Rockies chances of winning the NL West are 4.54% ish.
    vr, Xei

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    • JK says:

      I’m glad you didn’t round to the nearest 100 basis points or so, that .45% makes all the difference to me. Clearly can’t right them off if mr.frnk thinks the chance is 4.54%,but if you told me the chance was 4.5356789123$ then I’d probably say they are down for the count.

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    • Yo Comprendre says:

      What was the odds they would win 21 of 22 to sweep in to the world series two years ago?

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  7. Shin Music says:

    A developing story in the NL West is rotating effectiveness of bullpens. The Friars are showing some chinks (I’d like to see some Pitch F/X data on Gregerson’s flattening slider), & the Rox are having variable success (Street’s looking mighty hittable at times, Morales/Buccholz out now matters). The Giants have methodically built up some incredible bullpen depth that goes three-deep both Left/Right with top-performing relievers right now. The Dodgers themselves look to affect the race big time with at least a handful of late-innings meltdowns coming out of that tattered group.

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