The Rockies Then & Now

For the second time in three years, the Colorado Rockies are back from the dead. On June 1st, the Rockies were 20-29 with roughly 2% odds of making the playoffs per A few days later the Rockies would start a streak of 11 straight wins and after dropping one to the Rays, would win their next six. That’s 17 victories in 18 games. Even if you assume the Rockies are a true talent 60% wins team – and they aren’t, but bare with me – and ran the odds of winning 17 games in 18 tries through a binomial distribution, you would arrive with odds of 0.01%.

So yeah, for one of the best teams in baseball there was a chance of such a run, but the odds are lower for the Rockies because we know they aren’t a team you’d expect to win 97 games. Call the run odds-defying, the Rockies did something similar in 2007 when they won 13 of 14 before downing the Padres in a tiebreaker playoff. The difference is that team’s charge came much later than their present-day brethren. Below you will see CoolStanding’s playoff odds from both years with the games played total on the x-axis. Both teams were down on their luck and up on their October tee times around the 40-45 game mark, they also seem to begin the hike around the 80-100 game mark.


The graph is cut off a bit near the end, but the worthwhile part to take from game 160’s odds is that the Rockies are currently above those odds, which were amongst the highest of their entire season. That is to say, the Rockies are in better playoff condition now than they were for most of 2007.

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19 Responses to “The Rockies Then & Now”

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  1. DC says:

    That’s common sense really, considering they never lead any race in 2007, and they’ve lead the WC off and on for the past month or so.

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  2. walkoffblast says:

    I guess thats why they keep playing the games. Imagine if you took a month or two off baseball then looked at playoff odds today. The Dodgers are the least likely team in the NL to win their division and the Yankees are the most likely team in baseball to make the playoffs (two different streaks 10 out of 11 and 12 out of 13 post all-star break possibly making the difference). It would be interesting to see in this age of semi-parity just how important stringing one of these improbable runs is to making the postseason.

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  3. I think there is more to be seen from this graph than has been stated in the short article. I think that just looking at this graph you are able to see that this team is far more mature than they were in 2007. Sure to the naked eye it just looks like much of the country says, the Mile High Boys struck their luck much earlier than they did in 07 and if you listen to the nation they are predicted to run out of luck before the playoffs come round. I disagree with this and I say look out Dodgers!

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    • walkoffblast says:

      Never knew playoff odds from different years was an accurate measure of how mature a team was/is.

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      • Tom Au says:

        If you assume that the raw talent levels were about equal both years, and that opposition levels were about equal both years, then “maturity” might be measured by how soon the Rockies “found themselves.”

        But those are important caveats.

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  4. Al says:

    Has a study ever been done on the accuracy of these playoff odds calculations, and on the likelihood of white-hot streaks like these? I wonder if teams have actually gone on runs like this more often than this type of analysis (assuming that a team’s “true talent level” stays the same over their remaining games) would suggest, or if we simply ignore the 98% of cases where the team at 2% drops off the map.

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    • Matt says:

      We only pay attention when they’re in the playoff hunt. The Nats had a streak a couple of weeks back that has to be considered pretty amazing for a 35% true talent team (or whatever they are). It barely registered a blip in the media, since the only hunt they’re in is the one for Bryce Harper.

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  5. Matthew says:

    damn the giants suck

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  6. Erick says:

    “Even if you assume the Rockies are a true talent 60% wins team – and they aren’t, but bare with me”

    “I know Matthew wrote about this a few weeks ago, but hopefully, you’ll bare with me as we revisit the topic of Ichiro’s value.”

    Fangraphs is a great site, but the writers’ insistence on reading their analysis in the nude is totally inappropriate.

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  7. Rox Girl says:

    Is it just me or does it seem like these odds-defying runs aren’t randomly distributed among all 30 teams? That is, that some teams, like the Rockies or Astros, A’s and Twins from a few seasons ago seem to get them more than once in a span of a few years. Why is this? Why are some above average but not great teams able to be great for a set period but not others? Or am I just imagining that this is the case and it’s not really backed up?

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  8. Matt says:

    “Even if you assume the Rockies are a true talent 60% wins team – and they aren’t, but bare with me – and ran the odds of winning 17 games in 18 tries through a binomial distribution, you would arrive with odds of 0.01%.”

    How did you get this number? I ran the odds of winning exactly 17 out of a particular 18 games — (.6 ^ 17) * .4 * 18, (the 18 is for permutations) — and came up with 0.0012, which is 0.12%, or 12 times your number. Also, I don’t think you really want to look at that narrow a case as it’s not particularly enlightening.

    Sure, getting a great run of wins is really unlikely, but it will happen. If you single out those particular games and calculate the chance that the run happened right there to that team at that time, you’re always going to get a miniscule probability.

    The chances that a 60% team wins 17 of 18 at *some* point in a season are much, much higher, and the chances that some team does it at some point in the season are higher still.

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    • Ben says:

      This is a very important point, and I just wanted to echo that it would be improbable not to have *some* team go a streak of 17 of 18 or 14 of 15 or whatever.
      As Matt says the probability of a .600 team winning 17 of any particular 18 games is just 0.12%. But since there are 145 possible places in the schedule to play 18 consecutive games (without overlapping into the next season), the chances of that .600 team winning any 17 out of any group of 18 consecutive games is something like 16.2%. And that’s just for 17 of 18. The chances of going 16 of any 17 are more like 24.4%. The chances of a particular .600 team going for 9 out of any 10 is so probable it’s basically unavoidable – 99.8%.
      And that’s just for one team. With a league of 30 teams, streaks of this size should be expected. Whether or not one desires to praise a team for whatever intrinsic qualities allowed such a streak to fall upon its lap versus that of another team is entirely up for debate.

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  9. I am not saying that the talent is the same, all I am saying is that the team as a whole is more mature. Look at the pieces that they added and the pieces they let go. No one thought that this season was going to ammount to much after letting go of Matt Holiday and Brian Fuentes, but what we have seen from the Rockies is that players that didn’t seem to be quite ready to play at the big leage level, have stepped up and filled those holes and Mr. Street seems to have found what everyone thought he lost. So maybe from your graph you can’t see that they are more mature but just look at the stats, the team as a hole has numbers that are far more mature looking for a ball player. If you still don’t think that they are mature, explain the Rockies taking the Giants in 14 innings and scoreing 4 runs. You can’t tell me that the team in 07 would have been able to come back from something like that so late in the game. Correct me if I’m wrong but these Rockies in 2009 have shown more maturity than you can find anywhere in 07.

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    • Andrew says:

      What about the play-in game against SD to win the wild card in 07?

      It’s hard to quantify “maturity”. I think what you are looking at is a better baseball team than the 07 team even though Colorado no longer has Holiday. The lineup is remarkably different than 07 (3 of the top 4 guys in the lineup are gone, and Atkins is on the bench), and the starting rotation is infintely better.

      In contrast, a really “mature” team would be the Giants. “Youth” has its advantages sometimes too.

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      • Matt says:

        Yeah. When people say a team is more mature, it’s because they want to say it’s better and have it sound more authoritative than if they just said, “The team is better.”

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      • walkoffblast says:

        Yeah. This is what I was being sarcastic about above. This is a better team but I have no idea how maturity has any relevance comparing the two teams. Its a different team makeup and playoff odds are dependent on how good the team you are closest to is, which is not consistent year to year.

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  10. Greg says:

    “So yeah, for one of the best teams in baseball there was a chance of such a run, but the odds are lower for the Rockies because we know they aren’t a team you’d expect to win 97 games.”

    Clint Hurdle Fired.
    Garret Atkins finally benched.
    Carlos Gonzalez one of if not he best hitter statistically since the break.
    Speed at the 1 2 spot
    Hawpe one of the best clutch hitters in baseball.
    Jason Marquis
    D up the middle

    This is certainly not statistically impossible.

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  11. Matt S. says:

    “Even if you assume the Rockies are a true talent 60% wins team – and they aren’t…”

    Are we sure that they are not a 60% true talent team (assumming that the term, “true talent 60% wins team” means that the Rockies would win sixty percent of their games if they played, like, a million games)?

    A binomial distribution tells us that a true talent 60% wins team wins 71 games or fewer of its first 125 by random chance about 26% of the time (not too unusual). FWIW, if we were to assume that the Rox are a true talent 55% wins team (probably what the author thinks is accurate), their recent run of 51 out of 73 games would happen by random chance about 0.7% of the time.

    Therefore, because the Rockies performance this season at least somewhat similar to a true talent 60% wins team, it seems reasonable to argue that the Rockies *might* be a true talent 60% wins team.

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