These are nervous times for Colorado Rockies fans.
The club's first berth to the playoffs since 2009 has gone from looking like a forgone conclusion to a question mark that the team will have to sweat out until the final game of the season.
On June 20, the Rockies were 47-26 and had the best record in the entire National League. That was two months ago, but it seems more like two years.
Since that date, Colorado has gone just 24-34 overall. The Rockies went from leading the division by half a game to falling to third place in the NL West, 21 (21!!!) games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. For those of you who like math, that means the Rox have dropped 3.7 games further behind LA every 10 games they play. That's staggering.
More recently, the Rockies have lost 11 of their last 17 contests.
As of right now, they'd be the second Wild Card team to squeak into the NL playoffs. But, their lead for the final postseason spot is getting more and more narrow each day. With 31 games of baseball left, Colorado has just a three-game cushion over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals are in striking distance as well.
And, of all those teams fighting for the last Wild Card spot, the Rockies have the most difficult remaining schedule.
All of this being said, and it's easy to understand why many fans aren't exactly clearing their October schedules for playoff baseball in Colorado.
But, despite all the seemingly apocalyptic numbers and figures surrounding the team, I'm here to tell you why Rockies fans should be....Optimistic. What? That's right, it's time to drop the worries and be optimistic that the MLB postseason won't start without the club from Coors.
First and foremost, let's forget about the last couple months and take a broader look at the season as a whole. The Rockies are 71-60 this year, eleven games above .500.
This is the first time Colorado has even had a winning record this late in the year since 2010. Furthermore, 71-60 is the best mark the Rox have had on this date since...2009, the last year there was a "Rocktober" postseason in Colorado. That team in '09 was 72-57 on August 29, but had just a two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants, a team that would go on to win the World Series a year later.
This year's group not only has a slightly better lead in the standings, but doesn't have nearly the threats behind them that the 2009 team did.
The Milwaukee Brewers--the next closest team to knocking Colorado out of the playoffs at just three games back--doesn't have an offense that can even compare to the Rockies' lineup.
Among players with at least 200 bats on the season, the Brewers' best hitter is batting just .284 on the year. The Rockies have five guys in their lineup with a better average, six if you count the newly added Jonathan Lucroy. Oh, and did we mention that four of them are hitting well over .300?
Now, let's look at the Miami Marlins. Yes, they have superhuman, Goliath, 50 home-run monster Giancarlo Stanton. But, when you compare team stats, not only do the Rockies have the slight edge in team batting average, and a miniscule lead in pitching (team earned run average), they are miles ahead of the Marlins in run differential.
Run differential certainly isn't the end all statistic, but it does offer a glimpse into a team's overall success over the course of a season. Colorado is PLUS 48 in that department, while Miami is MINUS 15. Oh, and Colorado has a 4.5 game edge in the standings.
Perhaps the team that should concern Rockies fans the most is the St. Louis Cardinals. They're significantly better as a pitching staff, with a team ERA of 4.02 compared to Colorado's 4.61. The two teams are comparable in run differential (the Cardinals are Plus 40). And, St. Louis is a club that has been here before. The Cardinals have been to the playoffs twelve times since 2000, winning two World Series titles in that time frame.
The good news though, is that they still trail the Rockies by 5.5 games. That's a big gap to make up in only a month, especially when they don't get to play Colorado head-to-head again this season.
So, that's why those three teams won't catch Colorado. Here's why Colorado won't get caught.
Ummmm, hello? That lineup. It's ridiculous in every individual and team category. In the National League, the Rockies are second in runs, first in hits, second in total bases, second in runs batted in, first in batting average, third in on base percentage and third in slugging percentage. Colorado has the guy with the best batting average in the NL (Charlie Blackmon), the most runs batted in (Nolan Arenado is tied for first), and three of the top four hit-leaders in the league as well (Blackmon, Arenado and D.J. LeMahieu).
The pitching staff finally has a healthy Jon Gray and Chad Bettis, as well as blossoming rookies like Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and German Marquez.
And, despite the relatively rough month he's had, closer Greg Holland still has more saves than anyone else in the National League.
So, take a deep breath and feel confident.
There will be times when the gap in the standings will squeeze even closer. There will be a lot of scoreboard watching. There will be some high blood pressure situations in late September.
But, hang on, because the Rockies will do the same. They'll make the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history. And, in a sport like baseball, once a team is in the dance, anything can happen.
Enjoy the ride.
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