Of course they can, but will they make the playoffs? It has turned into somewhat of a tradition that on odd number years the Rockies get smoking hot in the final month or two of the season. In 2007 they had one of the most amazing runs by a team in any sport and eventually made it all the way to the World Series. In 2009 they made their second playoff appearance in three years thanks to a strong push in September.
Do they have another one in them?
I will slap on my optimist hat for the rest of this story and apologize in advance if the negative side of me slips in every so often.
Just about a week ago the Rockies were 12 games out of first place in the National League West. On August 17th the Rockies were 58-67 and 12 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers were sitting 9.5 games ahead of the Rockies and 2.5 behind the Diamondbacks. The Rockies have trimmed nearly four full games off of that lead in the past six days. At this rate they will be in first place in the NL West by Labor Day!
The San Francisco Giants negative run differential for most of the year is finally wearing on the team. Their offense is so inept that even their great pitching cannot pile the team on their back to continue to rack up wins.
In 2011 Matt Cain has lasted six innings or more and allowed three earned runs or less 11 times in which he either did not get a decision or took a loss. Cain sports a 2.86 ERA on the season and the Giants are 15-11 in games in which he starts. Of his 26 starts this year only four times has he allowed five or more earned runs.
In Tim Lincecum’s last four starts he has lasted 7, 7 2/3, 7 and 7 innings in each of those starts and allowed 2, 1, 0 and 1 run in each of those starts, and the Giants are 2-2 in those four games. Lincecum has a 2.53 ERA in 2011 and the Giants are 15-11 in his starts, too.
The point isn’t that the pitchers cannot win games – I would never try to make that argument – but it is that the Giants offense has a hard time scoring runs. So much so that even when the team’s best two starters give a strong outing the team might not win unless they shutout their opponent. Sooner or later the pressure of not being able to allow one or two runs will weigh on the pitchers and they will falter and the Giants will continue to drop games.
The Giants are 7-13 so far in August and lost five of their past seven games. In five of those 13 losses in August the Giants held their opponents to three runs or less. And the Giants aren’t playing baseball’s power houses right now either; they just lost two of three to the Astros and two of three to the Pirates (who are falling faster than Ian Stewart’s trade value).
Negative insert: the Giants also recently had series against the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in which they were 2-6. The Braves and the Phillies are the best two teams in the National League (save it Brewers fans!). The Giants have two against San Diego upcoming and then four more against Huston (this time in San Francisco) and then three against the Cubs. If there were three teams to get healthy against it is those three.
The Diamondbacks were picked to fight for the bottom of the NL West by most everyone before the year started and they currently lead the division. Two years in a row a supposed bottom feeder in the NL West has performed better than the Rockies for much of the year.
The D’backs are stuck in a six game losing streak but they have their ace Ian Kennedy on the mound tonight to face off against Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals. Leading into this six game losing streak was a seven game winning streak for the snakes. Tally up all the wins and losses in August and the Diamondbacks are 10-10.
Justin Upton might be one of the best baseball players in baseball in 2011. He is only 23 and already has 119 career doubles and 85 career home runs. Todd Helton was just getting his first take of the major leagues when he was 23. The kid could end up being a Cooperstown inductee someday. He is also very streaky.
Upton does not shy away from strikeouts because when he swings he means it. Upton has 98 strikeouts in 2011 and might touch his total of 152 from last year. He has already played in 127 games in 2011 which is only 11 fewer than his best year in 2009 when he played in 138 games. According to hittrackeronline.com Upton has the second longest home run in all of baseball in 2011 and of his 25 home runs this year all but four of them have traveled more than 400 feet. He has four home runs in 2011 that went further than 450 feet! The kid can rake.
The concern with Upton is that he runs really hot or really cold. Here are his triple slash splits by month in 2011:
While it is not uncommon for a guy to have months better than others that dramatic July is way out of the ordinary when comparing to the numbers from the other months for Upton. In his career he has batted .279/.357/.489 and in 2011 he has batted .298/.370/.545. It is likely that Upton will regress a little bit down the stretch to bring his 2011 totals more in line with his career numbers and if the Diamondbacks lose that big bat out of the middle of their lineup it will hurt.
Negative insert: or possibly Upton is continuing to grow. He is on pace to strikeout less than 120 times in 2011 and he is young. If he continues to be more selective at the plate he will get better pitches to hit and with his power he will hit them hard. While an OPS of 1.016 in July for Upton is on par with the very best hitters in baseball, Upton might be one of those hitters. It would not be surprising to see Upton hit with an OPS above .900 on a regular basis. He could very well heat right back up in September.
The Rockies have to get while the gettin’ is good, too. The Rockies will play the D’backs three times to start next week in Denver and then three more times to begin the next week in Arizona. If the Rockies take five of six in those two sets they could find themselves only a handful of games behind the D’backs.
Negative notes: The Rockies are 4-8 against the D’backs in 2011.
What would it take to make the playoffs?
The Wild Card is out of reach; the Rockies are 16 games behind the Braves in the Wild Card hunt and the only way they get into the playoffs in 2011 is by winning the West. The Diamondbacks are 69-59 which is a .539 winning percentage and 54% of 162 games is about 87 wins. For the Rockies to reach 87 wins they will need to win 26 of their remaining 33 games. That’s right, a record of 26-7 the rest of the way. Sounds a lot like 2007.
It is entirely possible that the Diamondbacks and Giants continue to slide and let’s say that 85 wins takes the NL West. It is still not a pretty picture for the Rockies but 24-9 looks a little better. Doesn’t it? I am trying to be positive, tell me it does.
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