It has been a few years since I have been so depressed with not only the Rockies current season but expectations for future seasons.
Going into 2011 the Rockies (and their fans) had Tulo, CarGo and Ubaldo. This core group of players along with guys like Stewart, Iannetta, Fowler, Chacin, De La Rosa and Smith were supposed to grow into a team that would contend in the National League West for years to come. Now Ubaldo is gone and Stewart might as well be, too. Iannetta is destined to never be good enough in Tracy’s eyes even though he is better than most. Smith is losing playing time at the end of ’11 to a light hitting middle infielder because Tracy must have speed at the top of his order. On the mound De La Rosa needed TJ surgery and his long list of ailments continues while Chacin leads the league in walks allowed.
What is there to look forward to in 2012? The hopes that Drew Pomeranz somehow fills the large void left by Ubaldo? That Alex White figures out how to keep his fastball and “sinker” down in the zone? What do the Rockies do at second base? They have tried enough players at second this year to make Mark Wahlberg’s entourage look minimalistic. Don’t even mention third base to a Rockies fan because smoke will surely come out of their ears.
I am sure there are plenty of optimists around that think the Rockies future looks bright but to this beer-can-is-half-empty fella the light is dim.
The same folks who thought the Rockies were a second half team and that they could just flip a switch and make a run at the NL West crown probably also think that Dan O’Dowd will somehow swindle the New York Mets out of David Wright for Stewart and a few left over bags of popcorn.
In late July I wrote that the Rockies playoff chances were over. There is a small contingency of people around the sporting world that think the Rockies are a second half team. 2007 was so special and so amazing that it left some kind of mental tattoo on quite a few people’s brains. Just a couple weeks ago, with the Rockies NINE games out of first place, Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio were talking Rockies comeback. Those are the kind of folks that just don’t understand baseball.
A great run is a stretch in which a team wins 14 out of 22 games and if the team they are chasing wins 18 of those same 36 games only four games are made up in the standings. When a team is down nine games in a race with only a few months of baseball to play it is nearly impossible to catch up. Something like a miracle a la 2007 needs to occur. Teams might run off six or eight wins in a row but all those lucky bounces and base hits will turn into outs as that same team is likely to lose six or eight in a row shortly after a hot streak.
The Rockies had a winning percentage of .473 in 91 games in the first half of ’11 and it got worse in the second half. In April the Rockies won 68% of their games, and, as stated above, what has risen will surely fall and the Rockies did just that winning only about 28% of their games in May. In June they won 52% of their games and that appears to be the last month of the 2011 season in which the Rockies will win more than they lose. In July they lost over 55% of their games and in August it was about the same. Now in September the team appears to be tanking and coupled with the organizations 2010 performance in September this team doesn’t turn it on in the second half, it turns it off.
Through 19 days of September this year the Rockies have played 16 games and only won six of them. The Rockies have lost five in a row by a combined score of 43-16 against the mighty bats of San Francisco (dead last in the NL in runs scored) and San Diego (second to last in the NL in runs scored). In September and three games in October in 2010 the Rockies were 14-17 and lost their final eight games. In the past two seasons the Rockies are 20-27 after September 1st.
Does this sound like a team that makes a late run?
As of this writing the Rockies are 18 games behind the out-of-nowhere Arizona Diamondbacks and have a run differential of -34.
If you want a bit of positivity, here you go: at Baseball Prospectus they have a few calculations on what a team’s record SHOULD be based on runs scored, runs allowed, expected runs scored and other projections based on quality of opponents. Generally teams that make the playoffs outscore their opponents over the course of the season. Shocker, I know, but for some reason people believe that scrappiness and grit will win ballgames (see: Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver and “old school” baseball types). The Rockies -34 isn’t all that bad and their record is slightly worse than it should be with a run differential as close to 0 as it is. The Rockies actual win percentage is .461 and in the three projections on BP they get slightly higher and higher the more luck is removed (.481, .496 and .495 for the three projections). Still not even .500 but better is better, right?
In other words the Rockies have had some pretty bad luck this year. For example; the Cubs have lost three more games than the Rockies but have a run differential of -101. The Pirates have lost two more games than the Rockies (remember when everyone wanted to anoint Clint Hurdle “Manager of the Decade” a few short months ago?) and have a run differential of -96. There are examples that go the other way, like in the Rockies own division where the Padres have won four fewer games than the Rockies with a run diff of -25.
The Rockies were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week and can we finally put their reputation of being a “second half team” to rest? Alanna Rizzo, I am looking directly at you. Please?