Sep 27, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) scores a run in the fifth inning of the game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
While many things make a successful (or terrible) team, there’s one thing the Rockies have to do in 2015 before almost everything else: play better on the road.
Ah, spring time. That point when the leaves start to grow, everything looks fresh and new, the sun stays out for longer each day, and your favorite baseball team is suddenly a contender again because the season hasn’t started.
So as we look at the upcoming season through rose-colored glasses, why don’t we optimistically put together what the Rockies would have to do to be competitive in the division. They probably won’t contend, unless something really crazy happens, but this team could sneak up on people if only they could win just a little bit more consistently on the road.
Of course, health matters. Tulo and CarGo need to play, and play well. The pitching can bend, but it can’t break again like it did in 2014. But no matter who the Rockies put out on the field this year, they must find a way to get better away from Coors Field.
Mission: Be Not Terrible On The Road
The Rockies, much like the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, have a built-in advantage playing in Denver ($). Baseball is different from basketball, of course, but the Rockies clearly have a home-field advantage at Coors Field, partially due to the altitude, and partially due to a variety of other factors.
That advantage, though, completely flips when the Rockies go on the road.
In fact, here are the Rockies last seven season records since their World Series berth in 2007, with home (H) and road (R) splits, as well:
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’14 – 66-96; 45-36 H; 21-60 R
’13 – 74-88; 45-36 H; 29-52 R
’12 – 64-98; 35-46 H; 29-52 R
’11 – 73-89; 38-43 H; 35-46 R
’10 – 83-79; 52-29 H; 31-50 R
’09 – 92-70; 51-30 H; 41-40 R
’08 – 74-88 – 43-38 H; 31-50 R
Obviously, you can see the trends here; in the seven years since their trip to the World Series, the Rockies have finished above .500 at home five times, and above .500 on the road only once (the year they won the Wild Card in 2009, and that was only by one game!).
Even in a year when they were not-awful (2010, at 83-79), the team finished 31-50 on the road. If they had won, say, five more road games over the course of that year to give them a road record of 36-45, they would’ve finished 88-74.
And depending on who the five hypothetical wins were against, they could’ve made the playoffs.
The Wild Card team that year, the Atlanta Braves, went just 35-46 on the road, yet still recorded 91 wins. The Braves used an amazing home-field advantage and played just well enough on the road to get where they needed to go.
The Rockies of 2010, in fact, had the third worst road record out of fifteen teams in the National League in 2010, and yet they finished middle-of-the-pack, with the seventh best winning percentage.
Other recent playoff contenders tell similar stories; the 2013 Atlanta Braves had the second best record in the National League despite having a sub-.500 road record (40-41). The 2012 Cardinals were five games under on the road and still made the postseason.
I won’t keep cherry picking random seasons to make my point, but the point is this: this club needs to take advantage of their home-field advantage, which they’ve kind of done as well as can be expected, while not going to hell in a handbasket when they hit the road.
Nobody is expecting the Rockies to win 50 road games in 2015, but the fact that they won 50 road games between 2013 and 2014 combined will continue to sink them faster than anything else.
If they fail to be competitive enough on the road, it doesn’t matter how they do at home. With last year’s 21-60 road record, the Rockies would’ve had to win 60 home games just to finish .500, and that’s not realistic for any club.
If this team can win even just 30 road games (and still finish 21 games under on the road!), combined with another 45 at home as they’ve done the past two seasons, you’re looking at a 75-87 team in 2015. Great? Of course not. But it’s better than flirting with 100 losses at the end of September.