Apr 15, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Nick Hundley (left) hands the ball back to relief pitcher Logan Boone in the eighth inning after San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Duffy (not pictured) hit a solo home run at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the best lesson the Rockies can learn (or… that we want them to learn) is from the 1995 team, because they went to the playoffs following a hot start. The ’97 and ’11 teams sputtered which, obviously, we’d hope doesn’t happen this summer.
The ’95 team had the worst ERA in the league, but made up for it with an amazing offense (the most runs per game, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, and highest batting average) and a good bullpen (the ’95 Rox finished second in the league in saves despite finishing fifth in wins).
Road games matter
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Interestingly, a theme from all three clubs are the records on the road. After the hot April starts, none blew up away from Coors Field.
Whether 1995 (strike-shortened 33-39, .458, on pace for 37 wins in a full season), 1997 (36-45, .444), or 2011 (35-46, .432), all were competitive enough on the road.
In a hypothetical 2015, combine 35-37 road wins with the typical home field advantage (say, 45+ wins, like the abysmal 2014 Rockies were still able to earn?) and you’ve got an 82-ish win team already.
That won’t earn a Wild Card in all likelihood, but baseball’s weird, and if weird things can happen in the Rockies’ favor over the course of 162 games, maybe 82+ wins can become 87+ wins through good fortune. (Think that’s a pipe dream? Ask the 2012 Baltimore Orioles.)
But the point is, the good fortune is irrelevant if you don’t give yourself a chance on the road and you don’t take advantage of the home field in the first place. These current Rockies have been giving themselves a chance on the road early. All they can hope is that the 6-0 road start is a sign of things to come, and the club can at least win 35 road games this summer.
Combined with the home-field advantage the club’s almost always possessed and assuming, you know, relatively good health, I think 35 is the magic number of road wins. If the Rockies win 35+ on the road, you’re looking at a .500 or better team. If they win another 21 on the road this year, forget it.
May has been brutal to the Rockies
The other major lesson to learn from this little exercise is the month of May is brutal on the Colorado Rockies. The 1995 season started late after the strike so it’s a little difficult to judge May for that team, though it was one of their only two months below .500 (they went 13-15 in May).
Nevertheless, May records for 1997 (12-17), and 2011 (8-21) brought hot April starts back down to earth very quickly, causing each club to slog through the rest of the summer in relative anonymity.
The lesson from that, of course, is that baseball seasons are long, and hot April starts don’t mean diddly squat if May is going to be a wake-up call. You can’t win the division in April (but you can lose it!), and as the Rockies have historically found out, well, you can also lose the division in May.
The 2015 Rockies will play 28 games in the month of May (13 at home, and 15 on the road), with three off days. Ten of those games will be against two teams that are supposed to be very bad (the Diamondbacks and Phillies). Assuming the Rockies continue to play relatively well in April, and if the Rockies can win 13 or more games in May, then we will have to start taking this team seriously. But as has historically been the case, if the April boom brings on a May bust in 2015, well, it’ll be a long summer.
Maybe this was an exercise in futility. As I mentioned up top, perhaps there aren’t any lessons to be learned from 1995, 1997, and 2011. All teams are unique, opponents are different, things don’t quite match up, and it’s obviously impossible to predict future stats no matter how specific projections systems have become.
Nevertheless, I’ll maintain the Rockies have two keys moving forward: win at least 35 games on the road this year, and win at least 13 games in the month of May. If they can do those two things, they’ll be better than anyone imagined. Depending on how well they do those two things, they could (maybe) play into October.
Either way, wasn’t it fun thinking about Darren Holmes hitting a home run?