Two things are happening simultaneously on my Twitter timeline most nights. The first is a barrage of tweets and articles about how bad the Colorado Rockies have been statistically. No holds barred. Bad stat after bad stat after bad stat. Over the past 10 days, I’ve seen those conversations run downhill, more and more towards something like panic. At the same time, while the team’s obituary is being written on a daily basis by folks pouring over stat sheets and team rankings lists, another thing has been happening: The team is winning.
The Rockies have played 18 games so far this year. In the NFL, 18 games would be the equivalent of heading into the fourth quarter of your second game. The eventual Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles were about to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs to fall to 1-1 at the same point in their season as where the Rockies sit now. Their Super Bowl opponent, the New England Patriots, were 0-1 and closing in on beating the Saints to move to 1-1 themselves. When is the last time you counted out a 1-1 NFL team?
A lot of the doom-and-gloom stories I read discuss how the Rockies’ winning record is not sustainable with the team’s current numbers. To those people, I say … I agree!
Here’s the thing, though. The numbers themselves are not sustainable. Gerardo Parra will end up hitting better than .214. Trevor Story will hit better than .200. Ian Desmond will hit better than .180. Pat Valaika probably ends the year a little higher than .059. And if they don’t, you can come back and throw this article right in my face. They will, though, so no need to worry about record sustainability when the statistics the arguments are based on are unsustainable themselves.
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Now, I’ll be the first to say that I’m not in love with the way the Rockies played to start the year. Starting 5-7 is never what you’re hoping for. However, since Nolan Arenado lost his mind and decided to fight the entire Padres organization on the infield grass at Coors Field, the Rockies are 5-1. Starting pitching has improved, and the Rockies are starting to string some hits together on top of the two or three homers they hit every night.
My point is that it’s a long season, and every team comes out of the gates a little differently. Some teams start with most of their first 20 games on the road. Some at home. Some teams face mostly righties, while others, like the Rockies, start the season facing an inordinate amount of left-handed starters. Some teams have played a lot in the cold, while some have mostly played warm games. Oh, not to mention the fact that even the AMOUNT of games played by different teams this season varies wildly. Due to unusually abhorrent weather around the country this spring, some teams have played only 11 games. The Rockies, as mentioned above, have played 18! For that reason, some statistics aren’t even relevant yet in my opinion.
All that being said, there are two ways to look at the 10-8 record the Rockies have posted thus far. The first is that obscenely bad numbers are going to limit Colorado to a .500 record, or worse, all season. The second is that the Rockies have managed a 10-8 record in spite of offensive numbers that are nearly certain to improve. As I’m always fond of saying, baseball is such a long season that water almost always finds its level, or at least gets close to it. The Rockies are not the worst hitting team in the National League, as those team rankings lists will tell you on April 17.
If, come mid-June, the Rockies find themselves seven or eight games out of a playoff spot, of course we should turn to the stat sheets and see where things went awry and where improvement needs to be made.
For now, though, let’s sit back, relax, cheer those who are struggling on, and enjoy the fact that the Rockies are finding ways to win baseball games against very good teams despite largely horrific offensive numbers.
If a baseball season were an actual marathon, we’re still in the part of the race where everyone is smiling. There is a lot of pavement yet to pound, and honestly I am encouraged rather than discouraged. The numbers will come around, and I expect the Rockies to be a force when they do.