Colorado Rockies: Are they a playoff team at the quarter post?

DENVER, CO - MAY 13: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies waits to bat in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field on May 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MAY 13: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies waits to bat in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field on May 13, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Ready or not, Colorado Rockies fans, the days where “it’s early” can be used as an excuse or explanation for numbers and trends is rapidly coming to a close, if it hasn’t already. I, like many of you, have been a Rockies fan for a long time and I can’t remember a more confounding season than this one.

To explain why, take the last week’s worth of ballgames for the Rockies as a for-instance. The Rockies lost the final game of the Angels series, lost three of four at home to the Brewers, and then split a two game set against the Padres. That’s some bad baseball and a 2-5 record to show for it. Yet … Colorado actually moved one game closer to the National League West division lead during that stretch. As of this writing, the Rockies are just 2.5 games back of the free-falling Dbacks, and several games clear of the Giants and Dodgers (LOL).

The last week has been a microcosm for the Rockies season in a way. Despite inconsistent and frankly hard-to-watch baseball at times, you can look at the standings and be pretty comfortable with where the Rockies sit. If this were a football game, I see the season so far as if my team is tied at the end of the first quarter, despite turning the ball over three times. You feel lucky to be in the game, but you have time to make adjustments. For the Rockies to end up where they want to end up, they have three quarters to make those adjustments.

The Rockies have played 43 games — just over a quarter of the season. My colleague recently wrote a piece examining the 2018 Rockies and how they stacked up to the 2017 version by the numbers. I wanted to look into just how the Rockies’ 43-game start stacks up historically to the 43-game starts of Rockies past, and then look into where the Rockies stack up against the playoff teams of years past so we know exactly where they stand heading into the second quarter.

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For both measures, I looked at the last 15 years, going back to the 2003 season. This year’s Rockies are 23-20, which is actually the team’s fourth-best mark through 43 games since 2003. On average, Colorado is actually three games the other way, 20-23, at this point. So in that respect, we could consider the first quarter for the Rockies season a success from a record standpoint.

Only three seasons did the Rockies have a better mark at this point in the year: Last year, when they got off to a roaring 27-16 start, and two seasons where they began 24-19 (2006, 2014). For this year’s team, however, with all of the preseason expectations, I think everybody in that clubhouse would tell you the record should be better with the talent they have.

Looking back and competing against yourself is healthy and all, but what about how the season at the quarter post stacks up against every playoff team since 2003? To find out, I researched what each playoff team’s record was on May 15 of that respective year. Since this season started earlier than past seasons (and thus we have played more games by May 15 than teams past), we will go by win percentage.

The average win percentage of every playoff team since 2003 on May 15 of the season they went to the playoffs is 0.566. Teams have been as good as the 2016 World Champion Cubs, who were 27-9 on May 15, and as bad as the 2005 Houston Astros, who were 14-23 on May 15 before going on to a playoff berth.

Applied to 43 games, where the Rockies are now, the average of a 0.566 winning percentage would be roughly a 24-19 record. As discussed above, the Rockies are 23-20, just a game off that pace. So, historically speaking, both comparing this season to past Rockies seasons as well as former playoff teams’ seasons league-wide, the Rockies are JUST FINE. I type it in caps because I need that reminder more than anyone. The Rockies are hanging in there.

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I’m sure the Rockies are acutely aware of the major problems they’ve run into the first quarter of the year (bad pitching at home, inconsistent offense everywhere), and they are still, somehow, right where they need to be to achieve their goal of being a playoff team. I hope that fills them with a bit of confidence, but also a respect for the fact that the way they’ve played so far might not cut it the rest of the year. Nay, will not cut it the rest of the year.

It’s getting too late to say “It’s early,” but that doesn’t mean Colorado can’t make adjustments and improve. They’re starting the second quarter thankful to be where they are. Hey Rockies, let’s get to halftime with a big lead.