Colorado Rockies: Contrasting the 2010 and 2018 hunts for Rocktober
By Ben Macaluso
When the Colorado Rockies exited the playoffs in 2009, it didn’t seem like a matter of if they’d make it back to the playoffs next year. It seemed destined that they would easily go back after the 2009 season. That team exited the playoffs too soon and if it wasn’t for late bullpen collapses, the Rockies would have made it much deeper into the playoffs. That 2009 team was arguably the best team the Rockies ever had by overcoming a their 19-28 record leading to Cling Hurdle’s firing.
So what does that have to do with the 2010 team or even the 2018 team for that matter? The very next season was the Rockies best chance of getting to the playoffs in consecutive years. On September 18, 2010, the Rockies easily defeated the Dodgers improving their record of 82-66. Of the next 14 games, the team went 1-13. To get the Wild Card spot that year would have required the team to win 91 games or go 9-5 in that stretch. Good Rocktober teams go on stretches like 21-22 in 2007. But this year’s run to the playoffs just might be the franchise’s best run yet.
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On September 18, 2018 the Rockies had a similar scenario where they played a good Dodgers team, with the Rockies record sitting at 82-68 going into the game. The Dodgers promptly swept the series it looked like it’d put a dagger into the Rockies chances of repeating playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history. The promise of 2010 hurt more especially when the team didn’t make it make it back for seven more difficult long seasons.
Bud Black has changed all of that fostering a young pitching core and developing a clubhouse that truly has a next-man-up mentality. They could have buckled under a crushing June where the team spent most of the month under .500 and culminated into a rallying cry from Nolan Arenado. The team responded resoundingly.
They were able to respond that way because of the diversity of how they are winning. Many of the best players on the 2010 team were position players. Ubaldo Jimenez was the clear exception leading the team with a 7.3 WAR. Kyle Freeland is leading the club this year with a 8.0 WAR. While Troy Tulowitizky was the second leader in WAR in 2010 with 6.7, German Marquez is second this year with a 5.4 WAR. This club can depend on a plethora of players including pitchers. They are flexible too with Jon Gray working out mechanics in the minors or Chad Bettis and potentially Tyler Anderson joining the bullpen.
Arenado played exceptionally all season except down the stretch which seemingly was the first time ever that he had a slump at the plate. That was no problem though as many have stepped up. David Dahl is responding resiliently after his extended stint on the DL last year and periods on it this year. Even beyond his five home runs in as many games. Trevor Story played like his career depended on it when there were calls to bring up Brendan Rodgers at the begging of the season. Ian Desmond couldn’t have thought about a worse start and he improved tremendously capping another 20/20 season. When he went down with injuries himself in a crucial stretch, the team didn’t flinch with Parra also showing the ability to step up.
This 2018 team is different and able to make the playoffs because they were able to overcome tough moments of the season. The bullpen got much better after June and that is why they are playoff bound. Because when the Dodgers looked like they had stolen all hope, they got back up and haven’t lost a game since. They came through June. Nothing could be harder to overcome what they did in the middle of the season. The resiliency of this team is towards the top of any Rockies team in history. This is what has lead to their most recent streak and run into the playoffs with a chance to win their first division title ever. If the Rockies 2007 playoff run has taught us anything, the Rockies play their best playoff baseball after a streak. Let’s hope that continues.