Colorado Rockies: Can they become the 2019 Washington Nationals?
In 2019, the Washington Nationals started their season going 19-31 in their first 50 games. In 2021, the Colorado Rockies, in their first 50 games, were also 19-31.
The Nationals, though, turned around their season, going 74-38 (.660 winning percentage) in their last 112 games.
That was good enough to net the first NL Wild Card spot. They defeated the Brewers in the game and then faced the reigning NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who were defeated in five games.
The Nationals then swept St. Louis in the NLCS and beat Houston in seven games to win the 2019 World Series.
It was a remarkable turnaround that was unprecedented. But, as we all know, baseball is a wild game where anything can happen.
But can the 2021 Colorado Rockies become the 2019 Washington Nationals?
Here are some of the stats for the 2019 Nationals and how they were able to turn it around.
- First 50 games pitching: 3.89 starter ERA (9th), 7.02 bullpen ERA (30th)
- First 50 games offense: 85 wRC+ (20th), .243 AVG (23rd), .316 OBP (19th), .405 SLG (20th)
- Last 112 games pitching: 3.36 starter ERA (2nd), 5.12 ERA (27th)
- Last 112 games on offense: .275 AVG (1st), .353 OBP (1st), .476 SLG (6th)
The Rockies do have some similarities with the 2019 Nationals in their first 50 games (we have the stats for the first 51 since they played games 50 and 51 on the same day with their doubleheader on Thursday).
- Rockies first 51 games pitching: 4.33 starter ERA (18th), 5.50 bullpen ERA (30th)
- First 51 games on offense: 76 wRC+ (30th), .238 AVG (T-11th), .303 OBP (22nd), .389 SLG (16th)
The main similarity between the two teams is their bullpens, as both teams were in dead last in bullpen ERA. The Nationals bullpen ERA got better as the season went along but it really couldn’t have gotten worse for them. It was the main reason why they had that record.
For the Rockies, though, they have been even worse on offense and, as we all know, been way worse on the road.
It’s obvious that the Rockies will have an uphill climb to achieve what the Nationals did but, frankly, it will be much harder for them.
The Nationals were a team that underperformed in the early part of 2019. They only had a record of 82-80 in 2018 but they were in 2nd place in the NL East. They also had an excellent core of players, including Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Victor Robles on offense and Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin in their rotation.
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In the 2019 season, all of those players had a WAR of 4.0 or higher, which is considered to be an All-Star level or better.
The Rockies, frankly, don’t have that talent right now, especially with Charlie Blackmon’s slow start (and slow final three-quarters of 2020) and Trevor Story on the IL.
The Nationals also weren’t playing in the strongest division in baseball. The Rockies have the three best teams in the NL and three of the best four teams in baseball, by record, ahead of them in the division in the Padres, Dodgers, and Giants.
Entering Friday, the Giants (who were in 3rd in the NL West) had a two-game lead over the next best NL team (St. Louis) but the Rockies were already 12 games back of San Francisco.
The Nationals were in an NL East that only had two teams over .500 and the Nationals were only 9.5 out of a playoff spot.
It was still a tremendous feat for the Nationals but the Rockies have it even harder with a team that is less talented, can’t seem to buy a win on the road, has what should be their best player on the IL in Trevor Story, and is in flux in the front office and in flux for the future with Story and Jon Gray (and maybe others) headed out the door.
If the Rockies can achieve it, more power to them because they will be the only ones that will have seen it coming (and even some of them will probably be surprised) but the chances of it happening are less than their chances at making the playoffs entering Saturday: less than one-tenth of a percent.