The Colorado Rockies have become an enigma. As a team that can boast double-digit runs in any given game, their stock among highlight seekers is at an all-time high.
Projecting the playoff chances of the club is a harder ordeal. Per FanGraphs, the Rockies are at a 25.5 percent chance to make the postseason.
With their chances at a teetering sum, Rockies’ reporters Aniello Piro and Luke Zahlmann debate the outcome.
*Figures are as of June 29th.
The Case – Luke Zahlmann
The Rockies are not catching the Dodgers.
Of the teams in the National League, there isn’t a better one than the Dodgers. Already leading the NL West, their pitching staff and lineup represent the best combo in the league. Alongside the Yankees and Astros, they’re arguably the best team in the majors.
While the Rockies aren’t built to catch up to the Dodgers, they are in a prime position currently to secure a Wild Card spot for the third straight year.
As of Sunday morning, the Rockies sit at first in the Wild Card standings, in a virtual tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. If the season ended today, the game would be hosted at Coors Field, evoking memories of the two’s matchup in the Division Series last year.
When healthy, the Rockies are a patterned team that is forced to rely on their home park. Through 83 games, they’ve amassed a 24-16 record at home, with a 20-23 mark on the road. In three fewer games at home, they’ve scored 90 more runs on the year.
That trend is likely to continue, much the way it has in previous years.
With the NL East being a virtual war zone, the Braves, Phillies and Brewers will all likely limit each other from reaching astronomical win totals.
Outside of the three, the Rockies will compete with St. Louis, San Diego and likely Arizona as the year goes on. Between the four, the former boasts likely the greatest chance of success.
Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon have led the club, with breakout players like Tony Wolters and David Dahl extending the lineup further. Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond’s recoveries from slow starts have been a boon to the club’s offensive firepower as well.
Outside of Wolters, the leaders of the club’s offense are all performing within their underlying parameters per Statcast, signaling the numbers aren’t a fluke.
The club leads the NL in hits (790), runs (470) and is second in slugging (.461) behind only the Dodgers (.473).
A looming question in their quest for a chance at the postseason, once again, is their starting rotation. German Marquez and Jon Gray have proven to be reliable starters. Outside of the duo, it’s been a mess.
Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson were both dealt demotions to Triple-A Albuquerque, with the latter undergoing knee surgery that will likely end his year. Both Chad Bettis and Jeff Hoffman were also tried out, with the veteran being sent to the bullpen and the latter once again dealt back to the Isotopes.
My belief, misguided as it may be, is that the club will make a move. Though he’s done a fine job, Jeff Bridich’s track record is becoming gloomy.
A trade deadline swing could change that track.
Marcus Stroman and Mike Minor are among the names that are known to be available on the starting pitching market. Either of the two, plus a rebound from Freeland would change the complexion of the club’s hopes.
Betting on a guy who registered a 2.85 earned run average – in spite of his Coors Field burden – to rebound seems safe. Hedging another bet on a usually-docile general manager to make an explosive move is riskier.
For my money, given their possible window with Arenado and his opt-out clause, I’ll double down.
The Case Against – Aniello Piro
Although the Rockies have had one of the best records in baseball since the start of May, there are still many hurdles the club will need to jump through if they want to return to the postseason for the third year in a row.
First things first, the Rockies’ biggest issue is their lack of depth both around the diamond and within the pitching staff. Colorado is virtually walking on eggshells when it comes to formulating a lineup or rotation.
At the halfway point of the season, stars’ David Dahl, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon have all found themselves on the injured list at some point. Additionally, just two of the five starting pitchers remain from the Opening Day roster.
Due to the sheer amount of injuries and poor performance, the Rockies insurance policies have been exposed and the coverage has not been great. There is no denying the Rockies own one of the best cores in all of baseball, but their supporting cast is lackluster.
The Rockies posted a 42-39 record at the halfway point this season which is the fifth-most wins at the middle point of the season in club history. At this point last season, the Rockies were a sub .500 club with an inverse, 39-42 record.
Should the season end today, the Rockies would be in the postseason and would face either the Milwaukee Brewers or Philadelphia Phillies. That said, there are still many games to play, and whose to say the Rockies will continue play sound ball? It’s reasonable to assume the club will endure another skid like they did to open the season. And it could be detrimental.
Regardless, the primary reason the Rockies will not return to the postseason is due to their unwillingness to fortify the club. While the Brewers have shown interest in trading for Madison Bumgarner and the Phillies revamped their roster over the offseason, the Rockies have opted to work from within and have shown little inclination to improve the team externally.
Additionally, some of their offseason moves, or lack thereof, have haunted the club. D.J. LeMahieu is thriving with the New York Yankees, same with Adam Ottavino. Should the Rockies have re-signed those two, they would probably be in a much better position this season.
Is it crazy to think the Rockies would have been better off resigning LeMahieu and shifting Ryan McMahon to first base?