If you follow the Colorado Rockies closely, you have heard somebody, somewhere, make the claim that this is a team that always gets off to a good start but inevitably goes through a “June Swoon” and becomes irrelevant by the time the Broncos have started training camp.
This statement seems to have been etched into the modern lore of the club and it is rarely challenged.
But where does it come from? Can it really be true? And what does it mean?
Let’s begin our search in 2007. It gives us a 15-season sample size, about half the team’s existence, and it also allows us to remember how amazing that year was.
Of course, it was known for a September where the ballclub went 20-8, leading into what became known as Rocktober. They did not start strong that season, however, going 10-16 in April. After that, they were above .500 every month including going 14-13 in June and 15-9 in July.
So clearly this “Strong Start, June Swoon” theory had not yet been born.
Nor would it take root in 2008 when the Rox stumbled hard out of the gate with a record of 20-36 through April and May, playing under .400 baseball in both months. They were better in June at 12-15 (.444) and then were very good in July and August with a 32-23 record. They tapered off in August in one of their more disappointing seasons.
2009 is the best year in franchise history by regular season win total and, ironically, June was their best month by a lot.
Again, they started poorly (20-29) and even fired manager Clint Hurdle, handing the team over to Jim Tracy. They proceeded to post a W/L of 21-7 in June, 15-11 in July, 16-12 in August, and 18-9 in September. No swooning to be found.
In 2010, the team was surprisingly steady with their worst month an 11-12 April and their best month coming right after with a 16-12 May. Their 14-13 June was more or less in line with how that club played on average.
For 2011, it was May that was the particularly difficult month (8-21) but for the second-straight year, the team went 14-13 in June. So now we get to answer our first question.
Where does this theory come from?
The answer is that it comes from 2012-2015. During each of those seasons, the Rockies started relatively strong and crashed hard, fast.
Though, in 2012, an 11-11 start didn’t exactly scream contention and they didn’t wait for June to swoon, going 10-18 in May. In June, July, and September, that team went 20-55. Somehow they managed a 16-13 August but the data shows that regardless of month, the 2012 Rockies just weren’t a good MLB team.
It truly began in ‘13 when the Rox went 16-11 out of the gate but wouldn’t have a winning month the rest of the way. June wasn’t especially awful, in fact it was the best of the worst at 13-15, but still the general idea that the Colorado club falls apart in the summer seemed to be holding true for the second year in a row.
And it would for a third year as once again in 2014, April was their best month at 16-12. This time, June was also their worst at 8-20. It happened in 2015, too, with an 11-10 start and a 12-17 June, though July and August were even worse. These are the only two seasons during our 15-year sample size in which April was their best month and June their worst.
So, for those four consecutive seasons, the Rockies did indeed experience this strange phenomenon and it appeared to be endlessly repeating itself. Furthermore, this all happened to match up with the explosion of far more local and social media coverage of the team. The “June Swoon” became a meme.
But then it stopped happening, and few seem to have noticed.
In 2016, June was their second-best month, though they basically played just below .500 in every month. In 2017 they were above .500 in every month but August. In 2018, June was their worst month at 11-16 but July was their best at 17-6. They also didn’t start strong that year, going 15-15.
For the epically disappointing and mostly miserable 2019 campaign, May and June were a fantastic recovery after a bad April but July was one of the worst months in the history of the franchise. They went 6-19. That team fell apart for a lot of reasons, none of which had anything to do with the calendar.
2020, as we all know, doesn’t count. And last year saw the Rockies get off to a very bad start (20-34) and then, starting in June, play plus .500 baseball the rest of the way.
So, is the “June Swoon” real? And what does all this mean?
No. And very little.
It is natural for human beings to search for meaning in chaos and patterns in randomness.
It’s also true that most of the Rockies teams over the last decade have struggled with quality depth and when that depth is tested, it can sometimes lead to slumps in any of the later months.
But the fact is that there is no magic. There is no voodoo. There is no truth to the theory that the Rockies “always” or even regularly start strong or that they “always” or even typically fall off thereafter.
It may simply just be that hope lost is far more memorable than hope recovered. Pain lingers and joy is fleeting. Especially in baseball.
But if you’re inclined to look at the Colorado Rockies solid foundational start in 2022 (10-8) and assume it will all come crashing down because it has in the past, I would argue that you should look a little deeper into the past, and maybe just enjoy the ride.
Because each one is a unique experience.