Sunday Rockpile: Rules for playoff contention, 65 games out version

I know we like to complain about pitcher wins, saves, batting average and other misleading statistics, but in my mind one of the most easy to misinterpret is GB. When Omar Minaya says that the Mets are still in this thing and points to the fact that they are only 6.5 games back, it highlights how even baseball people who should know better can really be idiotic about it sometimes. The Rockies were only five games behind the division lead as late as September 5th last season, but wishful thinking aside, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a neutral observer that thought the team had more of a chance to win the division at that point then it does right now, nine games behind the Dodgers and not even into July.

At this point in the season, the rules for contention are still pretty simple:

 

  1. Be a winning baseball team.

 

This isn't determined by your current record, it's determined by your team's current ability to score more runs consistently than your opponents. The Mets are a dismal failure in this aspect, worse even than the Nationals over the last 50 games, so it should be no surprise they lost a series to Washington. New York is absolutely not a contender.

Interestingly from these last 50 games, it appears Milwaukee probably isn't a legitimate wild card threat right now, either. St. Louis wouldn't have been without adding a key run producer this last week. San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and Florida are all still passing this basic legitimacy test. The Giants weak road trip out of the All Star Break threatens their case some. Houston's been somewhat lucky given their run differential, but they've also been winning anyway against some real quality opponents, to balance that. Both they and the Cubs have been hit by significant injuries in the last week, giving us a two week window to create a little more of a cushion before the final sprint.

Troy Renck says to give the Monforts some credit for opening the pocketbooks a little to get Rafael Betancourt and putting together this team in the first place in a down economy. If you look at what they've done since 2008, it's actually a pretty decent effort by a mid-market team. If we're looking at the major money moves, they subtracted Holliday, but then held onto Street, held onto Atkins, added salary with Jason Marquis, overspent on Alan Embree, and added salary with Betancourt, in all adding salary while 2009 revenues have to this point been decreasing.

The flip side to this argument: The Rockies last two home series against the Giants last season (one in mid-June, one in September) averaged under 30,000 fans per game, while both Friday and Saturday drew 40,000 plus, so the Rockies financial situation does seem to be improving considerably with the team in contention.

 

Other links:

Speaking of Betancourt, Myth #3 from Stark:

The one area you can always upgrade is middle relief.

Woody's on the bandwagon again, so we get some hyperbole about five aces and how great Jorge De La Rosa is. Although, now that he menitons it, click the link in the picture caption and realize that maybe it's not quite as much hyperbole as even Woody probably realizes. Don't worry, Paige will be back to toss the bums out mode by the offseason.

For someone who deals in absolutes, University of Colorado physics professor John Bohn likes to tell a tale he can’t confirm about Coors Field in Denver. "There’s this great story — I don’t know if it’s true even — but there was a Coors Field engineer who realized his boots got all shriveled up and hard," Bohn said. "He thought, ‘Gee, baseballs are doing that too. Maybe we should keep baseballs in a humid environment.’ "

 

Three prospects, none of which showed promise of having an impact in St. Louis.

Those will be fighting words for sure, given how much the Internet likes to bow to Billy Beane, but Ringolsby's major point is pretty strong. In the October test, the one which asks which team's playoff chances have been improved the most by the trades, as I pointed out above, the Cardinals and Rockies have a considerable head start on Oakland.

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