The Rockies current run of success started with their surprise Rocktober 2007 run. While some thought that was a fluke, especially after the big setback suffered by the team in 2008, with another likely playoff push in 2009, the Rockies have established their legitimacy as perennial contenders in the National League.
Still, a look at a bigger multi-year picture reveals that the Rockies aren't quite at a real peak in their success cycle just yet. Whether they actually get to elite status will be determined by the 2010 and 2011 teams, but for right now, it seems the Rockies are on a tier below the best teams in the National League.
Here are the updated three year NL Standings:
NL West Standings
NL East Standings
NL Central Standings
Some observations after the jump....
First of all, the tiers of separation in the league start to stand out with this wide lens. During this three season period, three NL teams (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago) have been at some sort of competitive peak. Three or four more teams (St. Louis, Colorado, Milwaukee and probably New York) have been in a tier below that where they are competitive most seasons but not quite dominant, and then there's the mediocre Arizona/Atlanta/Florida group below them that act as spoilers, mostly. It's looking more and more like the Diamondbacks P-thag defying division win in 2007 was more the fluke than the Rockies unlikely run to the World Series that year.
Going further down, the Astros would have to rank as the NL's most disappointing performer relative to their payroll, and then the standings dip into the league fodder category, a place where the Rockies were themselves not long ago (we've switched places with the Padres on the success cycle, it seems).
WS Trophy: Philly
NL Pennants: Colorado, Philly
Division Flags (if the standings hold as they seem to): Philly 3, Chicago and Los Angeles 2 each, Arizona and St. Louis 1 each
Wild Card appearances: Colorado 2, Milwaukee 1
Records for playoff series: Philadelphia 11-6, Colorado 7-4, Los Angeles 4-4, Arizona 3-4, Milwaukee 1-3, Chicago 0-6.
Thanks largely to that under-performing 2008 squad, we can say that the Rockies so far in this competitive foothill have been a good but not great NL team. With the pennant in 2007, the Rockies really have been a lucky NL team relative to the other teams on their tier unless St. Louis gets a similar NLCS win this season, but Colorado has almost as good a shot at getting another pennant themselves. Chicago, with only the NL Central flags for 2007 and 2008 and an 0-6 record in the playoffs to show for being the second best team in the league in this span have been unlucky, but in a way, so have the Dodgers thus far.
Philadelphia has had the fortune of running through their success cycle while all of their divisional rivals are either rebuilding or being run ineptly. That 28 game gap over the second place team in the NL East is really quite impressive, but it's not so much a credit to Philadelphia's strength as it is an indictment of the weakness of the NL East on the whole.
The National League West has been the only thing standing in the way of a Phillies dynasty in the NL (that's a pretty telling indication of the league's mediocrity given that Philly will only average just over 90 wins/season in that "dynasty"). You could look at the volume of playoff games as an indication of this, 26 for the NL West, 17 for the East (all Philly), 10 for the Central. The long slog through lots of tough pitching in divisional play works as a decent prep for the playoffs for NL West teams. Facing down Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright doesn't seem quite so daunting after having faced Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, Ubaldo Jimenez and Dan Haren so frequently.
The Phillies and Rockies are as of this moment slated to face off against each other again in the NLDS in 2009, and there will be some pride on the line. The Rockies could prove themselves king of the upstarts by beating the defending World Champs again, as well as making a statement that they are ready to rise to that next tier, while Philadelphia will want payback for 2007 and to cement a claim as the NL's team of the decade (probably against St. Louis) in the aughts.