With their one-run win last night against the Reds, the Rockies moved back to ten games above .500 for the first time since losing to the Reds right after the All-Star break. Colorado has a chance to equal their high water mark in games over .500 and clinch the series win today with Aaron Cook going against Bronson Arroyo.
Two weeks ago I wrote this:
It will likely take 92 wins to have a better than average chance of taking the NL Wild Card. This means that the Rockies will need a finishing kick of 27-10 AT MINIMUM to bring back Rocktober. Have the Rockies had any such streak this season? Well, no. Nor have they played well enough to lead me to believe that such a streak is very probable.
However, I am both a believer in the talent level of this team and in the fact that they play very well at Coors Field. Colorado plays 15 of its next 21 (and therefore 22 of its last 37) in Denver, where they've won two of every three they've played. What I'm saying is that the Rockies have a non-zero chance of pulling this thing off.
Since that time, Colorado has gone 9-4. During the fortnight, the Rockies have increased their chances significantly from a puncher's chance to 16.2% in the latest Baseball Prospectus rankings. According to BP's sim of the rest of the season, on average the NL West champion will have 92 wins and the Wild Card will win 91 games. This sounds right to me, as it would mean that the teams ahead of Colorado play at a realistic clip the rest of the way (14-11 or worse for SD, 14-9 for SF, 12-11 for ATL, and/or 12-10 for PHI) while the Rockies stay hot. 90 wins isn't likely to get it done, and 91 is cutting it pretty close, so I would still say that the number to be shooting for is 92 victories.
As a result, this is the new playoff math: the Rockies likely need to go at least 17-7 for the Wild Card or 18-6 for the division from here on out. They have 14 home games remaining and 10 on the road, with all but six against divisional opponents. If Colorado just plays as they have all year, they would go 9-5 at home and 4-6 on the road, which won't get it done. If they can pick up two home wins on that pace (11-3) and three road victories (7-3), then they have their 18-6 finishing kick. The lesson is that even after their recent stellar play, Rocktober still doesn't look too likely for Colorado.
However, like I said two weeks ago, I'm a huge believer in the talent level of this team. They've done this sort of thing before and the teams the Rockies are chasing all have significant flaws. Here's hoping they can pull it off again.
Triple Crown Update
With his three run opposite field shot yesterday (32), Carlos Gonzalez gained sole possession of the league lead in two of the three Triple Crown categories, batting average (.340) and runs batted in (an even 100). He moved to within three bombs of league leader Albert Pujols. According to ESPN.com, CarGo has a 1.9% chance of winning the Triple Crown, only 0.9% behind Pujols.
The reason for this, according to Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory (in yesterday's Rockpile comments) is that Pujols is hitting below his career averages while the people ahead of him (CarGo included) are likely playing over their true talent levels. Meanwhile, the four people tied with or ahead of CarGo for HRs are mostly on or slightly behind their regular HR pace, meaning that the numbers show Pujols winning the batting crown more than they see CarGo leading the league in homers.
SI's Joe Posnanski gives a balanced viewpoint on CarGo's H/R splits.
CBS' Scott Miller hopes that someone wins the Triple Crown this year. For many of us on this site, it would be the first we've ever seen.
Thoughts on the roster shuffle and more links after the jump.
Buchholz Out, Three Up
Unsurprisingly, the Rockies purchased the contract of OF Jay Payton and recalled RHP Edgmer Escalona from AAA yesterday. Escalona is another bullpen arm while the veteran Payton is being rewarded both for a good performance in Colorado Springs and for his perseverance in staying there all year as a 37 year old. If nothing else (and this is likely), Payton is another calming presence and a RH bat off the bench.
The surprise though was that Colorado likely closed the book on the 2006 Jason Jennings trade by designating Taylor Buchholz for assignment yesterday, calling up Paul Phillips. Word on the street is that Jim Tracy didn't trust Buchholz due to his recent injury history, and in any case there are plenty of arms in the Rockies' bullpen now. Phillips' promotion means a few things. One, we probably won't see much of Mike McKenry this month as Phillips likely will assume the third catcher role, and two, maybe Tracy will actually utilize Chris Iannetta or Miguel Olivo as pinch-hitters due to his improved catching depth.
The Rockies' 40 man roster is officially full, but they could still bring another player up and move Manny Corpas to the 60 day DL. Here's hoping they spring OFs Matt Miller or Cole Garner from their AAA purgatory (my preference is for Garner).
Ian Stewart had been scheduled to start a rehab stint with Casper today, but he had a setback with his ribs and the Rockies canceled the trip. The third baseman is eligible to return from the DL on Friday, but will likely take a few more days to recover. In the meantime, maybe Chris Nelson can get a start at the hot corner.
Not sure if this has been linked before, but Matt Muzia wrote a story for SB Nation Denver about his week with the Asheville Tourists.